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European Flag    Europa The European Commission Research 1999 Annual Report
  Annual Report 1999Contents

Adoption of a new research policy

The most important development in Community research policy was the adoption of the 5th Framework Programme of the European Community (1998 to 2002) by the European Parliament and the Council in December 1998. This enables the new research policy to be put into action from the start of 1999. As a result, Community research is adapted to the context created by the launch of the single currency and the start of accession negotiations with a view to enlargement of the Union, bringing Europe greater economic integration and closer to its historical and cultural frontiers. However, the major challenge in Europe is still employment which depends, increasingly, on high-tech sectors and on use of new technologies by traditional industries and SMEs.

The new Framework Programme concentrates resources principally on key actions meeting the priority needs of society, paying particular attention to the potential for applying the results. Its 14.96 billion euro budget is 3% higher in real terms (allowing for inflation) than that of the 4th Framework Programme. It will be characterised by greater transparency, with new External Advisory Groups, improvements in the flow of information to the Council and the European Parliament, as well as fully revamped management tools for higher efficiency. Community research will also provide strong support for the process of enlargement of the European Union, in the form of association of the eleven applicant countries with the 5th Framework Programme from 1999 on.

Community RTD in 1998

The Commission continued implementing the 4th Framework Programme and finalised the allocation of its budget. In the process, 6 200 new projects were started in 1998, with over 28 000 participations. The new shared-cost actions (accounting for almost 90% of the financial contributions from the Community) established almost 90 000 collaborative links for researchers in the European Union, 83% of them transnational. Participation by firms remained high in 1998, with 38% of participations, 65% of which were accounted for by SMEs.
Studies in 1998 highlighted the benefits which the Framework Programme has brought for competitiveness and employment, for example by contributing to the Community research on standardisation. The link between research and innovation is one of the main themes of the Action Plan for Innovation, which moved into its second phase in 1998. Numerous projects also provided examples of the contribution made by Community research to quality of life, in areas such as knowledge and conservation of the environment, measures to combat natural or man-made hazards, health and food, transport and conservation of Europe's cultural heritage. The Framework Programme has also helped less favoured regions to catch up in science and technology, as their rate of participation in Community research remains proportionally higher than their research potential.

Outlook for 1999

The first calls for proposals were published in March 1999. The proposals received for all the specific programmes will be evaluated just before and during the summer so that a large number of projects can be started by the end of the year. Starting in 1999 the Commission will also engage in reflexions on the organisation of European research after 2002.


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