Shaping the tenth framework programme (FP10)

Member States Advocate for Greater Influence in Shaping FP10

The tenth framework programme (FP10) for research and innovation in the European Union is garnering significant attention from member states who are calling for a more prominent role in its strategic planning. This development follows the adoption of a new opinion paper by a special task force of the European Research Area and Innovation Committee (ERAC). The paper emphasises the need for a stable and predictable funding framework and the inclusion of Collaborative Research Actions to support basic research.

A Call for Enhanced Strategic Involvement

The task force's recommendations reflect a broader desire among EU governments to have a more substantial say in setting the priorities for FP10. This includes making strategic choices that align with national and regional research goals, thereby leveraging national, regional, and private investments more effectively. The opinion suggests that a more consultative approach involving member states and stakeholders could enhance the programme's relevance and impact.

Addressing the Funding Issue

While the opinion paper does not specify a budget, it highlights the importance of a stable financial framework for research and innovation. This is crucial to ensure the success of FP10 and maintain its competitive edge globally. However, the absence of specific budget recommendations has drawn criticism from various quarters. Kamila Kozirog of the European University Association (EUA) and Mattias Björnmalm of CESAER highlighted the missed opportunity to advocate for increased funding. Both stress the necessity of achieving the 3% GDP target for research and innovation, with a public effort of 1.25%.

Simplification and Inclusivity in Funding Mechanisms

The task force advocates for simplifying the structure of Pillar II, which currently includes calls for Research and Innovation Actions and Innovation Actions for higher Technology Readiness Levels. By adding Research Actions, FP10 could make it clearer that Pillar II is also dedicated to research, not just innovation-focused projects. This aligns with calls from the League of European Research Universities (LERU) for more simplification in grant applications.

Additionally, the task force recommends evaluations of the Widening measures aimed at closing the east-west gap in research capabilities, and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). The opinion also suggests phasing out instruments that are no longer relevant, though it does not specify which ones.

Positive Views and Constructive Criticism

The European Research Council (ERC) and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) receive positive mentions for their roles in supporting career development and breakthrough research. The European Innovation Council (EIC) is also praised for addressing gaps between research excellence and market transformation. However, there is a recommendation to move "Missions" out of FP10, as their objectives extend beyond the programme’s scope.

Stakeholder and SME Involvement

The task force stresses the importance of involving stakeholder organisations in the planning and oversight of FP10. While this move is supported by many, including EUA and CESAER, concerns remain about the potential for increased member state involvement to slow down priority setting. Moreover, acknowledging the critical role of SMEs, the task force suggests exploring the possibility of lowering their financial contributions in certain partnerships.

Beyond EU Borders

A continent-wide approach and faster association processes for neighbouring countries sharing EU values are prioritised to bolster European research and innovation. This includes swift associations with countries like Switzerland to leverage the full research and innovation capacity of Europe.

Towards a Single Market for Knowledge

The opinion supports the concept of a "single market for knowledge" and the idea of research and innovation as a "fifth freedom," enabling the free movement of research, innovation, knowledge, and education. This vision, proposed by former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, aims to position Europe as a global leader in research and innovation.

Conclusion

The call for a more strategic role in shaping FP10 highlights the evolving landscape of European research and innovation policy. By addressing funding stability, simplifying mechanisms, and enhancing stakeholder involvement, FP10 aims to build on the successes of its predecessors while adapting to new challenges. The collaborative approach and strategic investments envisaged in FP10 could pave the way for ground breaking advancements and sustained economic growth in the EU.