Two studies carried out by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Research and Innovation have found that research projects conducted under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), which ran from 2007 to 2013, produced output of a higher quality than the world average.
The studies looking at the European Union’s funding of information and communication technologies (ICT) research projects under FP7 said that the projects generated a world-leading level of scientific articles. The reports also concluded that future EU funding should focus more on boosting SMEs.
The studies covered all the areas funded by FP7 in ICT, from antennas that convert optical radiation into localised energy, to research into the role of next-generation DNA sequencing in fighting cancer.
The FP7 funding programme was the EU's Research and Innovation funding programme for 2007-2013, and the precursor to the current EC round of funding, Horizon 2020.
One of the studies, which analysed the publications and patents in FP7, found that FP7-funded ICT research projects resulted in 289 patent applications and 18,169 publications (including peer reviewed articles, books and conference proceedings). Each project generated 16 publications on average.
According to the study, the relative citation rate is above the world average for the same period: five per cent of publications are among the top one per cent; 18 per cent among the top five per cent highly cited publications in their disciplines, in most cases well above the overall EU and US averages.
The study also found that the strategic objectives ‘Future Networks and Internet’ and ‘Embedded Systems’ generated the highest number of patents and publications in absolute terms (54 patents and 2,707 publications). However, the ‘Micro-Nanosystems’ and ‘Future and Emerging Technologies Open’ objectives generated the most patents and publications relative to funding: on average, 1.7 patents were granted per €10 million and 128 publications per €10 million, respectively.
These patents were associated with a high level of collaboration between academia and the private sector (more than 50 per cent), the report said, much greater than is observed in industry in general (five per cent).
This report was carried out by the Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology, a joint research and training institute based in the Netherlands of the United Nations University and Maastricht University.
The second study, which carried out an overall evaluation of ICT research in FP7, found that FP7-funded ICT research has been effective and efficient, strong in terms of relevance and excellent with regard to European added value.
The study was carried out by consultants and analysts from University of Bordeaux, PwC, and Open Evidence.
It was found that the research brought together otherwise competing companies that jointly conducted research for the development of new, commercially applicable technologies.
Overall, FP7-funded ICT research was rated as ‘more than satisfactory’ with respect to the objectives initially defined in 2006: to improve the competitiveness of European industry and maintain leadership in the global knowledge economy.
However, it was found that while SMEs had a minor role, FP7-funded ICT research was dominated by large public research organisations.
Future policy expectations will be better addressed in the future, the EU said in a statement, in order to create a globally competitive innovation system. Some adaptations to FP7 and its calls were introduced from 2011 onwards, but this was not sufficient radically to change its nature.
In the future, funding programmes will concentrate more on innovation and also on boosting SMEs, according to the EU. This will be helped by new changes that have been introduced as part of Horizon 2020, for example Public-Private Partnerships, SME instrument (funding targeted on SMEs with a commercial ambition and a potential for high growth and internationalisation), and Innovation Actions (funding for the development of innovative new products, processes and services).