European Union

Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)
A new deal for European research

The EU’s new research Framework Programme is set to be bigger and better than ever. But even as it is launched, thoughts are not only turning to what the impact of FP7 will be, but more generally to reflections about the whole architecture of European research and what the system could look like in the future. That, at least, is what emerges from a new book on European research policy and the FP7 by a group of officials from the European Commission’s Research DG.

The more quickly you disseminate knowledge the more quickly you will transform it into new products. “The more quickly you disseminate knowledge the more quickly you will transform it into new products.”
What can they do for the ‘knowledge triangle’ of research, education and innovation? “What can they do for the ‘knowledge triangle’ of research, education and innovation?”

A New Deal for an Effective European Research Policy – the Design and Impacts of the Seventh Framework Programme was published in December 2006; Ugur Muldur is the lead editor. Henri Delanghe and Daniela Heimberger, two of the book’s co-authors, look at the prospects for FP7 and explain the book’s wider call for A New Deal, making the case for a more coherent and effective European research policy.

What is the background to your book “A New Deal for an Effective European Research Policy”?

It is important to highlight that the book is purely the personal view of the authors, and is not intended to reflect the position of the European Commission. A New Deal grew out of work carried out for the impact assessment report which accompanied the proposals for the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development (FP7), and which was the first ever impact assessment of a Community initiative in the field of research. It is essentially a story about how European policy is made and we thought, “Why not share that story with a broader audience?”, because there is a lot of interest in the outside world about the factors and mechanisms that shape European policy. And of course, in recent years research has moved to the very centre of policy, which makes it all the more interesting as a case study of how policy is formulated in a core area. Because the book also provides some longerterm perspectives, we hope that it might be a useful contribution to the ongoing debate on the future of European research.

What is the book about? How is it structured?

The book is an academic, evidence-based analysis of European research policy, setting out how FP7 was designed and looking at the expected impacts of the programme. It starts by assessing the main economic, social and environmental challenges which Europe currently faces, and describes the potential role that science and technology can play in addressing these challenges. It goes on to argue that Europe will not be able to meet these challenges unless it addresses a number of weaknesses which are currently preventing it from reaching its full S&T (Scientific & Technological) potential. It then moves on to the actual design process of the FP7 proposal, examining the lessons drawn from past Framework Programmes, and explaining how the views of stakeholders were taken into account. The reshaping of the proposal in the interinstitutional decision making phase is the topic of a separate chapter. The book ends with reflections on “The Future”, detailing the conditions that will favour the success of FP7, and presenting some wider implications for policy design and the future of S&T at the European level.

What is the ‘New Deal’ proposed in your book?

A New Deal makes the case for a more coherent and effective European research policy encompassing government efforts across the EU, and at national, regional or Community level, and involving the commitment of all research actors.

While the book sets out the significant benefits expected from a much bigger FP covering a longer period, it makes it clear that on its own it cannot solve all the problems and challenges Europe faces. For one thing, its success depends on various factors and pre-conditions outlined in the book. But even if it is hugely successful, FP7 only accounts for maybe 10% of public R&D funding, which still leaves 90% in the Member States. Therefore, the EU can only begin to solve its problems if the Member States and the European Community move forward together. The question then is how to move forward. In our analysis we avoid taking a position on some ideal division of labour between the EU and its Member States, precisely because these matters are complex and more evidence is needed to investigate what actions are carried out most effectively at each level of policy. We suggest it would be useful to have a real discussion on these issues, not rhetorical but evidencebased, which might help to determine the directions in which European research policy can best advance. This of course means knowing what everybody is currently doing in research, and what new measures are being implemented across the EU. As we said before, this is a personal vision of a possible way forward for European research policy, and should not be interpreted as the official position of the European Commission.

“Revisiting the division of labour between the Community and the Member States in the field of research policy”, what would that mean in practice?

Our point of departure consisted of several observations: that at present each policy level (regional, national, Community, intergovernmental) is not necessarily aware of what policy initiatives in the field of research other policy levels are pursuing. Policy information, and above all the results of ex-post evaluation of research measures, need to be better shared across policy levels.

What we propose within this context is to start by redoubling our efforts to obtain a comprehensive overview of which research actions are being implemented at which policy level. A next step would consist of developing – Community and Member States together – some common approaches and methodologies for evaluating the impacts of research policies, programmes and projects across the EU. A lot of work has already been carried out in this respect, but because of the complexity of the issue (problems of attribution because of, long time lags between the implementation of the research project and its impact, the difficulty of assessing additionality, etc.) there is much work still to be done. A third step would consist of applying these methodologies in an objective manner to actions carried out at the different policy levels, disseminating the results, and interpreting these findings together. In this regard we raise the idea of achieving the European Research Area in the field of evaluation through the creation of a European Research Evaluation Agency. It would then be possible to have an open debate based on sharing and comparing hard evidence of the impact of research policies at the different levels of intervention, which may lead in time to designing new and more effective divisions of labour. We also put forward the idea of a stronger role for a joint European foresight exercise which might help to develop shared visions and scenarios for the future European research system.

But are you really keeping an open mind – do you not just want more powers at EU level?

We do have a very open mind on this question. All we are really saying is that we need to have a more transparent evidence-based approach for deciding on future directions for research policy in the EU. Some actions are best implemented at regional level, some at national level, some at EU level, and some even at inter-governmental level. For Europe to spend its public research money wisely, it needs to ensure that it is judging accurately at which level a particular policy initiative or instrument is most effective. This means using the notion of ‘European added value’ to determine if the EU level is the right one, but the flipside means that we should make sure that we systematically evaluate the added value of carrying out policies at national and regional level.

The book floats the idea of new research institutions at EU level – could that prove controversial?

The successful creation in the recent past of a number of Community institutions in the knowledge-triangle fields of research, education and innovation shows that the Member States are not against the principle of creating such institutions. However, the setting up of a European evaluation agency is presented simply as one idea among many, and there may be better options. But our aim was not to focus the debate too much on such details, but rather to open up a discussion by providing a few concrete ideas which hopefully will stimulate others to share their own visions for the future of European research policy.


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FP7 – making an impact

Taking market policy, there is a common realisation that one could use markets in a more pro-active way, for example to create ‘lead markets’ through pro-active public procurement. “Taking market policy, there is a common realisation that one could use markets in a more proactive way, for example to create ‘lead markets’ through proactive public procurement.”

The 289-page book by Muldur et al., A New Deal for an Effective European Research Policy – The Design and Impacts of the Seventh Framework Programme, says that the FP7, if implemented successfully, is expected to have a much bigger impact than a ‘business-as-usual’ research framework programme. FP7 will have a significant impact on Europe’s scientific, technological and innovative performance, it is argued. For example, participation in the new FP will be boosted by a much larger budget for collaborative research. Collaborative projects will generate a large number of patents, and firms taking part in such projects can expect to benefit commercially. There will be a bigger budget for human resources actions, ultimately leading to better R&D and enhancing the attractiveness of the EU as a place to pursue a scientific career. FP7 will do more to provide researchers with access to research infrastructures. But FP7 is also expected to generate wider economic, social and environmental impacts, and – in macro-economic terms – to increase GDP growth, create jobs, raise exports and reduce imports and increase Europe’s R&D intensity. Moreover, the authors say FP7 is likely to have considerable indirect, albeit less quantifiable, effects – helping to restructure the European research system by acting as a point of reference for the reorientation of public and private research agendas.