Brief introduction

The following section provides a brief elaboration on policy, structure and funding instruments of EU research funding. Information will be supplemented by useful web links that should allow to explore more specifically topics or questions of individual interest.

1. Policy

Research and development at European level is mainly funded through EU Framework programmes. The EU's present 7th Framework programme (FP7) runs from 2007 until 2013 and has a total budget of € 50.5 bn. Funding is granted on the basis of calls for proposals and a peer review evaluation process.

Besides FP7, there are further well-established European programmes like EUREKA or COST which rather constitute transnational cooperation platforms. They generally do not provide direct financing of research activities. The EU Structural Funds may offer specific complementary funding opportunities for research projects or infrastructures. These Structural Funds consist of complex sub programme schemes that are usually managed by the national or regional authorities (e.g. the relevant Ministry of the Baden-Württemberg government). Research proposals are judged on their likely contribution to the economic development of the region as well as on their scientific or technological quality.

Potential applicants should note that EU research funding within the 7th Framework programme (FP7) does rather represent a supplement than a substitute to national research funding activities (principle of subsidiarity). Consequently, project proposals should be "European" in that they (a) assemble a European partnership, (b) address issues of transnational relevance and (c) result in an "European added value".

2. FP7 Structure

The 7th Framework programme (FP7) is organised into seven Specific programmes that lay out the various funding activities, contents and aims.

In practice, four Specific programmes only are relevant for the majority of scientists.

  • "COOPERATION" (€ 32.4 bn): research activities according to 10 thematic programmes. COOPERATION
  • "IDEAS" (€ 7.5 bn): frontier research oriented, based on a single (starting or advanced) top scientist's proposal to build and lead a team or project. IDEAS
  • "PEOPLE" (€ 4.7 bn): Marie-Curie actions dedicated to human resources in research; programme aims at funding training, mobility and career development of young and experienced scientists. PEOPLE
  • "CAPACITIES" (€ 4.2 bn): specific measures to enhance research and innovation capacities. CAPACITIES

3. FP7 Funding instruments

FP7 funding is available through a number of instruments:

  • Collaborative projects (CP): The "classical" and in many cases most suitable instrument for EU research activities. CP calls distinguish between "Small and Medium-scale focused Research Projects" (also still known as "STREP") and "Large-scale Integrating Projects" (IP). Funding covers activities in research, demonstration, training, innovation, dissemination and management. Specific cost categories concern: personnel, consumables, equipment, travel & subsistence, conferences, training workshops and other training measures, publications, management, overhead.
  • Networks of Excellence (NoE): funding aimed at furthering a functional integration of the participants' research activities and capacities. This is achieved through a "Joint Programme of Activities". NoE are calculated on a lump sum basis (head count). In project finance practice same handling than CP.
  • Co-ordination and Support Action (CSA): calls do not cover research itself, but rather the co-ordination of the research. Address either co-ordination actions (CA) or support actions (SA). CA point to structured networking activities (collective data bases, travel and subsistence, workshops or conferences, publications) whereas SA aim at single activities or events (e.g. individual workshops or conferences, fact finding, dissemination / publication, awards).
  • Marie-Curie Actions: mostly funding opportunities for single researchers ("fellowships" that cover total costs for a work contract, travel and subsistence, consumables etc.). At Ph.D level in most cases only via Initial Training Networks (ITN) available.
  • ERC (European Research Council): see "IDEAS" (above). Specific cost categories concern: costs related to set up a starting research team or an advanced research project including infrastructure (personnel, consumables and equipment, travel and subsistence). A Co-investigator model is available within the synergy grant scheme.

CORDIS presentation of the FP7 funding instruments.

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