EUROPE: Evaluation reveals main beneficiaries of FP7

The European Commission has published an interim evaluation of the Seventh Framework Programme, FP7. It lists the 50 top-performing research organisations, including universities, which together received a whopping EUR3.1 billion (US$4.4 billion) - a quarter of all the funding awarded to more than 14,000 research groups.

The evaluation also lists the top 50 industry participants. It was part of the planning process for the Eighth Framework Programme, which is due to start in 2014.

Although the top 50 research organisations secured a quarter of FP7 funding, the fact that three-quarters of the funding was directed at 14,000 other organisations "mutes the often heard assertion that FP funding is exclusively for the big names", the evaluation argued.

Among the universities, Cambridge in the UK was the top performer. It ranked fifth on the list, participating in 215 successful bids and receiving a total of EUR97.8 million.

However, Cambridge was dwarfed by France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, which received 531 grants totalling EUR231 million.

Among universities, Cambridge was followed closely by the Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne (sixth) with 165 bids representing a value of EUR97.4 million, and Oxford University (eighth) which received EUR96.7 million. The next universities were ETH-Zürich (ninth), Imperial College London (10th) and University College London (11th).

The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and Edinburgh University were also among the 20 top-performing universities; followed by Lund University in Sweden, the Weizman Institute of Science in Israel and Copenhagen University.

The companies topping participation in EU-funded research included SAP, Philips, Siemens, Airbus and Volvo. All of them have major research departments. Together they participated in 271 FP7 projects between 2007 and 2009, receiving a total of EUR218.3 million.

The total received by the top 50 industry participants in FP7 was EUR530 million, the evaluation reported. Of the top 50 listed industrial companies, 14 were German, eight French, eight Italian, four were from the UK and four from Spain.

One remarkable appearance was the Icelandic company Islensk Erfdagreining at 30th on the list. It participated in 12 funded projects and received EUR7.4 million.

By 2009 deCode Genetics had gathered a stock of 500,000 Icelandic human gene samples, medical records and genealogy records dating back to the 9th century. The company experienced strong public opposition to every Icelander being registered in the database and an Icelandic supreme court ruled against its activities in 2003.

It accumulated more than US$300 million in debts and filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Kári Stefànsson, its founder and CEO, listed among the world's most influential people by Time magazine in 2006, still thinks that deCode can continue its operations.

In this context, deCode is an example of an industrial company that can succeed in EU research with a niche product that is in strong international demand.

Notable absentees from the rankings were top performers from the new member states, and the figures prove that large companies are not the main recipients of the framework programme as is often argued.

Top scorers among countries included the UK and the Netherlands (16%), Germany (12%), and France, Switzerland and Sweden (8%).