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COM(2005) 440 final
Proposal for a
concerning the Specific Programme “Cooperation” implementing the Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013) of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities
(presented by the Commission)
EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM (EC TREATY)
1. Context of the Proposals
The proposals for five specific programmes follow the Commission’s proposal for a 7th Framework Programme (2007-2013) adopted on 6 April 20051. A structure was presented in terms of four main specific programmes - “Cooperation”, “Ideas”, “People” and “Capacities” - each corresponding to a major objective of European research policy; a further specific programme is for the direct actions of the Joint Research Centre. The Commission will be presenting proposals for the “Rules for Participation and Dissemination” that apply to the 7 Framework Programme.
The policy context and objectives are those set out in the Communication “Building the ERA of knowledge for growth”th. To meet these objectives and implement in full the specific programmes will require a doubling of the budget as proposed by the Commission.
Research, technology, education and innovation are a significant way of creating jobs in a long term and sustainable manner. They are also the key to economic growth, competitiveness, health, quality of life and the environment. The research Framework Programme, alongside Community programmes in the areas of education and innovation, is aimed to progress towards the knowledge economy and society. The specific programmes of the 7 Framework Programme are designed to address, in combination with the necessary national and private efforts, major weaknesses in the level, quality and impact of European research. The dissemination and transfer of knowledge is a key added value of European research actions, and measures will be taken to increase the use of results by industry, policy makers and society.
Europe must invest more in research and a new emphasis is needed if the European Union is to progress towards the objective of investing 3% of its GDP in research by 2010. The 7thth Framework Programme will contribute to this, both through direct financing but also by leveraging additional public and private investments in research.
Europe needs more researchers in order to increase and improve its research efforts. Alongside other actions, such as the European Charter for Researchers and national policy measures, the 7th Framework Programme is designed to stimulate more people to embark upon and pursue research careers, and once again attract leading research talent to Europe.
Financial support at a European level offers opportunities to increase the excellence and effectiveness of research which cannot be achieved at national level. The specific programmes of the 7th Framework Programme represent further consolidation of the European Research Area, achieving critical mass and structures in new areas of research and by new means, and further supporting the free movement of ideas, knowledge and researchers.
Throughout the implementation of the specific programmes the potential for European level actions to strengthen excellence in research will be exploited to the maximum, notably through EU wide competitions backed with rigorous and independent evaluation of proposals. This implies identifying and supporting existing excellence wherever it exists across the European Union as well as creating capacities for future research excellence.
The impact of the specific programmes will be enhanced through complementarities with other Community policies and programmes, and in particular the Structural Funds, the education programmes, and the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme.
2. Prior Consultation
The preparation of the specific programme proposals has taken account of the views expressed by the EU Institutions, in particular the European Parliament and European Council, as well as other stakeholders including researchers and users of research. This includes the ongoing discussions and inputs in relation to the proposal for the 7th Framework Programme decisions, the extensive consultations and inputs collected during the preparation of that proposal, and further work in identifying future research priorities such as that being undertaken by European Technology Platforms.
The Specific Programme proposal draws from the in-depth impact assessment undertaken for the 7th Framework Programme proposal2 which demonstrated the strong and specific added value of each of the specific programme proposed. In addition, the proposals take account of the outcome of the five year assessment of the Framework Programme3.
3. Legal Aspects
The proposal for the specific programmes is based on Title XVIII of the Treaty, Articles 163 to 173, and in particular Article 166(3) concerning implementation of the Framework Programme through specific programmes.
4. Budgetary Implementation
The legislative financial statements attached to each proposed Decision set out the budgetary implications and the human and administrative resources.
The Commission intends to set up an executive agency which will be entrusted with certain tasks required to implement the “Cooperation”, “People” and “Capacities” Specific Programmes. This approach will also be taken for the implementation of the “Ideas” programme (see Section 7.2 below).
