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Europe Asks Researchers for Funding Ideas

9 February 2011 2:06 pm
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The European Commission is asking for help designing—and renaming—its next research and innovation funding program. The current program, Framework Programme 7, will spend €53.3 billion over 7 years before it ends in 2013. The next program is due to start that year. Today the commission laid out the broad outlines of its post-2013 plans, asking researchers for feedback on how the current setup can be improved. They are even asking researchers to help name the new program—the commission will launch a contest later this month for one more inspiring than "Framework 8."

The draft "green paper" released today marks the start of a 3-month consultation process. The process "will not be a cosmetic exercise," promised research commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn at a press conference introducing the paper. She said she wants an "innovative and transparent process," and noted that the commission plans to solicit comments and suggestions on its "Innovation Union" Facebook page as well as other internet portals. Incoming suggestions will be publicly posted on a blog "to stimulate further debate," she said. The deadline for comments is 20 May. The winner of the naming contest will be announced in June at a conference to discuss the collected feedback.

In the meantime, the paper calls the program the "Common Strategic Framework for EU Research and Innovation Funding." As Geoghegan-Quinn announced Monday, it proposes combining several current funding schemes to make a sort of Super-Framework. That will give researchers and innovators a one-stop shop, Geoghegan-Quinn says, with simplified and rules and application procedures for all participants.

European researchers have long complained about the bureaucracy that comes with European funding, and Geoghegan-Quinn, who took office a year ago this week, says that she has heard that complaint loud and clear. "We need to release researchers and innovators from red tape," she told the press conference. "Lump-sum payments are likely to be an important element" in the simplified granting procedures, she said. Under previous framework programs, researchers have had to submit complex accounting paperwork for reimbursement. That is because the European Union has rigorous accounting rules that apply to all types of funding. Geoghegan-Quinn says she is hopeful that new rules will be in place by the time the new program takes effect.

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