RUSSIA: Scientific ties boosted by co-funding initiative

Russian and European Union scientific ties and collaboration are set to be boosted following the first meeting of a high level political body set up to create a programme of joint study projects. The EU-Russia Permanent Partnership Council on Research met for the first time in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana on 26 May. The council agreed to push ahead with joint research and co-funding of projects in areas including health, nanotechnologies and new materials.

Formal calls for funding proposals regarding projects on these topics from Russian and EU academic and research groups will be made later this year. The council discussed likely future calls for proposals for joint studies on aeronautics, nuclear fission and space research.

The meeting was attended by Mojca Kucler Dolinar, Slovenian Education Minister (whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU), Russia's Education Minister Andrei Fursenko and EU research and development commissioner, Janez Potocnik.

In a joint statement, the delegations noted the strong history of Russian-European scientific collaboration, noting: "Cooperation between the EU and Russia in the field of research is one of the most promising areas of cooperation and the role this closer cooperation will play as an increasingly important aspect of socio-economic progress, economic development and effective resource management."

Despite recent rocky diplomatic relations between the EU and Russia - especially over energy - scientific ties have remained robust. Research institutes across Russia have participated in a range of EU research programmes and Russia has a track record of being among the most active and successful third-country participants in such projects.

In the most recently completed major EU research spending scheme - its 'sixth framework programme' which ended in December 2006 - more than 300 participants from Russia were involved in over 200 joint research projects worth a total of US$3 billion. Russian research organisations obtained more than US$70 million in funding.

Based on this track record, the Ljubljana delegations said there was further scope for enhancing EU-Russia science cooperation.