5. A coherent and flexible implementation
5.1. Adapting to new needs and opportunities.
It is vital that the implementation of the specific programmes is sufficiently flexible to remain at the forefront of scientific and technological developments and respond to emerging scientific, industrial, policy or societal needs. Those actions which allow researchers themselves to identify topics will be particularly important in this respect. For other actions, this will be achieved primarily through the work programmes which will be updated on an annual basis. This will be undertaken with the assistance of the committees of Member State representatives where it is envisaged that the committees’ clear focus will be on the work programmes. Revisions may be made more rapidly in case of new priorities requiring an urgent response, in particular arising from unforeseen policy needs.
This multi-annual programming will benefit from a wide range of inputs to ensure that the activities supported maintain direct relevance to the evolving research needs of industry and EU policies. External advice will be sought, including for each of the themes within the Cooperation specific programme, with effective multi-disciplinary coverage and a balance of academic and industrial views.
For the Ideas programme, an entirely new approach will be taken whereby the preparation of an annual work programme will be entrusted to an independent scientific council as part of the establishment of an autonomous European Research Council (see Section 7.2 below).
Additional external inputs, in particular for the Cooperation programme, will be facilitated in particular from the European Technology Platforms established in various fields which should play a strong and dynamic role to ensure the industrial relevance. The research priorities identified in the Strategic Research Agendas defined by the platforms are well reflected in the specific programme proposals, and will provide an important input in the multiannual programming.
Other fora and groups may provide the Commission with timely advice on new priorities in particular areas, such as European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) and platforms established to consider strategic research agendas relevant to social or environmental policy areas.
An important new opportunity that will be provided by the Framework Programme is an innovative financing mechanism, the Risk-Sharing Finance Facility, aimed at fostering private sector expenditure in RTD by improving access to European Investment Bank (EIB) loans for large European actions which need to combine several sources of financing, including loans. These large European actions are “Joint Technology Initiatives” and large collaborative projects funded directly by the Framework Programme within the Cooperation programme, and new research infrastructure projects under the Capacities programme. Other large European collaborative projects such as Eureka ones could also be considered, in accordance to eligibility criteria. The contribution envisaged from the specific programmes to the EIB will significantly improve the access to debt finance and thereby exercising a significant leverage effect on private investments in RTD.
5.2. Cross cutting issues
Overall coherence in the implementation of the 7 Framework Programme will be ensured by the Commission, taking full account of the guaranteed autonomy and independence of the European Research Council in the Ideas programme.
The work programmes across the other specific programmes will be revised in a coordinated way to allow cross cutting issues to be fully taken into account. The committees of Member State representatives also have an important responsibility in assisting the Commission in the effective coherence and coordination of implementation across and within these specific programmes. This implies a strong level of coordination within Member States and between representatives of different committee configurations.
Where actions to be supported have a strong relevance to different parts of the Cooperation, People and Capacities specific programmes, joint calls will be used building on the experience gained in the 6thth Framework Programme. This will be particularly important for research topics that cut across the themes in the Cooperation programme, and such calls will be clearly identified in the work programme.
The following issues that cut across the Cooperation, People and Capacities specific programmes are of particular importance, and particular arrangements for a coordinated approach are foreseen:
6. Simplification and Management Methods
A significant simplification will be achieved in the implementation of the 7th Framework Programme, following the ideas presented in the Commission Working Document of 6 April 2005 and extensive dialogue with Member States and stakeholders on the basis of this document. Many of the proposed measures are to be presented in the Rules for Participation and Dissemination, notably to reduce “red tape” significantly and simplify the funding schemes and reporting requirements.
Within the specific programmes, proposed improvements include:
7. Content of the Specific Programmes
The Cooperation specific programme is designed to gain leadership in key scientific and technological areas by supporting cooperation between universities, industry, research centres and public authorities across the European Union as well as the rest of the world. Previous framework programmes demonstrate the impact of such actions in restructuring research in Europe and pooling and leveraging resources. The 7th Framework Programme will distribute these impacts more widely and the nine themes proposed correspond to the major fields of progress in knowledge and technology where excellent research must be strengthened to address European social, economic, public health, environmental and industrial challenges.
