Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development
The Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development, also called Framework Programmes or abbreviated FP1 through FP7 with "FP8" being named "Horizon 2020", are funding programmes created by the European Union/European Commission to support and foster research in the European Research Area (ERA). The specific objectives and actions vary between funding periods. In FP6 and FP7 focus was still in technological research, in Horizon 2020 the focus is in innovation, delivering economic growth faster and delivering solutions to end users that are often governmental agencies.
Conducting European research policies and implementing European research programmes is an obligation under the Amsterdam Treaty, which includes a chapter on research and technological development. The programmes are defined by Commission civil servants that are aided by various official advisory group and lobby groups. E.g. to advise the European Commission on the overall strategy to be followed in carrying out the Information and Communication Technology thematic priority, the Information Society Technologies Advisory Group (ISTAG) was set up.
The framework programmes
The framework programmes up until Framework Programme 6 (FP6) covered five-year periods, but from Framework Programme 7 (FP7) on, programmes will run for seven years. The Framework Programmes, and their budgets in billions of euros, have been and will be:
|Framework Programme||period||budget in billions|
|Seventh||2007–2013||€50.521 over 7 years
+ €2.7 for Euratom over 5 years
|Horizon 2020 (Eighth)||2014–2020||€80 (estimated)|
FP6 and FP7
Framework Programme 6 and 7 (2002-2013) projects were generally funded through instruments, the most important of which are listed below.
- Integrating Project (IP)
- Medium- to large-sized collaborative research projects funded in FP6 and FP7. They are composed of a minimum of 3 partners coming from 3 different countries from Associated states but can join several tens of partners. The typical duration of such projects is 3 to 5 years but there is not a defined upper limit. The budget granted by the Commission can reach several tens of million euros, paid as a fraction of the actual costs spent by the participants.
- IPs specifically aim at fostering European competitiveness in basic research and applied science with a focus on "addressing major needs in society" defined by the Priority Themes of the Framework Programme. Like STRePs (see below), IPs ask for a strong participation of small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to ascertain the translation of research results into commercially viable products or services.
- Network of Excellence (NoE)
- Medium-sized research projects co-funded by the European Commission in FP6 and FP7. These projects are "designed to strengthen scientific and technological excellence on a particular research topic through the durable integration of the research capacities of the participants."
- NoE projects require the minimum participation of three different EU member nations, however, projects are usually expected to involve at least six countries. Projects are provided grants for a maximum of seven years. The budget granted by the Commission is €1-6million per year depending upon the number of researchers involved.
- An NoE project should not strictly be considered as a research project, since its aim is not to conduct research, but rather to contribute to the clarification of the concepts in the covered field.
- Specific Targeted Research Projects (STReP)
- Medium-sized research projects funded by the European Commission in the FP6 and FP7 funding programs. STReP projects are composed by a minimum of 3 partners coming from 3 different countries from Associated states. The typical duration of such projects is 2 to 3 years. In FP6, they generally involved between 6 and 15 partners. The budget granted by the Commission is in average around €2 million.
Horizon 2020 is the eighth phase of the Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development (also called Framework Programmes; hence the project's alternative name of 'FP8'), funding programmes created by the European Union in order to support and encourage research in the European Research Area (ERA). It implements Europe 2020 and Innovation Union strategies. The programme runs from 2014–2020 and provides an estimated €80 billion of funding, an increase of 23 per cent on the previous phase. The project became embroiled with the 2014 referendums held by Switzerland, which opted to impose a quota on immigration between that country and the EU. Switzerland, which maintains bilateral agreements with the EU, was intended to be a participant of Horizon 2020, but negotiations that would have ensured this were put on hold in the aftermath of the decision. Turkey joined this funding program.This funding programme also includes Israel, which joined after protracted negotiations about whether funding could be directed to projects beyond the Green Line; eventually the two parties agreed to disagree, and Israel published its views in an Appendix to the official documents. Open access is an underlying principle of Horizon 2020, intended to improve research results, create greater efficiency, improve transparency and accelerate innovation.
The programme consists of three main research areas that are called "pillars":
- The first pillar, "Excellent science" focuses on basic science. It has a budget of 24 billion euro. The European Research Council (ERC) delivers 13 billion euro to researchers and teams of researchers based on scientific excellence of the applications. This pillar funds future and emerging technologies (FET, €2.7 billion) and researcher mobility (Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action (MSCA), €6.1 billion) and large European research infrastructures (€2.5 billion).
- MSCA supports the career development and training of researchers at all stages of their careers. It is the main EU programme for doctoral training funding 25 000 PhDs during 7 years. It co-funds national PhD programmes. Other MSCA funding targets research networks, fellowships for individual researchers, research staff exchanges and arrange "European Researchers' Night"-event annually on the last Friday of September.
- "Leadership in enabling and industrial technologies" (LEIT) is the second pillar with a budget of 14 billion euro. It is managed by DG Enterprise and based on Europe 2020 and Innovation Union strategies. The pillar consists of six sub-programmes:
- Information and communication technologies
- Advanced materials
- Advanced manufacturing and processing
These technologies all have European technology platforms (ETP; fora for research communities to meet) with their respective strategic research agendas (SRA). Some technologies have long term funding instruments, such as joint technology initiatives (JTI). Some technologies are labelled key enabling technologies (KET).
This pillar contains special efforts to SME funding and gives also risk financing (2.8 billion euro) e.g. through loans of the European Investment Bank.
- The third pillar funds potential solutions to social and economic problems, "Societal challenges", in the following six sub-programmes:
- Health (€7.5 billion)
- Food, water, forestry, bioeconomy (€3.8 billion)
- Energy (€5.9 billion)
- Transport (€6.3 billion)
- Environment including climate change adaptation and raw materials (€3.1 billion)
- European society (€1.3 billion)
- Security (€1.7 billion)
- This pillar also funds themes names as "Science with and for society" (€0.5 billion) and "Spreading excellence and widening participation" (€0.8 billion).
The structure follows the previous framework programme (FP7, 2007-2013) to the level of the sub-programmes under the pillars. In industrial pillar the goal is to find ways to modernize European industries that have suffered from a fragmented European market. Innovation is seen as the key way forward. In societal challenges the goal is in implementation of solutions, less on technology development. Thus end-users are in bigger role.
Criticism of the programmes
The programmes have been criticized on various grounds, such as actually diminishing Europe's industrial competitiveness and failing to deliver fundamental excellence and global economic competitiveness. In 2010 the Austrian Research Promotion Agency launched a petition calling for a simplification of administrative procedures, which attracted over 13,000 signatories. The numerous other criticisms of the petitioners were later distilled into a Green Paper. In Horizon 2020 there are significant simplifications: e.g. fewer funding rates (increasing the funding rates of the large companies), less reporting, less auditing, shorter time from proposal to project kick-off.
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