N°11, 6th November 2008
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The EARTO Executive Board met in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on October 23rd and 24th at the invitation of the Josef Stefan Institute.
The meeting featured a seminar with the Slovenian Minister for Research and other government decision makers on the role of RTOs in supporting national economic and social development.
The Board business meeting was honoured with the visit of European Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik, who shared his views with the Board on the impact of the current financial and economic crisis on business and R&D investment as well as on the future development of the European Research Area (ERA) and the role of RTOs in ERA.
Among the business discussed by the Board were proposals for an EARTO Innovation Prize, for an RTO Yearbook as well as plans for the EARTO annual conferences in 2009 and 2010.
The Board also made a declaration expressing its concern at the introduction of funding caps on overhead costs in Joint Technology Initiatives (see article below).
If you are currently experiencing an ex-post audit of an FP6 project, or have been informed that you will be audited shortly, you may wish to contact the EARTO Secretariat for advice.
As reported in earlier issues of EARTO News, the European Commission is increasing the number of ex-post audits of closed FP6 projects.
Several EARTO members have been audited already. For time being, it is larger RTOs which are being targeted, but other RTOs are likely to be audited soon.
These audits are proving extremely problematic because the auditors and the Commission are challenging cost reimbursement practices which previously the Commission had accepted, in particular relating to the use of average personnel costs as well as the inclusion of overhead in daily rates. Some RTOs have been told that they may be required to reimburse large sums of money to the Commission.
EARTO has formed a Task Force of affected members - comprising senior financial managers and senior legal personnel - to monitor the situation, to exchange information, to develop a common position towards the Commission on specific audit issues, and to consider the legal and political options available to challenge the Commission, if necessary.
For further information, please contact Christopher John Hull
Two Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs) which have launched their first Calls for Proposals this year - the Innovative Medicines JTI (IMI) and the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen JTI (FCH) - have introduced funding models which limit the reimbursement of overhead costs to 20% of direct costs. Moreover, the Commission has indicated that it intends to generalise this 20% cap on overheads to all future JTIs.
Such unrealistic capping is unacceptable and counter-produtive. It displays grave ignorance of the economic realities of research. RTOs have overhead costs equivalent, typically, to 100%-150% or more of direct project costs.
The EARTO Executive Board has recently released a declaration calling on the Commission to revise its policy, and the EARTO Secretariat is in contact with other European associations and groupings representing universities and industrial interests with the objective of concerting efforts to obtain realistic funding models for JTI-sponsored research.
The Structural and Cohesion Funds are the European Union’s main instruments for supporting social and economic restructuring across the EU. They account for over one third of the European Union budget and are used to tackle regional disparities and support regional development through actions including developing infrastructure and telecommunications, developing human resources and, more recently, supporting research and development and innovation.
In the current programme period (2007-2013) more than â‚¬50 billion of Structural Fund money is reserved for research, technology and innovation.
The EARTO Secretariat is proposing to organise a one-day workshop in Brussels in early 2009 to give interested members an opportunity to learn more about the opportunities and to exchange experience of working with Structural Fund money.
Should you be interested to participate or should you wish to receive further information please contact Nina Baumeister.
The EIT is now launched and its Governing Board appointed. During the coming weeks, the first operational decisions will be taken about how the EIT will function and what areas of research it will focus on.
Critical meetings of the EIT Governing Board are planned for early December 2008 and mid-February 2009. The first of these meetings will begin a discussion about operational management of the EIT, its research areas, evaluation and selection procedures for its programmes ("Knowledge and Innovation Communities"), and IPR rules. The February meeting will take corresponding decisions.
Between these two meetings, i.e. in mid-January 2009, EARTO proposes to organise a one-day meeting for interested members. The objectives of this meeting are to share our information about what is being discussed in the EIT Governing Board and, where appropriate, to formulate recommendations for transmittal to the EIT Governing Board.
For more information please contact Mikael Kekkonen.
EARTO member HLP Développement of France is planning to bid for an INCO project designed to raise awareness in Europe of opportunities for EU research organisations to participate in R&D opportunities in Brazil, funded through public or private organisations.
EARTO has been invited to participate in the project as the principal vector for disseminating the participation opportunities in Europe.
For more information please contact Christopher John Hull.
This service gives EARTO members a simple-to-use tool for comparing how well they are doing in FP7 compared with other RTOs. It is a benchmarking database in which you record the numbers of proposals you have submitted (or in which you are a participant), how many have passed the evaluation threshold, and how many have been accepted for funding. You can make comparisons with other RTOs accoring to size category and in different FP7 thematic priority areas. Submitted data are treated confidentially and are presented anonymously.
Several RTOs have recently updated or provided data for the first time.
You can access the data via the Members Area.
For further information, please contact Nina Baumeister.
EARTO gives space in this newsletter to members who would like to publish their job vacancies. Please contact Nina Baumeister.
The Group is meant to be composed of a maximum of 20 high-level members with experience and competence in the field of competitiveness and innovation policies representing high level policy makers, businesses and research and higher education institutions.
