Commission report shows ‘unprecedented development’ in EU R&D activities

There has been 'unprecedented development' in terms of the Community's research policy in the last year claims the Commission's 2002 annual report on technological research and development (RTD) in 2001. Published on 20 March, the report summarises the most significant events that occurred in the research policy calendar in 2001.

First, the report refers to the major milestones reached in the construction of the European Research Area (ERA) . These included the publication of the first results of the benchmarking of national RTD policies; the mapping of scientific excellence in Europe; the adoption of a mobility strategy for researchers; the European innovation scoreboard; the action plan for science and society and communications on the international and regional dimensions of the ERA.

Much of 2001 was also devoted to preparations for the implementation of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) . The report refers to the preparatory work carried out in areas such as specific programmes, rules for participation and the definition of instruments for FP6.

The report highlights the continued success of the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5)  and notes that in the third year of FP5, nearly 5,000 contracts involving more than 23,000 participants were signed. Community financial support for these contracts represented some 3.7 million euro.

In terms of type of actions in which people participated, the report reveals continued preference for shared cost actions, accounting for more than 82 per cent of the budget committed. However, the average financial contribution per shared cost action contract signed in 2001 was 1.17 million euro, which was slightly down on 2000.

Furthermore, the average number of participants per project fell from 6.5 in 2000 to 6.26. The report also highlights a decline in the average financial contribution per participant. However, the report does show a significant improvement in the success rate of project proposals, which rose from 28 per cent in 2000 to 48 per cent in 2001.

With regard to the level of participation, the percentage of researchers coming from Member States remained stable at nearly 86 per cent, while participation by the Associated States was also steady at just over 10 per cent. Participation by candidate country researchers increased in 2001.

The report pays particular attention to small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs)  and their access to research. It found that more than 4,600 SMEs signed a contract in 2001. SMEs also accounted for more than 23 per cent of participants in the four thematic programmes and received more than 15 per cent of total funding invested in these programmes.

Another important action upon which the report reflects is the position of women in Community research activities. The report points to the Commission's implementation of a gender watch system and the Commission's objective of achieving 40 per cent of female participation at all levels. Figures for 2001 reveal women accounting for 30 per cent of the members of programme follow-up panels.

Other important events in 2001 included the launch of a European network for scientific communication (GEANT) , linking 32 national research and teaching networks, and the intensification of international cooperation illustrated by the signing of agreements with Malta, Ukraine, Russia and India.

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