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New Transport Advisory Group for FP7

The Transport Advisory Group (TAG) provides valuable support to European Commission services in the form of advice and input into the annual transport (including aeronautics) work programmes of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development (FP7). With new members, and an extended mandate, the new FP7 TAG held its first meeting, in Brussels, on 19 September 2006.

Solar Impulse, a European idea for a solar-powered light aircraft.
With growing concern over the environmental impact of air travel and imminent fuel shortages, innovative aeronautics research is needed. Image shows Solar Impulse, a European idea for a solar-powered light aircraft.
© European Space Agency

The EU Framework Programmes are proposed by the European Commission and adopted by the Council and the European Parliament, following a well-established co-decision procedure. The proposed Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013) represents a major new commitment to support the highest quality research in Europe.

The broad objectives of the Seventh Framework Programme have been grouped into four categories: ‘Co-operation’, ‘Ideas’, ‘People’ and ‘Capacities’. Each of these categories will be the subject of a ‘Specific Programme’. Under the Specific Programmes, the Commission’s Research Directorate-General (Research DG) is responsible for developing annual ‘work programmes’. These are drawn up in consultation with external advisory groups, other Commission DGs and the FP7 ‘Programme Committees’.

An extended mandate

Members of the Transport Advisory Group provide consistent and consolidated advice to Commission services regarding the ‘Transport (including Aeronautics)’ Theme of the Co-operation Specific Programme. This includes advice on strategy, relevant objectives and scientific and technological priorities, and the topics on which proposals are to be invited.

The new TAG brings into one forum the work previously carried out by two advisory groups (AGs) under FP6 – the Sustainable Surface Transport AG and the Aeronautics and Space AG. Members of the group have been selected directly by the European Commission to provide expert advice, on a regular basis, in the areas of surface transport, aeronautics and Galileo. A key role of the group will be to provide advice on strategy, relevant objectives, scientific and technological priorities, and the topics on which proposals are to be invited.

The members of the TAG will also be expected to address a number of general issues and topics of a horizontal nature, such as international co-operation, knowledge transfer and SME participation.

Part of a wider consultation process

The TAG is part of a concerted effort to bring top experts into the European research process at the earliest stages. The advice received from the TAG will, however, complement other sources of external advice to which the Commission has access, including stakeholder consultations and the European Technology Platforms (ETPs) in this area, which, at present, are:

  • ACARE - Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe;
  • ERTRAC - European Road Transport Research Advisory Council;
  • ERRAC - European Rail Research Advisory Council;
  • WATERBORNE Technology Platform.
Science and Research Commissioner Janez Poto─Źnik driving a hydrogen fuel cell race kart.
FP7 will fund research into alternative energy sources, such as hydrogen fuel cells. This photo shows Science and Research Commissioner Janez Poto─Źnik driving a hydrogen fuel cell race kart.
© European Commission

The Technology Platforms cover specific FP7 themes and represent primarily industrial priorities. Their inputs thus complement those from wider consultations and from Advisory Groups, without replacing them, as the Technology Platforms represent particular interests and only cover some areas of the work programme.

The Programme Committee is the third and final link in the work programme process. Composed of representatives from Member States and associated countries, they play a formal role in how the Commission manages programmes and contribute their own ideas and suggestions.

Developing a research ‘work programme’

The Transport Advisory Group will provide input to the Commission on a yearly basis, which will be used in the preparation of the annual work programmes.

Generally speaking, advice from external bodies has to be timed to fit into the planning schedules of the relevant work programmes. Work programmes are adopted annually. All inputs need to be delivered to the Commission in the first half of the year and the second half of the year is dedicated to finalising the programme. This should typically include indicative priorities and provide a starting point for the next work programme.

The work of the TAG is confidential and all members are required to abide by confidentiality and conflict of interest agreements. The Commission will, however, provide information on the names of the group members and the written advice provided, including, where relevant, indications as to how this advice has been used in developing the work programmes for transport, including aeronautics.

TAG progress

The TAG will have an Executive Committee, consisting of the Chair, three members, and the Rapporteur. The elected Chair and Rapporteur of the Transport Advisory Group are Niko Wijnolst and Francesca Sanna-Randaccio, respectively. The other elected members of the Executive Committee are George Giannopoulos, Andrew McNaughton and Dieter Schmitt. The three members will each become Vice-Chairman for one year, as part of a rotating vice-chairmanship. In addition, as FP7 is a seven-year programme, it is foreseen that the membership be ‘renewed’ every two years, with up to 50% of members being replaced.

The first meeting of the TAG was held on 19 September 2006. The next meeting is planned for 6 February 2007.