Monday, 10 May 2010

Germany Sets Out its Stall for FP8

Germany has published a position paper on FP8. This lays out its thoughts on how the new Framework Programme should shape up. Nerves are obviously jangling around the Bundestag around the question of raising the budget, but otherwise it's quite a thoughtful paper. Here are the main points in summary:
  • Policy - FP8 should make a major contribution towards implementing the five Ljubljana initiatives central to the development of the ERA;
  • Central areas of FP7 should be continued - such as collaborative research, frontier research (ERC), SME measures, transnational and intersectoral mobility, research infrastructures and international co-operation;
  • Co-operation Specific Programme – should be continued (and that collaborative research continues to be the core of the FP);
  • Grand Challenges - research and development should contribute to the grand challenges of our time, such as climate, energy, mobility, digital society and health. Research aims should be developed for the coming decade and the FP specific programmes should work towards realising these aims. However, the aims must be open to all types of technologies and solutions, so that lead markets can be developed;
  • Key Technologies Specific Programme – this should be introduced to strengthen Europe’s industries;
  • Innovation - FP8 should contribute towards implementing the ‘innovation union’ of the EU 2020 Strategy. There should be an Innovation Specific Programme, and the EIT should be integrated into FP8, as well as innovation measures from the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP). The involvement of SMEs as drivers of innovation should be increased. Funds should be concentrated on strategic technologies and fields related to social challenges. This would support knowledge transfer. Research and innovation activities should be better linked and this should be integrated across FP8. There should also be infrastructure development, standardisation, education programmes and measures to support important lead markets. European Technology Platforms should become Technology and Innovation Platforms, and should also draft innovation strategies for the development of lead markets. There should be a ‘European High-Tech Strategy’. There could be further synergies within the knowledge triangle, and the EUREKA and EUROSTARS programmes could be integrated into FP8;
  • European Research Council (ERC) - this should be strengthened. The ERC should consider funding cross-border projects of excellent institutions or other structured measures;
  • Marie Curie Actions - researcher mobility is important and should be supported;
  • Peer review and the importance of excellence - scientific and technological excellence must be the decisive criterion for choosing projects in all FP areas and may not be weakened under any circumstances in favour of cohesion objectives. Cohesion instruments such as structural funds should on the other hand strengthen the development of excellence. More evaluators (peer reviewers) from industry should be used;
  • FP monitoring and evaluation - ex-post evaluations of the previous FPs should be used to develop future FPs. Monitoring the FP should be the responsibility of CREST (Comité de la recherche scientifique et technique);
  • International collaboration - FP8 should be open to international collaboration which should be included even more strongly in the thematic priorities than in FP7, and that there should be close co-ordination between FP Programme Committees and the Strategic Forum for International Co-operation (SFIC), with FP8 promoting the implementation of the SFIC roadmap;
  • Infrastructures - the co-ordination of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) and the infrastructure activities of FP8 should be strengthened. Existing infrastructures outside ESFRI that require European integration should also be supported under FP8;
  • Joint Programming - should be driven by Member States, use primarily existing instruments, and be financed by Member States and the FP;
  • SMEs - 15% of the FP budget should be used for SMEs if possible, primarily for their participation in collaborative projects, although SME specific funding measures should be continued – smaller projects which can rapidly be implemented should also be introduced;
  • Policy oriented research - should be funded within the thematic priorities;
  • On funding instruments:
    • New instruments should only be introduced with good judgement; the number should remain constant;
    • the Collaborative Project (CP) must continue to be the standard tool of the FP;
    • Networks of Excellence (NoEs) have often not been successful and should not be continued in the current form. They could be replaced by an instrument which aims at the formation of research and innovation-driven clusters consisting of public and private institutions and aiming at the pooling and joint use of R&D resources, the coordination of research and innovation activities, staff exchanges and knowledge transfer as well as the joint implementation of application-oriented projects (competence centres);
    • Co-ordination and Support Actions (CSAs), including ERA-NETs and ERA-NET+ should be continued. ERA-NET+ should be used to implement Joint Programming too;
    • Measures under Article 185 (ex 169) and Joint Technology Initiatives under Article 187 (ex 171) are welcomed in principle; in some areas however, currently complex procedures can be simplified. The Public Private Partnerships (PPP) created within the framework of the EU recovery plan have proved to be much less bureaucratic than the technology initiatives created under Article 187 (ex 171). To simplify things for applicants, these measures should be implemented by applying the FP rules for participation and the general legal FP framework;
    • A central problem of EU research funding is the growing diversification of EU programmes and instruments – this growing complexity and fragmentation of EU research funding and makes participation in the FP difficult. In future, a coordinated set of rules with simple and clear structures as well as standardised and co-ordinated procedures must be established;
    • Whilst collaborative projects and ERA-NET/ERA-NET+ should be continued, there should be increased funding opportunities for unconventional or risky projects;
    • There should be more demonstration projects;
  • On simplification:
    • The paper contains a whole section on simplification;
    • There should be considerable simplifications to procedures, characterised by mutual trust and the acceptance of nationally tested and recognized procedures – but transparency and fairness should be maintained;
    • Some interesting points raised include are:
      • Flat rates - the option of applying fixed rates when calculating project costs should be broadened to include the reimbursement of personnel costs in all programme areas. The possibility of using fixed rates for accounting, however, should never be obligatory or exclude the billing of actual costs. Fixed rates should be based on country-specific cost rates. Marie Curie fixed rates are a proven basis for reimbursements of personnel costs;
      • VAT - should be an eligible cost, which is possible after the amendment of the Financial Regulation and is applied in other programmes; and
      • Start dates - all projects should start no later than nine months after the deadline, with negotiations being simplified.

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