The main objectives of FP7: Specific programmes15 January 2010
by Ina Dimireva -- last modified 21 January 2010
Knowledge lies at the heart of the European Union's Lisbon Strategy to become the " most dynamic competitive knowledge-based economy in the world". The ' knowledge triangle' - research, education and innovation - is a core factor in European efforts to meet the ambitious Lisbon goals. Numerous programmes, initiatives and support measures are carried out at EU level in support of knowledge.
The Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) bundles all research-related EU initiatives together under a common roof playing a crucial role in reaching the goals of growth, competitiveness and employment; along with a new Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), Education and Training programmes, and Structural and Cohesion Funds for regional convergence and competitiveness. It is also a key pillar for the European Research Area (ERA).
The broad objectives of FP7 have been grouped into four categories: Cooperation, Ideas, People and Capacities. For each type of objective, there is a specific programme corresponding to the main areas of EU research policy. All specific programmes work together to promote and encourage the creation of European poles of (scientific) excellence.
The non-nuclear research activities of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) are grouped under a specific programme with individual budget allocation.
The specific programme on 'Cooperation' supports all types of research activities carried out by different research bodies in trans-national cooperation and aims to gain or consolidate leadership in key scientific and technology areas.
FP7 allocates EUR 32 413 million to the Cooperation programme. The budget will be devoted to supporting cooperation between universities, industry, research centres and public authorities throughout the EU and beyond.
The Cooperation programme is sub-divided into ten distinct themes. Each theme is operationally autonomous but aims to maintain coherence within the Cooperation Programme and allowing for joint activities cutting across different themes, through, for example, joint calls.
The ten identified themes reflect the most important fields of knowledge and technology where research excellence is particularly important to improve Europe’s ability to address its social, economic, public health, environmental and industrial challenges of the future. Their continued relevance will be guaranteed by relying on a number of sources from the research sector, including the European Technology Platforms (ETP). Important themes identified in the Strategic Research Agendas (SRAs) developed by the ETPs are therefore covered by the Cooperation programme.
Across all these themes, support to trans-national cooperation will be implemented through.
- Collaborative research
- Coordination of national research programmes
- Joint Technology Initiatives
- Technology Platforms
Collaborative research: European Excellence
The bulk of EU research funding in FP7 will go to collaborative research, with the objective of establishing excellent research projects and networks able to attract researchers and investments from Europe and the entire world. This is to be achieved through a range of funding schemes: Collaborative projects, Networks of Excellence, Co-ordination/support actions, etc.
The Commission's 2004 stakeholder consultation on the future of European research showed very strong support for European funding for trans-national collaborative research, though a common concern was that there should be a lower number of partners in consortia and a greater focus on smaller projects than was the case under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).
Coordination between national research programmes
The Commission stakeholder consultation on the future of European research revealed a strong support for more co-ordination of national research programmes from all categories of contributors. Framework Programme 7 will support two main tools to favour the restructuring of the European Research Area. Together they should reduce its fragmentation in several national and regional research programmes by favouring the development of joint calls, joint programmes and actions supported together by several Member States and the Commission.
The ERA-NET scheme aims at developing and strengthening the coordination of national and regional research programmes in two ways:
- providing a framework for actors implementing public research programmes to improve coordination through new ERA-NETs or by broadening and deepening existing ERA-NETs; and
- providing, in a limited number of cases, additional EU financial support to participants who create a common fund for the purpose of joint calls for proposals among national and regional programmes (‘ERA-NET PLUS’).
Actions under Article 169 aim at integrating parts of national and regional programmes for implementing jointly, together with the Commission, a real European research programme.
The actions supported here may cover subjects not directly linked to the ten themes in as far as they have a sufficient EU added value. They will also be used to enhance the complementarity and synergy between FP7 and activities carried out under intergovernmental structures such as EUREKA and COST.
Joint Technology Initiatives
For a limited number of European Technology Platforms, the scale and scope of their strategic research agendas and the resources involved justify setting up long-term public-private partnerships in the form of Joint Technology Initiatives. These initiatives, will combine private sector investment and/or national and European public funding, including grant funding from the Research Framework Programme and loan finance from the European Investment Bank. Joint Technology Initiatives may be decided on the basis of Article 171 of the Treaty or on the basis of the Specific Programme Decisions in accordance with Article 166 of the Treaty.
