Regional Summary: European Cooperation in Research and Development

European Cooperation in Research and Development

Several Europe-wide programs are in place to develop and improve science and technology (S&T) cooperation among the countries of the region. Not all of these are EU programs.

Framework Programs for Research and Technological Development

Framework Programs are 5-year programs supported by the managing organization of the EU, the European Commission. The Framework Program supports and coordinates regional EU research, technology, and development actions and sets priorities and budget allocations for these S&T activities. Money for the Framework Program augments national R&D investments. The objective of the EU Framework Program is to strengthen the S&T bases of the region, contributing to its competitiveness at the international level. Priorities for research changed in the four EU Framework Programs between 1984 and 1994. The first Framework Program (1984) concentrated on the need to develop alternative energy sources and allocated 50 percent of its funds to energy R&D. As the energy crisis subsided, the subsequent Framework Programs addressed other Europe-level needs. For example, since Europe manufactures fewer information technology products than it consumes, the European Community focused its Framework Program in 1987 on stimulating advances in information technology (ESPRIT) and communications technology (RACE). As of 1993, these programs had not led to improvements in Europe's balance of trade in information technology and communication products and were re-oriented to integrate basic research, development teams, manufacturing experts, and end users. The fourth Framework Program is considerably larger and broader than previous research programs, with funding at a level of 12.3 billion European currency units (ECU) (around $15.2 billion) for the period 1994 to 1998. [13] This program includes energy research, which represents 18 percent of the total, as well as other important research areas. For example, one of the 15 specific energy programs is the controlled thermonuclear fusion program of the EU, called the Joint European Torus, which aims to create safe, environmentally sound prototype reactors. As a next step in this fusion research, a quadripartite agreement was concluded in 1992 between Euratom, Japan, the Russian Federation, and the United States, to build an International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. The goal of this facility is to demonstrate controlled ignition of plasmas and, ultimately, the utilization of fusion power for practical purposes. Besides these traditional areas, which have received long-term stable funding from member countries, a new program of research related to socioeconomic impacts has been added to the fourth Framework Program. This research will include technological forecasting and research on educational improvements (EC, 1994b; Hellemans, 1995). (See text table 6.)


Another European cooperative effort in R&D (outside the EU Program) is geared toward industrial and applied R&D. Under the EUREKA program, consortia of firms in partnerships with universities and research institutes initiate a collaborative scheme and prepare a proposal on any project involving near-market R&D in advanced technology. EUREKA programs were established in 1985 to raise the competitiveness of Europe's industries and national economies in advanced technologies. Twenty-two European nations (EU countries and others) participate in scientific cooperation under this program, directed at developing products, processes, and services having a world market potential. Text table 7 shows the distribution of EUREKA projects in each technology area for 1992.Consortia contribute their own funds and apply for partial public support from their own governments; the European Community (EC) provides for the costs of coordinating the research. EUREKA includes some large strategic projects, such as the Joint European Sub-Micron Silicon Initiative. In theory, Framework Programs would be followed by nearer-market research under EUREKA programs, but in practice one can proceed or follow the other. About a third of the participants conduct their research work under the two programs and find the rhythms of the two programs complementary: the more stable financial environment of the Framework Programs complements the creative initiative and cost-sharing under EUREKA (EC, 1994b).

Other European Cooperation in Research and Development

Significant Europe-wide cooperation has also occurred through several other programs and in shared use of facilities for several decades. The following organizations, while totally distinct from EU structures (the EC) play a significant role in European R&D programs. COST, [14] established in 1971, encourages cost-sharing in basic research in important areas, including telecommunications, materials, biotechnology, and agriculture. The European Space Agency, begun in 1975 for European cooperation in space research and technology and space applications, had a 1992 budget of 3.0 billion ECU, equivalent to about $3.6 billion. The best-known and most significant shared facility is the European Center for Nuclear Research (known by its French initials, CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. Almost 3,000 members of the European research community participate in high-energy particle physics, probing constituents of matter through shared use of a series of particle accelerator/colliders and associated detectors. CERN also provides access to thousands of visiting scientists from around the world, including U.S. researchers. Appropriately, it was in this vibrant research environment that scientists at CERN created the World Wide Web. The 1993 budget of CERN reached $350 million, contributed by member nations. [15] Other shared facilities for nuclear physics, located in Grenoble, France, include the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), with a 1993 budget of $58 million and 380 European personnel cooperating in condensed matter physics, and the Institute Max von Laue-Paul Langevin (ILL), a thermal nuclear facility with a 1993 budget of $40 million and 382 personnel (EC, 1994b). ILL, recently overhauled, is the world's premier source of neutron beams and supports research in physics, chemistry, biology, and materials science among the facility's three main funders: France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Approximately 2,000 scientists visit ILL each year to conduct experiments on the more than 30 instruments around the reactor (Clery, 1995a; 1995c). U.S. scientists frequently use these research laboratories, and likewise, European scientists have access to U.S. facilities. The European Southern Observatory (ESO) (headquartered in Garching, Germany), with a 1993 budget of $49 million, is constructing one of the world's largest optical telescopes in Chile. The ESO consortium of countries commits itself irreversibly to long-term stable funding. The European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), with a 1993 budget of $39 million, employs more than 700 scientists from member nations to carry out its on-site program. EMBL supports major facilities of strategic importance for molecular biology and biotechnology. The part of the EU Framework Program concerning the life sciences will include the expansion of infrastructure facilities to operate on a continental scale and the coordination of operations in bioinformatics, macromolecular structures, and genetic archives (Kafatos, 1994).

In addition to the above programs for cooperative research and shared use of facilities, several other prominent European science organizations help support European-wide science. These include the European Science Foundation (ESF) in Strasbourg, France, and the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). The ESF, an association of 54 member research councils and academies in 20 countries devoted to scientific research, has been referred to as the "brains" of Europe (EC, 1994b). That organization advances European cooperation by providing leadership in basic science. Members meet to discuss cooperative research programs that will integrate the comparative advantage of participating member nations as well as to plan for the shared use of facilities. ESF planned the ESRF. The EMBO promotes concerted action in molecular biology research in Europe through publication of the EMBO journal, dozens of courses and 350 long- and short-term fellowships. EMBL, mentioned above, is a facility of EMBO. Their fellowships, workshops, and exchanges promote international collaboration and mobility of young scientists (EC, 1994b).

[13] Prorated over the 5 years, these funds represent approximately 3 percent of total R&D expenditures.

[14] COST is an acronym based on the French title "Cooperation dans le domaine de la recherche scientifique et technique."

[15] Japan now contributes to CERN's budget (Daniel Clery, Science, May, 19, 1995, p. 969).