Academics and companies have learnt to cooperate across the EU, making Europe more innovative and more efficient, according to Dr Walter Mönig, Chairman of the Board of Governors, the EU’s Joint Research Centre.
How have the Framework Programmes influenced the development of EU research?
‘Although EU finance represents only around 5 % of the overall public money for research in Europe, the Framework Programmes have changed the direction and structure of European research. The requirements for projects to engage participants from several countries, together with support for mobility of researchers, have made an international approach to research the norm in Europe. Reliance on merely voluntary guidelines could not have achieved the same degree of coordination.’
What are the specific achievements of the Framework Programmes? What has changed?
‘Overall the structural and integrating impact of the Framework Programmes has made some developments possible that would otherwise not have occurred. They have set standards for effective competitive funding, and are now role models for national programmes – helping create a real European Research Area. Companies and academics have learnt to cooperate with unknown partners in other countries, changing the research mindset and making research more efficient.
‘The concentration of research activities within a single Framework Programme has created a critical mass of stakeholders who are able to negotiate an ever-growing share of the EU budget, and the establishment of the European Research Council (ERC) and the allocation of grants for individual researchers and teams on subjects of their choice have strengthened Europe’s attractiveness for top scientists across the world.’
Which forces have driven the evolution of the Framework Programmes?
‘The Commission has leveraged scarce EU funds so that national funding reflects the chosen EU priority areas. The growth in the programmes also responds to broader recognition of the needs of a knowledge society and of the importance of international collaboration.
‘The structural and integrating impact of the Framework Programmes has made possible some developments that would otherwise not have occurred.’
Dr Walter Mönig, Chairman of the Board of Governors, the EU’s Joint Research Centre
‘However, the early focus on strengthening the competitiveness of European industry has given way to an approach which makes more room for social challenges and basic research.’
During the development of the Framework Programmes, are there things you would have preferred to see happen differently, or opportunities missed?
‘Instead of defining specific programmes with hundreds of details for a period of seven years, a Framework Programme, in my opinion, should do no more than outline the objectives and set the upper limit of funding. Details should be regulated by delegated acts and work programmes, reducing the involvement of the Council and the European Parliament. And sustainable structures with a clear long-term remit – like the ERC – should be established for an indefinite period.’
Are there lessons for the future in the history of the Framework Programmes?
‘The development of European research policy through the growth and diversification of the Framework Programmes is a unique success story. The programmes have boosted the competitiveness of European industry, widening their priorities to include societal challenges and frontier research in a process of organic growth. And further improvements are constantly made from the experience gained.’
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