Monday, 6 September 2010

Feedback wanted on Research and Development

It is a little known fact that there are more universities, businesses and other organisations participating in European programs for research and development from the UK than from any other country.
It is also a vast amount of public money – the EU budget for Framework 7 which runs from 2007 to 2013 is €51 billion. Indeed, the amount of money spent in the UK on R&D from EU budgets is roughly equal to the entire amount of support given domestically through R&D tax credits.
The European system of Framework Grants has a reputation for being the most bureaucratic and complex system in the world. Nevertheless, supporting research and development is vital for innovation and fundamental to future economic growth.
In light of this I have volunteered to be one of a small group of MEPs, and the only UK member, on a working group looking at simplification of framework grants and future strategy.
I would be interested the experiences and opinions of readers who have been involved in Framework funding projects in the past. Please email comments to


Jon Crowcroft said...

Reducing EU bureaucratic overhead for research projects would be a good idea. Given the current UK government wants to reduce UK national research council funding, already incredibly competitive (less than 1 in 8 proposals get funding), there will be increasing pressure on EU funds. Given the UK demonstrates in open competition with other EU countries it is best at research, this is sad, but we may as well try to make things easier. Of course, ERC funds are not so bad to get as Framework programme money in terms of overheads.
Jon Crowcroft
University of Cambridge

Vicky Ford said...

Thank you Jon - I am looking forward to visiting Cambridge in October. One of the proposals is to simplify the approval process so bids will be filtered out (ie rejected) on the basis of a less detailed first round information package. This means that bidders won't have to provide the very detailed item by item bid information that can cost tens of thousands to prepare just to find they are rejected. Of course if you get through round 1 you will still need to provide the detail and the justification but you are less likely to be rejected. Lets hope this sort of adjustment can make the process better.

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind, though, that two stage proposals may increase the time to grant, which is already slow for FP7 proposals.
The ERC grants use a two stage proposal evaluation system. For their first call, they had a two-stage proposal submission in place, but this ended up slowing down the process... so applicants now have to submit essentially two proposals at the same time instead..

Philip Sargent said...

You might find it interesting to look at the stats. for UK universities which get most Framework grants.
Pub gossip says that the hassle, delay and esp. the low-grade, predictable research which is possible with EU grants means that the best research groups avoid them.

Philip Sargent

Vicky Ford said...

Thank you Anon for the comment re the two stage process and how this could slow down the decisions .... this would not be good as the decision making is I understand already too slow.

Philip - I am totally with you re the pub gossip - I often hear the same. Clearly more so in areas that have a short time to market for research (e.g.hi-tech) less so when its a long multi year research project (e.g. crop research). The best research should be wanted not the worst... but is it a bit of a "closed shop" ... keep the comments coming. and can you email me?

Norfolk Muse said...

The seventh framework programme is incredibly wide ranging but does show clear signs of having been well thought out. I do not see it as a replacement for science council budgets, which are not commercially focussed. FP7 does a good and difficult job of bringing together a wide range of "stakeholders". The funding agreements are hugely complicated and there is a 5% contribution that goes to a kind of insurance fund to ensure the RTD performers get paid.
Robert Kybird
Green Energy Technologies Ltd