The Industry Committee adopted on Monday second reading compromise amendments on the Seventh Framework Research Program (FP7), which had been agreed in informal meetings with the Council.
The EU’s main program for funding scientific research, running for seven years from 2007 to 2013, with a budget of more than €50 billion, should therefore be able to enter into force soon, if the next plenary session follows the committee's line. The Council's common position had already taken on board a large number of Parliament's first reading amendments, including amendments aimed at encouraging participation of small and medium-sized firms and boosting the position of young researchers and women in science, as well as how to deal with stem cell research. The 39 new compromise amendments deal with the remaining issues which MEPs in the committee still wished to emphasize, including Parliament's priorities, the structure of the European Research Council and the proposed Risk Sharing Facility. Members also stress that no money from FP7 should be used to finance the proposed European Institute of Technology.
Members insisted on shifting some of the spending towards Parliaments own priorities, including research on renewable energy and energy efficiency as well as including the possibility of funding research on children's health, respiratory diseases (including those induced by allergies), plus research into neglected diseases. The compromise states that renewables and end use energy efficiency will account for the "major part" of the budget of FP7's energy theme - rather than the two thirds proposed in Parliament's first reading. Special attention will be devoted to coordination of issues linked to rational and efficient use of energy within the Framework Program and in other EU policies and programs.
A compromise was reached concerning the European Research Council - a new body to support investigator-driven “frontier research”. It was agreed that the administration costs of the ERC should not exceed 5% of its total budget in order to maximize funding for frontier research - in its first reading Parliament had asked for a limit of 3%. On the issue of the extent to which the Parliament should be involved in an interim evaluation of the ERC's structure, it was agreed that the codecision procedure would be used if changes in the structure of the ERC become necessary.
The Risk Sharing Finance Facility (RSFF), designed to encourage bank lending to research projects, was also the subject of a compromise. While the Council had planned to allocate €1 billion from FP7 to finance the RSFF (which is to be matched by an equal amount from the European Investment Bank), the compromise provides for a lower contribution from FP7 until 2010 - €500 million - with the possibility of releasing up to an additional €500 million after an evaluation process.
The committee stressed its strong conviction that no funds under the FP7 program should contribute to the establishment and/or administrative costs of the proposed European Institute of Technology. Only administrative costs directly associated with research projects may be covered.
The committee also endorsed a compromise package on the implementing rules for participation of undertakings, research centers and universities in activity under the Seventh Framework Program, along the lines proposed by its rapporteur Philippe Busquin (PES, BE). Since the committee had already, on 12 September, adopted a report by Busquin on the compromise reached between rapporteur and shadow rapporteurs with the Council on this issue, this will be "translated" into second reading amendments to be put to the vote at the November II plenary session in Brussels. (EP Press)