Israel s comments on the Commission s proposal for the 7 th Framework Programme

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1 המנהלת הישראלית לתוכנית המסגרת השישית למחקר ופיתוח של האיחוד האירופי Israel-Europe R&D Directorate for FP6 Israel s comments on the Commission s proposal for the 7 th Framework Programme May 2005


3 2 1) INTRODUCTION Since 1996 (FP4) Israel has been an active player in the European Union s Framework Programmes and has proved to be a source of innovation in both basic and market-oriented research conducted in Europe. During this period the Framework Programme has become a substantial vector of synergy for the Israeli research community (industry & academia) with the European market and has developed to be the natural vehicle for Israeli Universities and research centers looking to undertake collaborative research projects in Europe. All relevant local actors, including academia, industry and the government, perceive this collaboration to be of mutual benefit both for Israeli participants and its European counterparts. While Israel s participation in the Framework Programme has facilitated access for the Israeli research community to the European market, it has also allowed its European partners to benefit from Israel s state of the art research and technology capacities. The impressive increase of jointly authored papers by European and Israeli researchers published in the last years can be attributed, to a large extent, to this collaboration. As in all participating countries, Israel s economy benefits as well from the great potential that unfolds from participation in the Framework Programme. Israeli industry enjoys the access it is given to new technologies; local SMEs get the opportunity to collaborate with major players in their fields of action and to get exposed to new market segments and potential customers; and Israeli researchers get access to advanced and dynamic networks of experts in their respective fields of expertise. In view of the above Israel welcomes the bold proposal laid down by the Commission for the 7th Framework Programme and its envisaged deepening and broadening scope. Nonetheless, the ambitious goals set in this proposal raise various questions that will have to be adequately dealt with. Israel is looking forward to the upcoming discussions and negotiations in the various institutions and is convinced that these

4 3 will bring about a strong and efficient Framework Programme that will consolidate the partnership between the European Union and its associated countries. This contribution to the upcoming discussions follows the structure of the Communication from the Commission Building the ERA of knowledge for growth. Naturally, reference is made to the various papers accompanying and explaining the Commission s proposal for the 7 th Framework Programme to the Council and the Parliament, including: - Proposal for a decision of the EP and of the Council concerning the 7 th FP of the EC for research, technological development and demonstration activities (2007 to 2013) - Communication from the Commission Building the ERA of Knowledge for growth - Commission staff working paper Impact assessment and ex ante evaluation (COM (2005) 119 final) - Commission staff working document Simplification in the 7 th FP

5 4 2) ERA OF KNOWLEDGE FOR GROWTH DELIVERING ON THE LISBON OBJECTIVES Paying close attention to the recent statements and debates following the mid-term review of the Lisbon strategy, Israel positively acknowledges the renewed commitment stated by all the European Union s institutions to achieve the goals set out in Lisbon in As a knowledge-based society and deriving from its own experience, Israel endorses the knowledge for growth concept and the important linkage between the production and exploitation of knowledge and the achievement of sustainable prosperity, health and environment. The Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration activities, is the major funding instrument for collaborative European research efforts and an important vehicle of integration for European academic and industrial R&D efforts. This fact gives the seventh Framework Programme a central role in the efforts needed to achieve the political, social and economic goals set out in the Lisbon strategy and clearly positions European RTD as the third ranking policy area of the Union. This rationale is apparent both in the structure, goals and the budget allocations of the 7 th Framework Programme as proposed by the Commission. It is in this context that Israel would like to receive further clarifications on the role and place of the associated countries in this process. It would like to ensure that also policy-oriented projects undertaken within the Framework Programme shall incorporate all the participating States to the widest possible degree. PUTTING THE KNOWLEDGE TRIANGLE TO WORK The complementary nature of research, education and innovation is acknowledged in Israel and represents the core of our national education system. Reinforcing the synergies between these areas is an important initiative and will without a doubt serve to strengthen the European Research Area. The efforts to improve the

6 5 framework conditions to enhance private investment in R&D and innovation are also of high importance and Israel is looking forward to continue to participate and to contribute to the various working and expert groups establishing European best practices and guidelines in these areas. Given that one of the Commission s major goals in the seventh Framework Programme is to strengthen and deepen the coordination of research, development and innovation at the European level, the planned coverage of the innovation elements of the previous Framework Programmes by a new and independent one might prove to be counterproductive. Israel, as an associated country to the Framework programme, is concerned with the fact that this separation might create misunderstandings regarding its operational status in European projects. Therefore, Israel would like to receive further information on the planned hierarchy and division of competences between the two programmes. MOBILISING EU FINANCIAL INSTRUMENTS The Commission rightfully underlines the importance of synergies and coordination between the different policies and programmes undertaken by the Union. In view of the various and different services and bodies (various DGs, EIB etc) that will be involved in implementing these programmes, Israel is looking forward to receive further explanations on the mechanisms that will govern this coordination process and expresses its concern regarding possible duplication of efforts and multiplicity of interpretations regarding the rules of participation in the various programmes. Naturally, Israel would like to receive further clarifications relating to its (and other associated countries) ability to benefit from the various initiatives that are to complement the Framework Programme. As the new Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programmes, Trans-European Networks, the European Agricultural Fund and the Education and Training Programmes will directly complement the issues dealt with in the Framework Programme, Israel is convinced that opening these initiatives to the participation of the associated countries is required.

7 6 As for the interfaces with the Structural and Cohesion Funds, the Regional Policy and the European Investment Bank, the institutional reality might prevent including the associated countries into their R&D related schemes. The consequences of this situation will have to be taken into consideration. 3) THE 4 OBJECTIVES (SPECIFIC PROGRAMMES) Israel supports the Commission s approach and orientations in the design of the seventh Framework Programme including the consolidation of support to collaborative trans-national projects on topics linked with major public policies; launching longer term public private partnerships to support industry-based technological development; reinforcement of EU support to basic research; and undertaking new actions in fields which provide high EU value. Israel hopes that the new overall design of the Framework Programme will facilitate the understanding and participation of the European research community in the Framework Programme and that this simplification will be also apparent in the different work programmes, funding tools and rules of participation. COOPERATION Israel is content with the nine themes under this heading and endorses the principle of continuity of the thematic priorities of the sixth Framework Programme. Achieving good results in these areas will depend however to a vast degree, on the instruments used and the rules of participation applied. It is worth recalling the observation of the five year assessment panel report on RTD in Information Society Technologies that the new instruments tend to divide participant constituencies(with large enterprises and large research centres favouring Integrated projects, SMEs and New Member States, STREPS, and universities, STREPS and NoEs), possibly undermining a longstanding Programme policy to build interactions between industry, research and academia (p.21).

8 7 Measures should be taken to assure more competitiveness and equal opportunities for participants then was the case in different tools in the sixth Framework Programme, especially for SMEs in the Integrated Projects. In the same line of thought one should add the need to ensure a diversification of coordinators in the different projects of the Programme. It is acknowledged that the NEST schemes of the previous Framework programme will be integrated in each of the themes. Israel would like to underline the need to maintain funding opportunities for interdisciplinary research. IDEAS Israel welcomes the establishment of a European Research Council as an independent European funding agency dedicated to foster excellence-based basic research. The ERC s work should focus on its primary objective to foster individual research teams and projects. Funding should be guided strictly by excellence-criteria, established through international peer review. The work programme of the ERC and eligible topics for funding should be established on a bottom up basis. A simple and inexpensive procedure for proposal submission should be introduced. Proper mechanisms have to be put in place to avoid duplication of national research efforts by the ERC. PEOPLE Israel feels that with the planned increase of the budget dedicated to the development of the human research potential, more emphasis should be made on early stage researchers (MSc and PhD students). This could be done entre autres by means of individual fellowships. In the 6 th Framework Programme out of 12 Marie Curie Actions only 2 host driven actions are aimed at PhD students (EST and RTN) and none are aimed at MSc students (In Israel MSc is a prerequisite for a PhD). While the importance of postdoctoral fellowships and the various excellence schemes is not questioned, preventing brain-drain will depend also on Europe s abilities to

9 8 make researchers careers in the continent more attractive from their early career stages. As in the 6 th Framework Programme all Marie Curie Actions should be open to Member States and Associated Countries alike. CAPACITIES Research Infrastructures Israel recognizes the importance of the access given to researchers to research infrastructures and facilities and would like to see more Israeli participation in these programmes in the future. In addition, we would like to stress the importance of establishing the infrastructures in countries where most added value for a particular infrastructure is guaranteed. Research for the benefit of SMEs One of the most important features of the sixth Framework Programme is that within this programme SMEs are induced to collaborate with major companies and research institutes. Israel puts great emphasis on this aspect and believes that it is within this interface that the most important and groundbreaking innovations are achieved. Therefore, situating the special assistance schemes for SMEs outside the main collaboration programme might undermine their involvement in big collaborative projects. Regions of Knowledge The concept as such is interesting and has good potential for the developments of new research-clusters especially in less developed regions. However, more information is needed regarding the excellence bases of this support scheme. The relevance of this concept to the associated countries and their ability to participate in these schemes should be elaborated as well.

10 9 Research potential Israel understands that the new Member States have to be given special attention in order to help them to unleash their research potential. It is important, however, to maintain the excellence criteria also in this scheme. Science in Society As recent research indicates, public interest in and understanding of advanced research and its effects on society and its citizens has greatly diminished in the last years. It is therefore very important to address these issues and foster public debate and the penetration of democratic culture to these issues as well. Israel welcomes the science in society scheme and is looking forward to its implementation. 4) CONTINUITY, WITH A NEW IMPETUS FOR LISBON THEMES RATHER THAN INSTRUMENTS Israel welcomes the emphasis-shift from instruments to identified priority themes and hopes that this attitude will enhance the flexibility of the research projects and consortia conducted within the Framework Programme. Further clarification however is needed regarding the implementation and design of the work programmes and the rules of participation. MEETING INDUSTRY S NEEDS Israel welcomes the Commission s declaration and efforts to better adjust the seventh Framework Programme to industry s needs. Israel would like to see this adjustment being realized through support to industry research based on competence and excellence. Furthermore, Israel wishes to underline again the high importance it attributes to industry-academia partnerships in the efforts to enhance Europe s competitiveness and sustainable development.

11 10 REINFORCING LINKS WITH NATIONAL AND PRIVATE EFFORTS Joint Technology Initiatives It seems that the most common mechanism for the creation of the technology platforms are using known European associations. This mechanism constitutes a barrier for the participation of Israeli associations, as under the formal charters of these European associations, Israel is not eligible for membership. Joint implementation of national research programmes (Article 169 and 171) In order to avoid separate negotiation for every application under article 169, the association agreement of each of the associated states should address the basic rules of access to these kinds of projects. (Israel s current status, for example, does not enable it to be a part of the European Economic Interest Groups to be formed in the Coordination Actions.) New infrastructures of European interest Israel will want to receive further details on the meaning and implementation of this initiative. EXPLOITING EU POTENTIAL TO THE FULL Israel favors all initiatives aimed at unleashing Europe s research and competitiveness potential and considers itself to be a full partner in these efforts. RATIONALISING THE FUNDING INSTRUMENTS AND CUTTING RED TAPE Israel welcomes the rationalization of the programme s funding instruments as outlined by the Marimon and Five-year assessment reports. Israel will welcome a diminution of jargon and the reduction of the administrative burden and red tape to companies applying for Framework Programme funding.

12 11 In respect to the evaluation process, Israel would like to see the two-stage evaluation being instituted as the default procedure. Furthermore, Israel would request the Commission to consider reintroducing anonymity during the first go-nogo screening of outlined proposals. In the 2 nd stage anonymity should be lifted only where the identity of the partners must be known for the purpose of correctly evaluating a particular criterion. OPTIMISING THE MANAGEMENT OF THE FRAMEWORK PROGRAMME Israel welcomes the Commission s efforts to minimize the administrative burden on its services and understands the need to externalize parts of the implementation and evaluation procedures of the programme. Israel is convinced that appropriate measures will be taken to ensure that these external agencies will work in a professional manner, with full awareness of the different agreements and rules of participation applicable to the associated countries. A uniform management culture and constant interpretation of the specific programmes and themes has to be maintained throughout all the DGs implementing the Framework Programme to assure maximal utilization of the potential it offers. 5) DOUBLING EU RESEARCH FUNDING Israel takes note of the Commission s ambitious goal to double the budget allocated to the 7 th Framework Programme and underlines the Commission s statement that this increase should not be at the expense of national public funding. Given the fact that the proper participation of Israel in the Framework Programme must be supported by strong national research endeavors, ways and means need to be found to keep an appropriate balance between these two elements.

13 12 6) GENERAL COMMENTS As a concluding note and building on previous assurances by the Commission, Israel would like to receive clarifications on the mechanisms the Commission intends to use in order to include the associated countries in the loop of the upcoming dialogue between the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament.