How does FP7 work? What is its structure?
FP7 supports a broad range of research activities grouped under four Specific Programmes: "Cooperation," "Ideas," "People" and "Capacities." The total budget is €54bn from 2007 to 2013 (including a Euratom budget of €4bn).
-The Cooperation Programme funds collaborative transnational research. It is organised through thematic priorities: environment, health, energy, transport, nanotechnologies, ICT, Food, Agriculture and Biotechnology, socio-economic sciences, security.
-The Ideas Programme provides funds to individuals and their teams engaged in frontier research. This programme is managed by the European Research Council (ERC).
-The People Programme funds actions to improve the training, career development, and mobility of researchers across sectors and countries worldwide under the label “Marie Curie.” This programme also supports the implementation of the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers and researchers’ mobility.
-The Capacities Programme primarily funds actions designed to improve Europe’s research infrastructures and the research capacities of SMEs. It addresses other priority areas, namely Science in Society, Regions of Knowledge, Research Potential, International Cooperation, and Coherent Development of Research Policies.
In addition, the Joint Research Centre’s (JRC) direct actions in non-nuclear research constitute a specific programme with its own budget allocation. For example, distinct strands of FP7 support the JRC's direct actions in the field of nuclear research and the indirect actions supported by the EURATOM 7th Framework for Programme for Nuclear Research and Training Activities.
[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]
Which new instruments have been launched?
FP7 builds on the achievements and proven good practice of earlier Framework Programmes and includes novelties better adapted to support scientific excellence and respond to the needs of society and the industry. The main new instruments are:
-European Research Council (ERC): The ERC is the first trans-European funding body whose goal is to support investigator-driven frontier research. It was launched in February 2007 with the aim to stimulate scientific excellence by supporting and encouraging the very best scientists, scholars and engineers in cutting edge research. ERC grants are awarded through open competition to projects headed by researchers who work in Europe, irrespective of nationality. The sole criterion for selection is scientific excellence. The ERC seeks to cultivate groundbreaking European research, while also attracting talent from abroad. With a budget of €7.5 billion from 2007-2013, it currently operates two major grant schemes: The ERC Starting Independent Researcher Grant scheme (for early career researchers) and the ERC Advanced Investigator Grant scheme.
-Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs): JTIs—one of FP7's flagship innovations—are large-scale European level public-private partnerships to develop technological innovation in key sectors. They are legally established bodies (‘Joint Undertakings’), set up on the basis of Article 171 of the EC Treaty to implement Strategic Research Agendas, which have been developed by industry-led European Technology Platforms involving SMEs, researchers, civil society organisations and other stakeholders. Five JTIs have already been established:
-Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI)
-Embedded Computing Systems (ARTEMIS)
-Aeronautics and Air Transport (Clean Sky)
-Nanoelectronics Technologies 2020 (ENIAC)
-Hydrogen and Fuel Cells (FCH)
-Article 169 Initiatives: Article 169 of the EC Treaty enables the Community to participate in research programmes undertaken jointly by several Member States, including participation in the structures created for the execution of national programmes.
Two Article 169 initiatives have been adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in 2008: Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) and EUROSTARS. AAL covers market-oriented R&D on ICT-based solutions for ageing well with a time to market of 2-3 years, with a particular focus on involving SMEs and developing a significant business potential. EUROSTARS is a joint research programme supporting research-performing SMEs and their partners. It is expected to stimulate SMEs to lead international market-oriented collaborative research and innovation projects by easing access to support and funding.
Two more Article 169 initiatives are expected to be decided later in the course of FP7. The Commission proposal for EMRP, in the field of metrology has been adopted in December 2008; inter-institutional discussions are ongoing with a view to a Decision of the European Parliament and the Council in the first half of 2009. The development of the BONUS initiative, which focuses on research in the Baltic Sea area, is continuing.
-Risk-sharing Finance Facility (RSFF): Private funding sources for R&D projects are difficult to find, in particular for high risk projects of small to mid-size companies, due to the complexity of the products and technologies these projects intend to develop, uncertainty of their market potential and the potential return on investment. To respond to these challenges, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have joined forces at the outset of FP7 to set up the RSFF. The RSFF is an innovative scheme to improve access to debt financing for private companies or public institutions promoting activities in the field of research, development and innovation (RDI). The RSFF is built on the principle of credit risk sharing between the European Community and the EIB and extends the ability of the Bank to provide loans or guarantees with a low and sub-investment grade risk profile (involving financial risks above those normally accepted by investors). The facility will create an additional financing capacity of up to €10 billion in support of eligible RDI activities.
How does FP7 contribute to addressing the current economic crisis?
In times of economic crisis, FP7 provides the right response by stepping up investment in R&D through, on average, annual budget increases of 13% in the next four years, resulting in almost a doubling of the annual budget from 2007 to 2013.
