EUROPE: Big boost to research spending

A EUR3.2 billion programme of research spending that will try to pull Europe out of recession and into a sustainable economic recovery has been launched by the European Commission.

At a ceremony in Brussels witnessed by more than 800 senior researchers and industrialists, the commission put scientists on notice that millions of research euros would soon start to pour out of three private-public partnerships funding R&D projects across Europe.

They will last until 2013 and will cover three topics:

* Developing innovative manufacturing technologies, materials and processes to produce more while consuming fewer materials, less energy, and producing less waste.
* Creating more energy-efficient buildings, improving new construction design and greening existing buildings through new materials and construction techniques.
* Building greener cars and smarter transport systems, including the electrification of road and urban transport, and research into hybrid technologies.

Around half of the funds involved will come from the European Union and the rest from national governments and the industries involved.

At the launch, EU research Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "It is now recognised that investing in R&D is not a luxury when times are easy but a necessity when times are hard. Through these innovative partnerships, the commission and industry join forces to foster the development of clean technologies and to position Europe as a leader in this field."

The first formal call for proposals from research consortia linking universities with research centres and industries will be issued at the end of the month. (See for details.)

The projects will be administered via the EU's seventh framework programme on research and follow its procedures. As a result, universities and research centres will need to team with international consortia, preferably with engineering, construction, component and automobile companies. European alliances will be favoured over those from other parts of the world although non-EU participants can sometimes join successful consortia.

This first call for proposals will be followed by other tranches. Early lobbying and consultation is often an effective way to influence the content of these calls, so that ongoing projects match requests for assistance from the commission.