Framework themes grow to four, but budget stays the same

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The European Commission has increased the number of themes in its next five-year Framework programme for research from three to four, but is retaining the original budget figure.

The addition of a theme to the programme, which is due to start next year, is a response to proposals from the European Parliament (Nature 391, 3; 1998).

The parliament had also proposed a small increase in the budget of the fifth Framework programme (FP5). But the final proposal, released in Brussels last week and to be presented shortly to member states as represented by the Council of Ministers, sticks to the original budget of ECU16.3 billion (US$17.6 billion.)

In addition, the parliament had suggested making terminology more straightforward, but the commission rejected this and will keep its less-precise naming tradition.

Thus the names suggested for the four thematic programmes are: ‘improving the quality of life and the management of living resources’; ‘creating a user-friendly information society’; ‘promoting competitive and sustainable growth’; and ‘preserving the ecosystem’. The commission does not want to separate energy and environment in the last-named programme. although the parliament had asked that each of these have its own budget line.

The commission also added two more targeted programmes-within-programmes — ‘key actions’ — to a list it had hoped to limit to 16. The additions are ‘the ageing population’ and ‘global environmental change and climate’.

The commission's revised proposals are due to be discussed by the research ministers of the 15 member states, meeting as the Council of Europe, in mid-February.

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