Within the economic recovery plan, the Commission recognises that investment in research and innovation is an investment for Europe's future. The Commission's plan proposes to focus on "smart" investment in research in sectors with a high potential for the development of clean technologies. Three innovative initiatives have been established, as public-private partnerships (PPP): the 'European Energy-efficient Buildings', 'European Green Cars' and 'Factories of the Future' initiatives.
The financial resources for the three PPPs—shared by industry and the Commission—are considerable: €1.2 billion will be dedicated to R&D for "Factories of the Future," and there will be €1 billion for R&D for the "Energy-efficient Buildings" initiative. The "Green Cars" initiative is worth a total of €5 billion, of which €1 billion is reserved for research activities, and €4bn will come from the European Investment Bank.
The FP7 also contributes to support the major EU's political priorities, such as the fight against climate change and the development of energy technologies to ensure energy independency and security. Within the Cooperation programme, 44% of the allocated funds are supporting research projects related to sustainable development objectives. Among the five JTIs, two are dedicated to develop clean technologies: one in the air transport sector, the other in fuel cells and hydrogen. Joint calls have been launched such as the one on Biorefineries and financial support has been allocated to environment projects, such as the Global Earth Observation System of Systems.
Is FP7 a success so far?
The available evidence for 2007 and 2008 indicates that FP7 had a good start:
-The response of the scientific community to its calls for proposals shows a strong demand for Community research. Over 36.000 proposals were received, out of which 25.419 were retained for the final evaluation round and over 5.500 were selected for funding. The overall success rate is 21.7 %, taking into account two-stage applications.
-The quality of the evaluation process is widely recognised, with 9 out of 10 evaluators stating that the quality of the evaluation process was similar to or better than national evaluations in which they participated.
The novel approaches embodied in FP7 seem to be paying off:
-The success of the ERC is evident from the more than 11.000 proposals received for the first calls. Over 500 frontier-research projects in prestigious research institutions across Europe are already being funded under the ERC Starting Grant and ERC Advanced Grant schemes, drawing from an overall budget of nearly €800 million.
-Of the five JTIs that have been set up, ARTEMIS and ENIAC have already launched projects from their first calls and have published their second calls. The other four JTIs have launched their first calls and project evaluation and selection are underway.
-Demand for the new RSFF has been strong since its launch in June 2007, with 30 RSFF operations approved and the value of signed loans reaching €2 billion in the beginning of 2009.
-Two agencies—the Research Executive Agency and the ERC Executive Agency—have been set up to ensure efficient management of a continuously growing FP7 budget without direct staff increases in the Commission.
-Progress has been made in simplifying participation in FP7: the new Guarantee fund has made most ex-ante financial viability checks obsolete; the Unique Registration Facility allows one-off submission of legal documents, and audit certificates and ex-ante financial capacity checks have been reduced by a factor of ten compared to FP6.
There are also issues deserving further attention and reflection:
Small and Medium Enterprises' participation: The FP7 offers more opportunities and a higher level of funding than the previous FPs. However, SMEs do not seem to make full use of these opportunities and their participation could be improved. The figures also indicate that the average share of "self-declared" SME participants in retained FP7 proposals under the Specific Programmes "Cooperation" and "Capacities" is 27,1% in terms of numbers of applicants and 22,6% in terms of requested Community contribution. However, following the verification of the SME status during the contract negotiation process, the average participation shares under these two Specific Programmes in signed grant agreements drops to 13,8% for participants and 10,8% for Community contribution – significantly below the 15% target established in FP7. A high percentage of all self-declared SMEs has been found not to comply with the SME criteria followed by the FP7, pointing to the need to better communicate these criteria to the SME community.
New Member States' participation: below average FP7 success rates for most new Member States are balanced by higher financial contributions: EU 12 participants obtained almost 5% of the total requested FP7 contribution, compared with a 2,8% share of EU12 in the total EU27 intramural R&D expenditure (for more details, see question below).
What is the application success rate? What percentage of the budget has already been allocated?
The success rate is calculated as the ratio between applications admitted to the decisive evaluation round and those finally selected for funding. This success rate for proposals submitted under the 110 calls for proposals launched in 2007 and 2008 under FP7 is currently 21,7%.
Almost two-thirds of all proposals submitted for funding under FP7 in its first two years of implementation have been included in the final evaluation process and about a fifth of those have been retained for funding negotiations. At this point, there have been 3.500 signed grant agreements, or 64,3% of the retained proposals. These figures continuously evolve as new grant agreements are signed. The grant agreements that have already been signed total a Community contribution of € 6,7 billion out of the requested Community contribution of €10,1 billion (66.3%). Of the signed agreements, the lion’s share, namely 73% or € 4,8 billion, goes to projects under the Specific Programme "Cooperation."
Are new Member States active in FP7?
New Member States' participation represents 9,3% of all applicants in retained FP7 proposals and 4,8% of total requested EC financial contribution. The success rates are 17,9% for applicants and 13,4% for EC contribution.
The participation and performance of EU12 vis-à-vis EU15 in the "Cooperation" and "Capacities" specific Programmes during the first year of FP7 implementation presents a mixed picture. While EU12 participation in terms of numbers of submitted and retained proposals is lower than their share of the EU27 research workforce, the performance is significantly better when one compares their share of GERD (the portion of GNP that goes to research and development) to their share of EC contributions. More specifically:
-EU12 researchers represent 14% of the total EU27 population of researchers; the corresponding shares of EU12 applicants during the first years of implementation of the FP7 are now 9,3% in terms of retained proposals.
-The EU12 share of the EU27 2006 GERD is 2,8% while the aggregate requested EC contribution to EU12 applicants in retained proposals is now 4,8%.
These findings should, however, be put in the context of the current S&T socio-economic conditions in EU27. For example, in 2006 the R&D expenditure per researcher (GERD per number of researchers) in EU15 amounted to € 121.000 – four times that of the corresponding EU12 figure of € 31.000.
Measures that have already been taken to help enhance EU12 participation rates in the Framework Programme include DG RTD's firm support for a strong National Contact Point network and the establishment of Technology Platforms at the national level, to support successful industrial involvement in R&D activities.
Finally, the EU12 is not a homogeneous group, which is why it may be more pertinent to refer to low- and high-performing Member States in FP7. The reasons for low performance are manifold and refer to, for example, national research landscapes with specific problems, the lack of a competitive research environment at national level, and problems encountered by smaller countries that cannot be expected to be competitive in all thematic fields of FP7.
Which kind of actors benefits from FP7?
Educational institutes, notably universities, are the main beneficiaries of FP7: they make up approximately one-third of applicants and requests for EC funding in retained proposals. Private sector participants make up a quarter of all applicants and of requested EC funding and research organisations receive a similar share of the funding.
[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]
How does the FP7 promote international research collaboration?
Effective international research cooperation is essential in addressing major global challenges such as climate change, poverty, infectious disease, threats to energy, food and water supply and citizens' security. Association of Third Countries to the Framework Programme has reached an unprecedented scope, with 12 countries presently associated, including all of the Western Balkan states. The associated countries share the same rights and duties as EU Member States with regards to the funds coming from the FP7. In addition to the 12 countries currently associated to FP7, Moldova and Russia have formally requested to be associated. Furthermore, the association to the FP will be opened for European Neighbourhood Policy Countries including the Mediterranean Dialogue Countries. This makes FP7 a truly pan-European programme and strongly underpins the objective of building a wider European Research Area.
Science & Technology (S&T) Cooperation Agreements establish a legal framework to promote S&T cooperation activities between the Communities and Third Countries. The European Community has concluded S&T agreements with 17 countries (soon to be 20), including almost all industrialised and emerging countries and a significant number of developing ones; another 15 agreements (soon to be 18) exist under EURATOM. The implementation of these agreements has become considerably more concrete and substantial, largely thanks to the possibility to translate common priorities and commitments, as identified by the Joint Committees, into targeted calls notably through a series of coordinated calls with Russia, China, India and Brazil. The S&T Agreements are being used under FP7 to strengthen international collaboration with Third Countries on shared priorities through specific mechanisms such as Specific International Cooperation Actions, targeted open calls, ‘twinning of projects’ and coordinated calls at the programme level.
Science and engineering provide many solutions for poverty reduction and socio-economic development in Africa. The Africa-EU Partnership on Science, Information Society and Space provides the basis for combining development and research funding from European and national sources around projects which respond to needs identified by the African Union and its member states.
What progress has been made towards simplification?
Progress towards simplification is evident:
-Cost reimbursements are being simplified through gradual introduction of flat rates and lump-sums, with actual cost reporting retained where beneficiaries say that this is simpler.
-Average personnel costs methodologies are being progressively introduced. This is a very important step as personnel costs remain the principal cause of errors. However, their use will only be possible for a limited number of beneficiaries in a first pilot phase.
-Documentation has been streamlined and harmonised across the entire programme, and new electronic tools facilitate the negotiation of contracts.
-Frequency of reporting has been reduced and a web-based system for collecting financial reports has been launched.
-Clear written guidance and a helpline are available to help beneficiaries avoid the most frequent errors.
But simplification can take place only within the given legal context. As it cannot change this context itself, the Commission is focusing on removing administrative hurdles, streamlining procedures and providing clear guidance. While these incremental changes go in the right direction, there is a growing recognition that real and substantial simplification will require changing the rules themselves, while keeping errors in transactions at an acceptable level.
See also IP/09/665