To read more:
The report outlines the threats, identifies the challenges, and provides an assessment of the driving forces for future risks. The broad influences such as global politics and the economy, the EU’s wider neighbourhood, the social and political cohesion in the EU, and technological versus societal developments are all taken into account. The report places great emphasis on the research that can help Europe prepare for high-probability security risks with wide-ranging impact, such as the consequences of climate change.
ESRIF was established in September 2007 with the aim of fostering public-private dialogue on security research by bringing together all the relevant stakeholders. The principal idea is to develop a strategic security research and innovation agenda to identify the needs and priorities.
Furthermore the members of the forum share ideas and best practices in order to maximise the benefits of existing capabilities and funding instruments for society. ESRIF is expected to present a ‘Joint Security Research Agenda’ towards the end of 2009.
Further information and the ESRIF intermediate report is available at:
This report is a review of key trends in science, technology and innovation in OECD countries and a number of major non-member economies including Brazil, Chile, China, Israel, Russia and South Africa.
The report also examines topics such as science and innovation performance; trends in national science, technology and innovation policies; and practices to assess the socio-economic impacts of public research.
Finally, it includes individual profiles of each country in relation to its national context and current policy challenges. The graphs enable countries to see some of their relative strengths and weaknesses as compared to other countries' performance.
These funding decisions are breakthroughs because it is the first time that Community bodies, namely the ARTEMIS and ENIAC Joint Undertakings, decide the co-financing of European cooperative projects by both national and Community funds. This increases the leverage effect of public funding and enables focusing a critical mass of resources on key competitiveness goals.
The decisions complete the evaluation and selection processes for 2008, which started with the publication of Calls for proposals in May 2008. Similar Calls are foreseen on a yearly basis, the next one to be published in February 2009.
The first of the 20 projects are expected to start work in January 2009. They address the development of chips, electronics and software systems in areas of major industrial, economic and societal impact, such as energy efficiency, smart homes and buildings, sustainable cities, automotive and avionic safety, health systems, and security.
ARTEMIS, Advanced Research & Technology for Embedded Intelligence & Systems, is a public-private partnership between the European Commission, 21 European countries and ARTEMISIA, a European association of more than 150 industry and research actors. ARTEMIS operates an industrial R&D programme in the area of electronics and software. It was established on 7 February 2008 by the Council of the EU in the form of a Joint Undertaking.
ENIAC is a public-private partnership between the European Commission, 18 countries and AENEAS, a European association combining the European industry and research actors in the field of micro- and nanoelectronics. ENIAC operates an industrial R&D programme in the field of nanoelectonic components, their manufacturing and their integration in electronic products. It was established on 7 February 2008 by the Council of the EU in the form of a Joint Undertaking.
The German commission vice president for enterprise and industry told journalists, at a press conference on Wednesday, that he is in favour of a low-interest “soft” loan package for the automobile sector to be made available through the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Speaking after a high-level conference on the EU’s CARS 21 initiative, Verheugen said that the offer was being proposed to address concerns from industry about how to meet Europe’s ambitious targets on CO2 emissions while facing possible job losses due to the global credit crunch.
“We can’t make industry alone responsible for everything. There has to be a certain level of responsibility with the member states”.
Verheugen insisted that the offer was not an attempt to lessen the burden on car makers to reduce CO2 emissions from their vehicles.
“Nobody questions the targets that we already have. The only question is, how we can achieve those targets,” he said.
“The car industry isn’t calling for subsidies. There seems to be a public misunderstanding here,” he added.
However Franziska Achterberg, Greenpeace EU transport policy campaigner, said the offer of a loan meant that the CO2 reduction targets for cars would have less of an impact.
“As long as carmakers duck their responsibility to reduce CO2 emissions, any loan given to them would mean subsidising climate change. The industry should stop blocking proposals for serious emissions reductions before a handout is even considered,” she said.
Meanwhile Christian Streiff, president of the board of directors of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, said that tighter regulations meant that the current car industry would soon be unable to compete with other countries.
“The industry’s competitive advantage is being pushed to its limits,” he said.
In particular, Streiff said that the industry was facing further difficulties from EU proposals to impose penalties payments against car manufacturers for exceeding the CO2 targets.
“The level of penalties in terms of CO2 costs is just crazy,” he added.
However Brussels-based Green NGO Transport & Environment said in a statement that the car industry's fears over CO2 penalties were exaggerated.
"ACEA, the car industry lobby has also claimed today that the costs of CO2 reduction in the car industry will be €485 per tonne. That calculation is deeply misleading".
The aim of this workshop is to teach PhD students in the life sciences essential skills in research funding, project management, knowledge transfer, intellectual property and scientific entrepreneurship.
There are no fees for the course. Travel costs can be reimbursed up to 400,00€.
The call "Unlocking and developing the research potential of research entities in the EU's convergence regions and outermost regions" is aimed at single institutions established in convergence and outermost regions with an indicative budget of 30 million Euros.
