Friday, December 21, 2007

Europe - auditing investment in research

Information note by the European Court of Auditors: Evaluating the EU Research and Technological Development (RTD) framework programmes - could the Commission's approach be improved?

Text of the report

ECA/07/40, Luxembourg, 2007/12/29

Information note by the European Court of Auditors on Special Report No 9/2007 concerning "Evaluating the EU Research and Technological Development (RTD) framework programmes - could the Commission's approach be improved?"[1]

Research and technological development (RTD) is the main driver of scientific and technological progress and innovation. Being a major player in the field of research is important for the European Union and its Member States so that the high living standards of its citizens can be maintained or even further improved. The Treaty establishes the Communities’ role in supporting RTD, stating that "the Community shall have the objective of strengthening the scientific and technological bases of Community industry and encouraging it to become more competitive at international level, while promoting all the research activities deemed necessary".

Within the wide range of policies implemented in the European Union to strengthen innovation and competitiveness, the RTD framework programmes (FPs) are the most important financial instrument contributing to the Lisbon strategy and the Barcelona objective at the Community level. Through the FPs, the Community provides funding to researchers within the European Union, associated countries and beyond. Their budgets have increased significantly over the years, reaching 7 217 million euro per year under FP7 (2007 to 2013). In terms of budgetary appropriations, the FPs represent the largest area of direct centralised management within the Commission. They are implemented jointly by six Directorates-General, the so-called "research DGs".

The overall share of the FPs in total public RTD funding within the European Union and its Member States ranges between 4 % and 5 %. Nevertheless, its impact on what kind of research is carried out within Europe is significantly larger. This is because Community grants generally provide only part of the total funding for a project. In addition, when applying for funding, researchers need to demonstrate that their projects address the objectives specified in the calls for proposals. In this way, the FPs set incentives to orient RTD activities towards scientific and technological objectives agreed at the level of the European Union.

The Court's audit (which was carried out jointly with the EFTA Board of Auditors and the assistance of external experts) covered the evaluation and monitoring arrangements in place at the Commission since 1995 for the last three programming periods (FP4, FP5, FP6), and also gives an outlook for the current FP7 (2007 - 2013).

The audit addressed the basic question of whether the Commission's approach to assessing the results of the FPs was adequate. In this context, the Court checked whether the Commission met the legal requirements and ascertained whether its system for evaluation and monitoring met stakeholder expectations.

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