While there is a strong element of continuity with previous programmes, the FP7 Cooperation programme introduces some new elements intended to facilitate European research cooperation:
- Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs) intended to facilitate ambitious pan-European public-private partnerships;
- Strengthened coordination of national research programmes,
- assisted by a continuation of the ERA-NET scheme, which will be implemented within each research theme;
- Complementarity and synergies of research programmes across Europe through ‘Article 169 initiatives‘ whereby the European Community participates in jointly implemented national research programmes;
- International cooperation within each theme and across themes;
- More flexible means to react to emerging needs and unforeseen policy needs;
- Optimal participation of SME across all themes
European Technology Platforms (ETPs) have been set up in a number of areas where Europe's competitiveness, economic growth and welfare depend on important research and technological progress in the medium to long term. They bring together stakeholders, under industrial leadership, to define and implement a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) The ETPs have contributed to the definition of the themes of the Cooperation programme, in particular in research areas of special industrial relevance. The implementation of the SRA will be supported by the Cooperation programme in areas where they constitute true European added value.
EURAB, the European Research Advisory Board has made a checklist of "guiding principles" for Technology Platforms - Report on European Technology Platforms
An advanced preparatory report on the key features and objectives of the different Technology Platforms and their current state identified up to and beyond the launch of FP7 - Technology platform: from definition to implementation of a common research agenda
Investigator-driven ‘ frontier research’, within the framework of activities commonly understood as ‘basic research’, is a key driver of wealth and social progress, as it opens new opportunities for scientific and technological advance, and is instrumental in producing new knowledge leading to future applications and markets.
Despite many achievements and a high level of performance in a large number of fields, Europe is not making the most of its research potential and resources, and urgently needs a strengthened capacity to generate knowledge and translate such knowledge into economic and social value and growth.
The objective of the specific programme ‘Ideas’ is to reinforce excellence, dynamism and creativity in European research and improve the attractiveness of Europe for the best researchers from both European and third countries, as well as for industrial research investment, by providing a Europe-wide competitive funding structure, in addition to and not replacing national funding, for ‘frontier research’ executed by individual teams. Communication and dissemination of research results is an important aspect of this programme.
A European Research Council to support science and scholarship
For its implementation, a European Research Council (ERC), consisting of an independent Scientific Council and a dedicated implementation structure, has been established by the Commission under this specific programme. The ERC operates according to the principles of scientific excellence, autonomy, efficiency, transparency and accountability, and supports investigator-driven projects in ‘frontier research’, carried out by individual teams competing at the European level, within and across all fields of research.
The ERC complements other funding activities in Europe such as those of the national research funding agencies, and is a flagship component of the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) with an overall budget for the ERC of € 7.5 billion over 7 years (2007-2013).
Being 'investigator-driven', or 'bottom-up', in nature, the ERC approach allows researchers to identify new opportunities and directions for research, rather than being led by priorities set by politicians. This approach ensures that funds are channelled into new and promising areas of research with a greater degree of flexibility.
Grants for Starting and Advanced Researchers
ERC grants will be awarded through open competition to projects headed by young and established researchers, irrespective of their origins, who are working in Europe - the sole criterion for selection is excellence. The aim here is to recognise the best ideas, and retain and confer status and visibility to the best brains in Europe, while also attracting talent from abroad.
By challenging Europe's brightest minds, the ERC expects to bring about new and unpredictable scientific and technological discoveries - the kind that can form the basis of new industries, markets, and broader social innovations of the future.
The ERC aims to:
- support the best of the best scientific efforts in Europe across all fields of science, engineering and scholarship;
- encourage wholly investigator-driven, or 'bottom-up' frontier research
- encourage the work of the established and next generation of independent top research leaders in Europe;
- reward innovative proposals by placing emphasis on the quality of the idea rather than the research area;
- harness the diversity of European research talent and channel funds into the most promising ideas;
- raise the status and visibility of European frontier research and the best researchers of today and tomorrow.