The second call, "International co-operation" is aimed at consortia made up of partners from Mediterranean Partner Countries, from convergence or outermost regions in a Member State or Associated Country, and from another Member State or Associated Country. The deadline for both calls is 13th February 2009.
Related news item in IPR-Helpdesk:2008/10/17. European Union. Call for proposals recently published under FP7 People specific programme
EU Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik said: The development of cutting-edge energy technologies requires the pooling of the best brains and resources beyond national borders. The creation of the European Energy Research Alliance that will coordinate national and European energy research programmes is a crucial step forwards. This test case of joint programming will enable us to leverage on a more efficient use of national and European resources and compete successfully on the international level."
The Commissioner for Energy, Andris Piebalgs underlined: "The SET-Plan offers a blueprint for Europe to develop a world-class portfolio of affordable, clean, efficient and low emission energy technologies. The opportunity to be global leaders in low carbon technologies lies in front of us."
The triple challenge of energy security, climate change and competitiveness that the EU currently faces is such that it will require scaling up and better coordination of all available resources to develop the energy technologies that will allow Europe's citizens to enjoy a good quality of life in carbon constrained future. Going it alone at national level will lead to failure and waste of resources. Working together will put Europe in the driver's seat on the way to a new energy era.
In November 2007, the European Commission launched the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan), which gives energy research in Europe an important push. It will combine the potential of research capacities of the major European institutes and universities with the engagement of European industry and the commitment of the Member States. Actions will be supported by reliable information provided by the Commission's European Energy Technology Information System (SETIS).
The European Energy Research Alliance is the SET Plan' research community pillar. The cooperation of major national research institutes and universities will move help to move from today's model of collaborating on individual projects towards a new way of jointly implementing whole programmes which go from research and development through deployment. There are many scientific fields which have an impact on the development of energy technologies, from engineering to the social sciences. The Alliance is able to cover many different disciplines, bringing a much-needed multidisciplinary approach to energy research.
The SET Plan also includes a series of new priority European Industrial Initiatives focusing on the development of technologies for which working at Community level will add most value. Initiatives in preparation focus on carbon capture and storage, bio-energy, wind and solar energy, the European smart grid and sustainable fission.
Current members of the EERA are:
For more information:
On EERA: http://www.eera-set.eu.
On the SET Plan: IP/07/1750
Details are also available in MEMO/07/493 and the SET-plan document, which is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/energy/res/setplan/communication_2007_en.htm;
MEMO/07/494 provides answers to some frequently asked questions.
See also MEMO/08/657
It will take place in Brussels, Belgium, and in other cities across Europe from Monday 9 to Friday 13 February 2009, although many side events are foreseen during the weeks immediately before and after.
The EUSEW is the key annual reference point for sustainable energy issues in Europe. The events organised during EUSEW cover key topics that highlight the multi-sectoral nature of sustainable energy development and stress the need for everyone to work together towards a common goal.
“Today’s children and teenagers face new challenges when they use Web 2.0 services. The EU will coordinate actions to empower children and protect them”, said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media in response to the positive outcome of the vote in Parliament. “I am particularly glad that the Parliament addressed the Commission’s proposal so promptly and strongly endorsed our proposals to make the Internet safer for children. I am convinced that the new Safer Internet programme will play an important role in our understanding of the challenges regarding online risks for young people and children, and will provide concrete help to many young internet users and their parents.“
Today's vote during the European Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg followed a debate on the Commission’s proposal, which was applauded by all political groups. Some MEPs even considered the programme as “one of the best things Europe could do”. The new Programme is now expected to be approved by the Council before the end of 2008.
The Safer Internet programme 2009-2013 builds on the success of the previous Safer Internet programme started in 2005 and will also encompass recent communications services from the Web 2.0, such as social networking. The proposed new programme will co-fund projects to:
* Ensure awareness of children, parents and teachers, and support contact points that are providing them with advice on how to stay safe online.
* Provide the public with national contact points for reporting illegal and harmful content and conduct, in particular on child sexual abuse material and grooming.
* Foster self-regulatory initiatives in this field and stimulate the involvement of children in creating a safer online environment.
* Establish a knowledge base on the use of new technologies and related risks by bringing together researchers engaged in online child safety at European level.
Of the € 55 million budget for the new Safer Internet Programme, 48% should serve to ensure public awareness, 34% to fight against illegal content and tackle harmful conduct online, 10% to promote a safer online environment and 8% to establish a knowledge base.
About the new Safer Internet programme 2009-2013:
About the current Safer Internet programme 2005-2008:
"Europe does not lack clusters, but it lacks world-class clusters," the Commission said, announcing its communication on measures to be taken to facilitate the emergence of world-class clusters in the EU.
Indeed, according to the European Cluster Observatory there are currently already "around 2,000 statistically significant agglomerations" in the EU.
However, according to the Commission, "persistent market fragmentation, weak industry-research linkages and insufficient cooperation within the EU" mean these clusters do not always have the necessary critical mass and innovation capacity to grow into world-class excellence poles.
"We need more world-class clusters in the EU," said Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen, arguing that clusters play a vital role in business innovation and are "powerhouses of job creation".
The communication adopted on 17 October proposes a number of measures to improve synergies between the different policy levels that affect further strengthening of clusters. These inclu
The EU executive also said it would establish a European Cluster Policy Group to share intelligence about cluster policies and advise on how to support the emergence and growth of world-class excellence clusters in Europe. The policy group will replace the current High Level Advisory Group on clusters , with a view of raising its profile and visibility.
The Finance Helpdesk has started publishing a list of FP6 and FP7 experienced Auditors, which is now available here.
The auditors listed have demonstrated to the Finance Helpdesk experience of the Framework Program by having submitted at least 2 audit certificates for two different projects.
Currently the list contains Auditors for the following countries:
If you are an Auditor and are interested in having your organisation included in the list please download further details here.
The next ten years will see major transformations in the technological, industrial and business landscapes surrounding information and communication technologies, or "ICT". ICT 2008 will set the agenda for ICT research and innovation in Europe during this crucial decade.
The event will host leading visionaries from academia and industry and will address topics as diverse as Europe's role in shaping the future internet, ICT's contribution to advancing the sustainability agenda and alternative research paths for future ICT components and systems. These and many other cutting-edge themes will be explored in depth at ICT 2008.
This year's ICT event - the largest research event in Europe in 2008 - will examine:
Researchers, innovators, engineers, policy and business decision-makers in the field of digital technologies - ICT 2008 is for you. Special activities for young people and students - the ICT researchers of tomorrow - are also planned around the Event. Don't miss this key event for shaping policy and research options for Europe's industrial and technological future.
Over the next six years, the EU 'Fuel cells and Hydrogen' joint technology initiative (JTI) is to receive €470 million from the EU's current research budget (known as Framework Programme Seven, or FP7, which runs until 2013). This figure has to be at least matched by private sector contributions.
The Commission says the new structure will help to speed up the development and deployment of these still nascent technologies by at least two to five years, primarily by bringing public and private interests together and implementing a jointly defined research programme.
Fuel cells and hydrogen are widely perceived as having the potential to significantly contribute to the EU's energy security and climate change objectives by providing a clean alternative to traditional fossil fuels. But major doubts persist as to their viability, with technical difficulties and high costs currently holding back their development.
Nevertheless, according to EU Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Joint Undertaking should succeed in bringing forward the commercial launch of early market applications such as portable generators to 2010, while 'stationary' applications should become available as of 2012-2015.
Transport applications are likely to take longer, with researchers only expecting them to become available after 2020. Paul Lucchese, chairman of the European Research Grouping for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells, stressed that this timeline would also depend on support from infrastructure managers. "There would be no point in having a car without having the filling stations that go with it," he told EurActiv.
Industry wants more
Despite the launch being praised as a "significant moment for industry," which "culminates six years of joint efforts to bring commercialisation forward" by the head of research and environment operations at Daimler AG Herbert Kohler, others were far less optimistic about the initiative.
Marcus Nurdin, the executive director of Fuel Cell Europe, told EurActiv that the majority of his association's members were "frustrated and angry at how the initiative has been dealt with and what will come out of it".
He points out that the European Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform, launched by the Commission in 2004 with a view to defining a common strategic research agenda on these technologies, had stressed that some €7.4 billion of public and private resources would be needed between 2007 and 2015 if the bloc was serious about deploying hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.
"But in effect, what we have got from the Commission represents no more money than we got before," he lamented, adding that even the minor increase in funding from FP6 (€315 million) to FP7 (€470 million) was offset by the fact that companies are being forced to pay an annual membership fee of €35,000 (€17,000 for SMEs) if they wish to qualify for some of the funds. "The bottom line is that industry is being told to pay if it wants to get any of the money and there's not even any more money than there was before."
"We thought this was going to be a genuine attempt to help the European industry to catch up with the US," he lamented, calling on the Commission to explain "how it intends to fill the gap".
But Potočnik was quick to remind that “the system we have to deal with in Europe is very different to that in the US” as at least 85% of European research funds are channelled through the member states.
“The EU’s goal is to avoid fragmentation and unnecessary duplication,” he stressed, adding that he was “very confident” that the technologies would become more economic in the near future.
"We are pleased that R&D investment growth in EU companies has increased, against the background of a slight fall in the growth rate worldwide," said European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik. "In particular, companies in the energy field are rapidly increasing their R&D investments, responding to the need to make more efficient use of limited resources. However, private sector R&D in Europe remains at 1% of GDP, amidst signs that EU companies are making an increasing share of their R&D investments outside Europe. Therefore, we must continue our efforts to make Europe a more attractive place for business R&D, notably by creating a truly European Research Area, in order to reach the Lisbon objectives ".
The EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard is published annually by the European Commission as part of its Industrial Research Investment Monitoring activity. It shows that worldwide corporate R&D investment growth decreased from 10% in last year's Scoreboard to 9%, but EU corporate R&D investment growth increased by 8.8%, up from 7.4% on last year's Scoreboard. EU companies are almost closing the gap in R&D growth rate compared to all non-EU companies (figure 2), and it is slightly ahead of the R&D investment growth rate in US Scoreboard companies, which has dropped sharply from 13.3% to 8.6% (Figure 1).
Three EU companies are ranked in the top ten investors in R&D: Nokia, the top EU company, has moved from 17th position last year to 5th position this year; Volkswagen has moved up from 14th position to 9th position; and Daimler has moved down from 5th to 10th position. Glaxo Smith Kline and Siemens dropped out of the top 10. Three US companies are in the top positions: Microsoft, General Motors and Pfizer (Figure 3).
The business performance of Scoreboard companies further improved in the past year. Sales of EU companies grew by 7.0% – resulting in a small increase in R&D intensity – and sales of non-EU companies grew by 9.2%. The profitability of EU companies increased to 12.2%, against 11.3% in non-EU companies.
Companies from emerging economies continued to show strong R&D growth. Over the past three years, companies like Petroleo Brasiliero, Petro China and Tata Motors had an annual R&D investment growth rate of 52.6 %, 22.2 % and 42.6 % respectively.
Pharmaceuticals & biotechnology: This sector, which includes many EU and Swiss companies, reinforced its top position, accounting for more than 19 % of the R&D investments made by all Scoreboard companies together. Several pharmaceutical companies showed a particularly strong increase in R&D investment (partly due to acquisitions): e.g. Schering-Plough (+33.7%), AstraZeneca (+29.8%), Roche (+25.9%) and Novartis (+21.1%).
Automobiles & parts: In this sector – the EU's biggest in terms of R&D investment – R&D investment growth (6.9%) was considerably above the three year average annual growth rate (4.9 %). Whereas Volkswagen and Toyota Motor raised substantially their R&D (by 16.1% and 9.6%, respectively), General Motors had the biggest increase in R&D (22.7%).
Energy field: Some large European companies showed high annual R&D growth rates over the past three years (Figure 4). For example, Royal Dutch Shell increased R&D by 2.2 times and AREVA by 1.7 times over this period. Even higher growth rates are found amongst some companies in the field of alternative energies. In wind technology, Vestas Wind Systems increased R&D by a factor of 2.2 and Nordex by a factor of 3. In the solar photovoltaic field, Q-Cells has entered the scoreboard in 2008 for the first time after increasing R&D by 15.4 times in three years.
The report looks at R&D investment data from 2000 participating companies' own accounts over the 2007/8 financial year. The sample comprises the 1000 EU companies investing the largest sums in R&D and the 1000 non-EU companies investing the largest sums in R&D.
All the data come from publicly available audited accounts. The data is based on the location of the registered office of the company conducting the R&D, and not on the location where the R&D is performed.
The 2008 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard has been prepared jointly by DG Research and the Joint Research Centre and can be downloaded from: http://iri.jrc.ec.europa.eu
Figure 1. Growth of R&D investment in the Scoreboard
[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]
Source: The EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboards (of 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)
Figure 2. Growth of R&D investment by EU and non-EU Scoreboard companies
[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]
Source: The EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboards (of 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)
Figure 3. Ranking of the world top 50 R&D companies by their total R&D investment in the 2008 Scoreboard (€ million).
[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]
Note: The numbers in brackets after the names of the companies indicate their rankings in last year’s Scoreboard.
Figure 4. R&D investment growth of some companies in the field of energy
[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]
Source: The EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard 2008
The EU Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik, said: "By investing in such a results-oriented scientific project, we are putting our money where our mouth is: the development of new technologies is crucial if we are to meet EU objectives to address climate change and energy challenges. This requires the commitment of all actors. Gathering more than 60 private companies, from multinationals to SMEs, together with the Commission, an equal number of universities and research institutes is therefore a great success. This JTI brings together the most significant players to put Europe ahead of the game in new energy technologies. I hope we will see a snowball effect in other strategic research areas."
The Chairman of the Governing Board of the Joint Undertaking, Gijs van Breda Vriesman, adds: “The Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative is the best possible vehicle to accelerate the development of technologies and bring the commercialisation of hydrogen and fuel cells forward. The JTI provides us with the unique opportunity to implement our plans on a large European scale. To prepare the market for these strategic technologies it is necessary to ensure the cooperation of all stakeholders: it is not only needed for the relevant industrial sectors to develop the supply chain but it is also critical to ensure the cooperation between Research, Industry and Government, at regional, national and European level.”
The first Stakeholders General Assembly, to be held in Brussels on the 14th and 15th October, will mark the official launch of the Joint Technology Initiative (JTI) on Fuel Cells and Hydrogen (FCH). The main goal of the JTI is to speed up the development of fuel cells and hydrogen technologies in Europe and enable their commercialisation between 2010 and 2020. The JTI's activities will reduce time to market for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies by between an estimated 2 and 5 years.