The programme represents strong elements of continuity with previous framework programmes building on the demonstrated added value of European support of this type. There are, in addition, important novelties in this specific programme which require specific consideration for the implementation:
Europe does not perform well in terms of truly outstanding research or mastering new fast-growing areas of science. The Ideas programme will provide such a pan-European mechanism to support the truly creative scientists, engineers and scholars, whose curiosity and thirst for knowledge are most likely to make the unpredictable and spectacular discoveries that can change the course of human understanding and open up new vistas for technological progress and solving enduring social and environmental problems. Driving up the quality of basic research through European wide competitions will generate significant social and economic benefits5.
The “Ideas” programme adopts the term “frontier research” which reflects a new understanding of basic research. At the forefront of creating new knowledge, “frontier research” is an intrinsically risky endeavour that involves the pursuit of fundamental advances in science, technology and engineering, without regard for established disciplinary boundaries or national borders.
The programme will follow an “investigator driven” approach, allowing researchers the scope to propose their own topics. Grants will be provided for individual teams, leaving the flexibility for a team to consist of any grouping of researchers appropriate for the conduct of the projects, from one single institution or several institutions, in one country or across national borders. In all cases, scientific excellence and not administrative requirements should drive the formation of the teams. The programme will ensure differentiation from national funding actions in basic research by its strategic objectives and European scope.
The creation of a European Research Council (ERC) for implementing the Ideas programme represents a new departure. Two key structural components of the ERC will be established - an independent Scientific Council and a dedicated implementation structure –operating according to the principles of trust, credibility and transparency, it should provide adequate financial means and work with high efficiency, and it should guarantee a high degree of autonomy and integrity, while being consistent with the requirements for accountability.
The Scientific Council will consist of representatives of the European scientific community, at the highest level, acting in their personal capacity, independently of political or any other interests. Its members will be appointed by the Commission, following an independent process for their identification.
The mandate of the Scientific Council will include:
The dedicated implementation structure will be responsible for programme execution, as provided for in the annual work programme. It will, in particular, implement the evaluation procedures, peer review and selection process according to the principles established by the Scientific Council and will ensure the financial and scientific management of the grants. In this regard, in the first instance, the Commission intends to establish an Executive Agency to which it will delegate the execution tasks. The implementation structure will maintain continual close liaison with the Scientific Council on all aspects of programme execution. In future and subject to an independent evaluation of the efficiency of the ERC’s structures and mechanisms, an alternative structure, for example under the provisions of Article 171 of the Treaty, may be established.
The European Commission will act as the guarantor of the ERC’s full autonomy and integrity. This means that the Commission’s responsibility for the implementation of the programme will be effected by ensuring that the ERC’s implementation structure are put into place, and that the programme is executed by the ERC in line with the objectives that have been set, following the scientific orientations and the requirements of scientific excellence, as they are determined by the Scientific Council, acting independently.
The Commission will be responsible for formally adopting the work programme for the “Ideas” programme. It will exercise this responsibility in line with the approach set out above. As a general rule, the Commission will adopt the work programme as proposed by the Scientific Council. If the Commission is unable to adopt the work programme as proposed, for example because the latter does not correspond to the objectives of the programme, or does not conform to Community legislation, the Commission will be required to state its reasons publicly. This procedure is designed to ensure that the operation of the ERC according to the principles or autonomy and integrity, are fully and transparently respected.
The People specific programme forms part of a broad and integrated strategy to strengthen, qualitatively and quantitatively, human resources in R&D in Europe. The programme will stimulate people to embark on and pursue research careers, encourage researchers to stay in Europe, and attract the best brains to Europe. There is a unique added value of European actions through harmonised instruments, stronger structuring effects and greater efficiency than bilateral arrangements between Member States.
The activities build on the long and successful experience of the Marie Curie actions in responding to researchers needs for training, mobility, and career development. While offering considerable continuity, a stronger focus is given to the following aspects:
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