O ver 5000 representatives of science, business and government gathered in the industrial town of Essen in Northern Germany last week to witness the official launch of the European research budget Framework Programme 5 (FP5), which will run through 2002. Budgetary wrangling late last year that had threatened to delay FP5 (see Next Wave, November 20, 1998) was forgotten as the European Commission explained the composition and procedures of the new agreement.

European science minister Edith Cresson said that FP5 has a strong socioeconomic component and had been divided into four main thematic, and three horizontal programmes. These are:

Thematic Programmes:

  • Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources

  • User-Friendly Information Society

  • Competitive and Sustainable Growth

  • Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development

Horizontal Programmes:

  • Confirming the international role of Community research.

  • Promotion of innovation and encouragement of SME participation.

  • Improving human research potential and the socioeconomic knowledge base

Explaining this strategy Cresson said, "It was clear that academic research and minimal funding would not meet the job, social and economic expectations of our citizens. Society is making firm demands from researchers and they need to consider the social aspects of their activities."

The goal-oriented, socioeconomic approach was clearly illustrated in FP5's focus on sustainable development and environmental issues. For example, Francois de Charentenay, director of R&D for the car manufacturer Peugot Citroen, suggested that multi-disciplinary research was needed to help Europe reduce greenhouse emissions.

Scientists applying for FP5 funding were warned that they would need to change their way of thinking. "This is very different from the way in which we do academic research," said Dianna Bowles, professor of biology at York University. "FP5 will adopt a problem-solving approach where researchers identify a problem and with advice from the end users bring together the disciplines necessary to solve that problem."

The training of young European scientists, which will be funded by the "Human Potential" programme, was also a hot-topic of debate. German science minister Edelgard Bulmahn claimed that red tape needed to be cut to improve the training of young researchers. "Capital and goods can move around the European Union freely but young researchers have to go through complicated procedures and more must be done to improve this situation," she said.

Achilleas Mitsos, director of the Human Potential programme, said the Marie-Curie fellowship scheme that has funded over 3000 young European researchers over the last five years would be continued under FP5. He also announced details of a new "Host Fellowship" grant that will help industrial institutes employ young researchers and fund young scientists to organise meetings with their European peers.

Calls for proposals under FP5 will be announced over the next few months. Further details can be found of the European Commission's web site at www.cordis.lu.