The partnership will implement an integrated and efficient programme of basic and applied research and technology development, demonstration and support activities, focused on the most promising applications. This JTI can be also seen as a first working example of future European Industrial Initiatives, as foreseen by the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-plan) which is to play a vital role in accelerating the development and implementation of low carbon technologies.
The first call for proposals with an indicative budget of 28.1 million Euros was published on 8th October 2008. It covers areas such as transportation and refuelling infrastructures and the production, storage and distribution of hydrogen.
The legal entity, the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, will be led by a Governing Board. Daily management and operations will be the responsibility of an Executive Director supported by the Programme Office seated in Brussels. A Scientific Committee will advise the Governing Board. The Member States will closely follow the activities via the States Representatives Group. The Stakeholders' General Assembly will be held on an annual basis.
On 30 May 2008, the Council of Ministers adopted the regulation setting up the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking. It is the result of 6 years' effort, involving the main stakeholders in the sector and the Commission to prepare this new type of public-private partnership.
The ERC's success was praised roundly, and its swift, efficient implementation was welcomed by CNRS (the French scientific research centre) Director General Arnold Migus, and Gilles Bloch, Director General of Research and Innovation at the French Ministry for Higher Education and Research.
In choosing its starting grant laureates, the ERC followed three principles: 'trust the young, trust the individual, and keep it simple'. The starting grants give scientists the opportunity to become independent early in their careers, and are designed to give researchers 'total flexibility, to do what makes sense for the individual to do his best work', according to ERC Scientific Council Chairman Dr Fotis Kafatos.
The laureates at the meeting were extraordinary people conducting frontier research; the ERC grants will give them five years to concentrate on their work without having to look for funding. They all put forward suggestions for streamlining the application process, but were overall very happy with the ERC, its mission and the possibilities it opens for them to perform at their best.
ERC grants are unique in that they are portable. Because the money is given to the individuals and not to the institutions where they work, the scientists are free to choose where they want to conduct their research. This puts pressure on institutions to modernise and provide the right environment for its researchers, and it also creates a situation in which institutions (and nations) compete over the winners.
In his speech, Dr Kafatos emphasised that the ERC 'is funding internationally, not nationally. It is the responsibility of the nations to create the right environment'. In particular, the organisation hopes to do more to make Europe the world leader in scientific research by encouraging EU nations to dedicate higher percentages of their gross domestic product (GDP) on research and development.
Although grants were awarded in 21 countries, the geographic distribution is quite uneven, reflecting the quality of the research environment in each of the host nations. 'There was never meant to be a geographic distribution,' explained Dr Kafatos. 'It is very encouraging that scientific excellence is as widespread as it is. As countries increase their research and development (R&D) budgets, the geographic distribution will likely be more level.'
Commissioner Janez Potocnik added, 'Europe is in serious competition with the rest of the world.' The ERC, he added, is sending a 'strong signal that we have to do our best at home, to modernise our systems and make the changes that are needed' to keep the best people.
Mr Bloch commented: 'It is up to each nation to take care of its research system. [...] Each country is under pressure now to make its system equal'.
There were over 9,000 applicants for the ERC's starting grants, and due to budget limitations the organisation was not able to award grants to as many researchers as they would have liked. 'As many [applicants] as were accepted also deserved a chance,' said Dr Kafatos, adding that national initiatives supporting the runners-up are extremely important, as is sending the message that countries value their scientists. A number of other speakers reiterated this point throughout the meeting.
According to Dr Kafatos, 'We had more than 3,000 applicants from Italy because they didn't have the support they needed from home. Greece is another example; it hurts me to say that. [Research] has to be cultivated. If you don't modernise, you lose talent; you won't capture the enthusiasm.'
The objectives of the ERC are to 'recruit, repatriate and retain' scientific talent. Its efforts to encourage researchers to move to Europe have met with limited (5%) success in the first year, but according to Dr Migus, 'This was the first year: people didn't know what the process was going to be. In the next round, we expect to see more applicants from abroad.' Commissioner Potocnik agreed, adding: 'Time and the instrument are on our side.'
The sole criterion of the ERC evaluation process is excellence, a point lauded by many speakers at the conference. Many of the starting grant recipients were women, but a disproportionate number of the advanced grant recipients were men. According to Dr Kafatos, this issue is important to the ERC leadership. 'It's important for Europe to take advantage of our excellent people without losing the talent of the women,' he commented.
'We have well-qualified women serving on the evaluation panels and have mechanisms to encourage women to apply,' Dr Kafatos told CORDIS News, pointing out that the lower representation of women among the advanced grant laureates is likely due to the historical position of women in science. While the ERC strongly encourages women to apply for these grants, it is important to note that the organisation 'has no quotas whatsoever', added Dr Kafatos.
The work of the laureates is evaluated annually and improvements are constantly being made to streamline the application and funding processes. 'We need to streamline procedures, and to have more operational autonomy, and not just in the scientific domain,' Dr Kafatos said in his speech. 'The Commission is prepared to do that. We need to make sure this hope materialises.' In a question-and-answer session, Dr Kafatos commented on the evaluation process: 'We are experimentalists: we don't believe the first time is the last time.'
The ERC leadership will meet in mid-October to discuss specific strategies to improve the organisation's operations.
Contact person:For more information, please visit:
European Research Council
To download a copy of `The ERC Starting Grant: Supporting the next generation of research leaders in Europe¿, please click:
Data Source Provider:CORDIS News attendance at European Research Council: First Conclusions conference in Paris, France
Document of reference:Based on CORDIS News attendance at the European Research Council: First Conclusions conference
Subject index:Coordination, Cooperation,Policies,Scientific Research
Programme Acronym: MS-FR C , FP7-IDEAS
Related News: ERC strategy takes shape
ERC: an idea whose time has come
ERC awards first starting grants
ERC receives over 2,000 applications for Advanced Grants
European Technology Platforms were introduced in 2002 as a way of bringing together basic research and industry to produce 'a long-term strategic plan for research and development of specific technologies with a significant economic and societal impact'. They now cover 34 diverse research areas, including road transport, space technology, wind energy, hydrogen and fuel cell technology, nanotechnologies for medical applications, robotics and water supply and sanitation technology, to name a few.
Commissioner Potocnik remarked, 'No one can deny the fact that overall, ETPs have made a remarkable contribution to overcoming fragmentation, by concentrating research effort and helping to realise the European Research Area. [...] It is clear too that ETPs have contributed to more, and better, research and development investment.'
The evaluation was carried out at the request of the European Commission. Its main objectives were to map the functioning, concept development and objectives of the ETPs; list and analyse their output, results and impact; identify successes, limiting factors and best practices; and formulate recommendations for the future. The report made 18 targeted recommendations to policymakers and ETPs respectively, and 12 general recommendations.
The evaluation recommended that EU and national policymakers 'clearly and unambiguously continue to support the ETP concept', promoting them more forcefully on the political level.
In terms of communications, the survey noted that improvements have been made in the past three years, but interactivity can be improved. It recommended that ETP websites 'must be optimised and professionalised'. Websites were seen as key in saving time and enhancing coordination between platform members; they should be made more interactive to stimulate more involvement by the stakeholders. Moreover, the survey found that throughout the evaluation it was difficult to actually reach an ETP through its designated contact person.
Fragmentation between ETPs needs to be addressed by policymakers, according to the survey, and possibilities for 'extended collaboration between ETPs by, e.g., the creation of common working groups' should be investigated. The report emphasised that coordination and cooperation between ETPs must be intensified 'in order to enlarge their financial scale, resources, added value and influencing power, to avoid duplication and inefficiency' and to find common approaches for social issues. At the moment, project proposals by collaborating ETPs are rarely approved; this shortcoming should be addressed.
ETPs were called upon to pay special attention to the involvement of NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and consumers: 'It remains a challenge to explain to society why large investments in R&D are needed and what the potential benefits might be,' according to the report. The evaluation also warned ETPs to be aware of the negative effects of becoming 'clubs', as there is a danger that members will seek to use the ETPs to generate funding inappropriately for their firms. 'Openness, transparency and clear-cut rules of membership, participation and governance are essential,' it states.
The report recommended that the Commission clarify the possibilities for ETPs to extend beyond the EU, as several of them saw such international cooperation as essential to furthering competition with other world powers. ETPs were encouraged to establish peer-to-peer relations with Asian and American research programmes 'in order to exchange ideas and interests and look for synergies'.
It was also important, according to the survey, that policymakers consult and invite ETPs 'to provide their opinion and contribution' during policy preparation in order that they might move beyond 'technology'. A specific recommendation of the evaluation to the platforms themselves was to move beyond scientific and technical challenges, shifting their focus to 'regulations and standards that affect the commercialisation of research.' ETPs should, according to the report, also be 'facilitators, communicators and promoters for new and adapted training and education programmes'.
More attention should be paid by ETPs to fundraising and financial engineering, according to the report, including improved dissemination of funding possibilities to stakeholders. Additionally, ETPs were encouraged to increase their financial resources by introducing a fee-based system for their members.
The main conclusions of the evaluation were that, generally speaking, all ETP stakeholders are fairly satisfied (score of 3.5 out of 5). They found that ETPs are generally considered to be sufficiently open and transparent; most successfully involve and represent a broad range of EU-wide stakeholders in their activities but NGOs and consumers need more representation and the participation levels of SMEs needs to be looked at more closely (successful involvement of SMEs is often hampered by their limited resources); all stakeholders value the strategic work of the ETPs; international cooperation is still hampered by several factors; ETPs are reasonably satisfied with the influence they have had on the definition of FP7 topics; and the operations and activities of the platforms are generally considered to be open and transparent.
In his remarks to the meeting of ETP leaders, Commissioner Potocnik stressed 'the importance we attach to ETPs as a strong symbol of the Commission's commitment to giving industry a leading role in developing the direction of research and to explore different forms of public-private partnership. A commitment which is now bearing fruit in the form of Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs), the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and other forms of industrial initiatives.'
He called on ETP leaders to consider how the survey's results could help the platforms to evolve. 'I am always receptive to good ideas, especially those which show how ETPs can help support the realisation of the ERA, or how activities at EU, national and regional level can be better integrated and coordinated in support of the implementation of the SRAs,' he commented.
Commissioner Potocnik concluded by saying, 'Over 90% of the nearly 950 respondents to the evaluators' survey of your members and stakeholders said that they would, given their experience of ETPs' involvement so far, gladly renew their membership. What greater endorsement could there be for all of your hard work.'
Contact person:For more information, please visit:
European Commission, Janez Potocnik
To download a PDF document of the evaluation, click:
Data Source Provider:Evaluation of the European Technology Platforms: Final report
Document of reference:Evaluation of the European Technology Platforms (ETPs): Final report. Framework Service Contracts on Evaluation and Evaluation-related Services, ref. nr.: BUDG06/PO/01/Lot 3. Published August 2008.
Subject index:Coordination, Cooperation,Evaluation,Innovation, Technology Transfer,Policies,Standards
Programme Acronym: TECHNOLOGY PLATFORMS , FP7-JTI
Related News: Technology Platforms still going strong, finds third status report
We want your advice on European research policy, says Potocnik
For the SH domain 404 applications were submitted. The peer review process took place from May to July 2008 and involved six evaluation panels. So far 44 Advanced Grant candidates for the SH domain have been made public and these have been endorsed by the Scientific Council, the body which defines the scientific and funding strategy of the ERC.
Further news relating to the ERC is available at:
The list of successful Advanced Grant candidates in the SH domain is available at:
The strategy proposes a series of concrete actions, which includes: developing capacity building in terms of innovation, education and new infrastructures, such as ocean observatories or specialised research vessels; promoting inter-disciplinary research on cross-cutting issues such as the impact of human activities on coastal and marine ecosystems and or the protection and exploitation of marine biodiversity. The EC has also produced a Q&A document to complement the publication of the strategy. It provides information on issues such as how important the maritime economy is to the EU, why the EC has prepared a strategy and what the next steps are in implementing it.
EC press releases IP/08/1283 and MEMO/08/553 of 3 September 2008 are available at:
The EC pages on maritime policy are available at: http://ec.europa.eu/maritimeaffairs
Vice President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy including security research said: “The continued risk of terrorist attacks as well as of natural disasters should not lead to a limitation to European citizens freedoms. This has led the Commission to fund EU wide targeted research efforts. Security research can give us the tools to enhance security while preserving our liberties. We must enhance security but we must also avoid 'big brother is watching you' solutions. Striking the right balance remains challenging, in Europe with such a historical diversity. This underlines the need for non-technological research work also to be covered. The strong European security research programme will not only improve the security of citizens as it will also enhance Europe's competitive edge in high tech applications”.
Under the authority of Günter Verheugen 1.4 billion Euros from the EU budget are dedicated to security research. The recently launched call for proposals is focusing on subjects fight against terrorism, protection of infrastructures, crisis management and border security and is also going to be presented to the audience.
The objectives of the conference, jointly organised by the French presidency and the European Commission are to bring together more than 1000 representatives of the security communities: users such as police forces, fire-fighters, first responders or border guards, public authorities and technology suppliers from the public and private sectors. Security research could only be successful if it effectively brings the final users into the research projects.
Vice President Jacques Barrot, in charge of Justice, Freedom and Security policies highlighted the importance of this shared commitment: "Security Research must provide effective, affordable, flexible and acceptable security solutions capable of meeting evolving security challenges while fully complying with the very high standards of rights and guaranties demanded by our citizens. This requires detailed and transparent work involving public and private sectors as well as civil society both at EU and National level. Today's Conference is exemplary in this regard"
The Commission aims to ensure that its security research programs lead to practical security solutions, not only bridging the so-called "innovation gap" but also mirroring security policy priorities. The three financial Framework programmes in the Justice and Home affairs area – "Solidarity and the Management of migration flows", "Fundamental rights and justice" and "Security and safeguarding liberties" with a combined budget of more than 7 billion Euros increasingly draw on results of research programmes, including EU ones, and focus on deploying innovating solutions. 
On Tuesday 30 September, Gijs de Vries, chairman of the ESRIF, the European Security Research and Innovation Forum, will present the mid-term results of these research activities after one year of activity. In ESRIF, public and private stakeholders of the security community are working towards establishing a Joint Security Research Agenda for Europe for the next twenty years.
The above mentioned EU-SEC II project aims at contributing to the common identification of priorities through the creation of a durable structuring effect of the demand side of the European technology market. Thus, the involved partners will be able to push the technology suppliers market to effectively react to meet their exigencies.
Information on FP7 Security Research is available:
Information on ESRIF can be found on:
Information on SRC08 can be found on:
Additional information on the project EU-SEC II:www.eu-sec.org
DG JLS website:
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