- put excellence at the heart of European Research
The 'Marie Curie Actions' have long been one of the most popular and appreciated features of the Community Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development. They have developed significantly in orientation over time, from a pure mobility fellowships programme to a programme dedicated to stimulating researchers' career development. The 'Marie Curie Actions' have been particularly successful in responding to the needs of Europe's scientific community in terms of training, mobility and career development. This has been demonstrated by a demand in terms of highly ranked applications that in most actions extensively surpassed the available financial support.
The 'Marie Curie Actions' under the Sixth Framework Programme were part of the Specific Programme dedicated to structuring the European Research Area.
In the Seventh Framework Programme, the 'Marie Curie Actions' have been regrouped and reinforced in the 'People' Specific Programme. Entirely dedicated to human resources in research, this Specific Programme has a significant overall budget of more than € 4,7 billion over a seven year period until 2013, which represents a 50% average annual increase over FP6.
Rationale of the 'People' Programme
'Abundant and highly trained qualified researchers are a necessary condition to advance science and to underpin innovation, but also an important factor to attract and sustain investments in research by public and private entities. Against the background of growing competition at world level, the development of an open European labour market for researchers free from all forms of discrimination and the diversification of skills and career paths of researchers are crucial to support a beneficial circulation of researchers and their knowledge, both within Europe and in a global setting. Special measures to encourage young researchers and support early stages of scientific career, as well as measures to reduce the 'brain drain', such as reintegration grants, will be introduced.'
The 'People' Specific Programme acknowledges that one of the main competitive edges in science and technology is the quantity and quality of its human resources. To support the further development and consolidation of the European Research Area, this Specific Programme's overall strategic objective is to make Europe more attractive for the best researchers.
Objectives of the 'People' Programme
'Strengthening, quantitatively and qualitatively, the human potential in research and technology in Europe, by stimulating people to enter into the profession of researcher, encouraging European researchers to stay in Europe, and attracting to Europe researchers from the entire world, making Europe more attractive to the best researchers. Building on the experiences with the 'Marie Curie' actions under previous Framework Programmes, this will be done by putting into place a coherent set of 'Marie Curie' actions, particularly taking into account the European added value in terms of their structuring effect on the European Research Area. These actions address researchers at all stages of their careers, in the public and private sectors, from initial research training, specifically intended for young people, to life long learning and career development. Efforts will also be made to increase participation by women researchers, by encouraging equal opportunities in all 'Marie Curie Actions', by designing the actions to ensure that researchers can achieve an appropriate work/life balance and by facilitating resuming a research career after a break.'
The 'People' Specific Programme will be implemented through actions under five headings:
- 'Initial training of researchers to improve mostly young researchers' career perspectives in both public and private sectors, by broadening their scientific and generic skills, including those related to technology transfer and entrepreneurship.
- 'Life-long training and career development' to support experienced researchers in complementing or acquiring new skills and competencies or in enhancing inter/multidisciplinarity and/or intersectoral mobility, in resuming a research career after a break and in (re)integrating into a longer term research position in Europe after a trans-national mobility experience.
- 'Industry-academia pathways and partnerships' to stimulate intersectoral mobility and increase knowledge sharing through joint research partnerships in longer term co-operation programmes between organisations from academia and industry, in particular SMEs and including traditional manufacturing industries.
- 'International dimension', to contribute to the life-long training and career development of EU-researchers, to attract research talent from outside Europe and to foster mutually beneficial research collaboration with research actors from outside Europe.
- 'Specific actions' to support removing obstacles to mobility and enhancing the career perspectives of researchers in Europe.
The Commission’s proposals for the FP7 Capacities programme aim to enhance research and innovation capacities throughout Europe and ensure their optimal use. The Capacities programme is provided with a budget of EUR 4 097 million to operate in seven broad areas:
- Research infrastructures
- Research for the benefit of SMEs
- Regions of knowledge and support for regional research-driven clusters
- Research potential of Convergence Regions
- Science in society
- Support to the coherent development of research policies
- International cooperation
This specific programme also aims to:
- support the coherent development of policies;
- complement the Cooperation programme;
- contribute to EU policies and initiatives to improve the coherence and impact of Member States policies;
- find synergies with regional and cohesion policies, the Structural Funds, education and training programmes and the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP).