Science boffins in Ireland have instigated a call to arms for the nation’s researchers and enterprises to claim their share of a new European research and development (R&D) programme potentially worth well beyond €20bn, aimed at underpinning competitiveness and growth.
The Irish Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (ICSTI) has kickstarted a consultation process on the design of the Seventh EU Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7), which will cover between 2006 and 2010. While the current programme (FP6) has a budget of €20bn, it is envisaged that the European Commission is proposing a dramatic increase in the EU’s budget for R&D.
It is understood that EU Framework funding is a critical element of Ireland’s total investment in R&D.
The ICSTI has emphasised that the benefit of taking part in the Framework for enterprises and individual researchers exceed beyond the financial flows. Benefits for researchers include learning from other researchers through collaborative projects and access to facilities not available in Ireland. For businesses and researchers it means exposure to countries that may become important market opportunities for research commercialisation.
The ICSTI warned that the next Framework Programme could be different in that greater budgets will flow in the direction of basic research without collaboration, the creation of technology platforms involving industry consortiums and support for the construction of large-scale research infrastructures.
The chairman of ICSTI, Dr Ed Walsh, said: “The EU Framework Programme is of huge importance – it complements national efforts to build up research and technological capacity.
“Framework Programme is one of the main channels by which Irish researchers, in industry and in academia, can work on a wider stage.
“Research and development does not take place within closed borders. Irish researchers have to be part of a wider system for ideas to flow and for commercialisation opportunities to be realised,” Dr Walsh said.
By John Kennedy