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Debate on the digital future of Europe

Mercredi 14 mai 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants for the development of an inclusive information society and more efficient and effective services in areas of public interest, and improvement of quality of life

How to respond to increasingly intense competition on the global market?

More than 250 million Europeans regularly use the internet, 80% of them have broadband connections. At the two-day conference ‘Information Society at the Crossroads’, which opened at Brdo on 13 May 2008, participants agreed that information and communication technology (ICT) is one of the most important driving forces behind economic and social modernisation. The conference, organised jointly by the Slovenian Presidency and the European Commission, is dedicated to the interim report on the i2010 Strategy (i2010 - A European Information Society for growth and employment), launched in 2005 as the first comprehensive policy framework for an integrated European information society, which proposed the following three priorities: establishment of a single European information space, strengthening innovation and investment in ICT, and achieving an inclusive European information society (that promotes growth and jobs in a manner consistent with sustainable development and prioritises better public services and quality of life).

The interim review of the i2010 initiative confirms the important contribution and role of ICT in assuring economic and social development in the European Union as well as the contribution of appropriate information society policies and media to achieving Lisbon objectives. The conference will therefore address topics of increasing importance for competitiveness and the deployment of ICT in Europe: the further development of networks and the internet (new generations) and bridging of the digital divide, the establishment of pan-European services (ensuring an efficient and operational single market for advanced e-products and e-services) and views of the end user as consumer and as active co-producer of digital content.

Compared with other industrial regions, Europe does not make sufficient use of the economic potential of the largest market in developed countries and fails to invest sufficiently in ICT. Mojca Kucler Dolinar, the Slovenian Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology and Co-President of the EU Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council, noted that “the Interim Report identifies important successes in implementation of the strategy in Member States, however between developed and developing EU Member States there are still appreciable differences which may threaten coherent development in the future. Activities and policies to promote competitiveness and reduce the differences between the more successful and the less successful should be planned in order to prevent fragmentation between Member States.” With regard to the interim report, Mrs Kucler Dolinar further pinpointed the provision and promotion of the free movement of knowledge and innovation - the ‘fifth freedom’, stressing the need for coordinated action and cooperation by all Member States in implementing the instruments supporting development at both EU level (e.g. the ICT Programme in the 7th Framework Programme) and national level and in the context of utilisation of EU structural funds.

Slovenian presidency

Survey takes pulse of e-Health in Europe and prescribes wider ICT use among doctors

Vendredi 25 avril 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants for research projects concerning the treatment of major diseases and the delivery of health care
 Grants awarded via the programme of Community action of public health

The European Commission today published a pan-European survey on electronic services in healthcare (eHealth) that shows 87% of European doctors (General Practitioners) use a computer, 48% with a broadband connection.

European doctors increasingly store and send patients’ data such as lab reports electronically. In using such eHealth applications, doctors and medical services have already improved healthcare in Europe through, for example, more efficient administration and shorter waiting times for patients. The report also highlights where doctors could make better use of ICT to offer services such as telemonitoring, electronic prescriptions and cross border medical services.

eHealth applications have a growing role in the doctor’s practices, according to the ‘Benchmarking ICT use among General Practitioners in Europe’ survey presented today by the Commission. However, there remain significant differences in their availability and use across Europe. About 70% of European doctors use the Internet and 66% use computers for consultations. Furthermore, there are wide differences across countries: Denmark has the highest broadband penetration among General Practitioners (91%), Romania the lowest (about 5%).

Administrative patient data is electronically stored in 80% of general practices: 92% of these also electronically store medical data on diagnoses and medication; 35% electronically store radiological images. European doctors often transfer data electronically with laboratories (40%), but less to other health centres (10%).

The survey shows that the countries most advanced in ICT access and connectivity are more likely to use them for professional purposes. For example, Denmark, where high-speed internet is most widely available in Europe, sees extensive use of email communication between doctors and patients in about 60% of practices (the EU average is only 4%).

The survey also highlights areas for improvement and further deployment, such as electronic prescriptions (e-Prescribing), which is practiced by only 6% of EU General Practitioners. This is widely used in only three Member States: Denmark (97%), the Netherlands (71%) and Sweden (81%).

Telemonitoring, which allows doctors to monitor a patient’s illness or manage chronic diseases remotely, is only used in Sweden (where 9% of doctors provide telemonitoring services), the Netherlands and Iceland (both about 3%). The Commission plans to report later this year on the potential and development of telemedicine.

Exchange of patient data across borders is also rare, done by only 1% of the EU’s General Practitioners, and with the highest usage rate in the Netherlands (at 5%). This year the Commission plans to make recommendations on cross-border interoperability of electronic health record systems and will launch, with several countries, a project on cross-border eHealth services for patients traveling within the EU.

A majority of European doctors agree that ICT improves the quality of healthcare services that they provide. Doctors not using ICT cite a lack of training and technical support as major barriers. To spread eHealth, they ask for more ICT in medical education, more training and better electronic networking among healthcare practitioners wanting to share clinical information.

In 2004, the European Commission adopted an Action Plan to develop the use of ICT in the Health sector. As a result, all Member States put in place strategies to accelerate e-Health deployment ( eHealth is part of the Lead Market initiative for innovation launched by the Commission in 2008.

The results of this survey, which involved almost 7,000 General Practitioners in the 3rd quarter of 2007, are related to these policy initiatives. The results will be presented in the forthcoming European eHealth Conference in Slovenia on May 6-7 (

Consultation to prepare an EU Offshore Wind Energy Action Plan

Vendredi 25 avril 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants for strengthening Community environment policy and legislation, with a view to promoting sustainable development in the EU

The European Commission launches a public consultation to prepare an EU Offshore Wind Energy Action

The European Commission is inviting investors, project developers, wind turbine manufacturers, energy companies, government services, environmental NGOs and all other interested stakeholders, including the general public, to help identify the key barriers for the further development of offshore wind energy in Europe and what might be done to overcome them.

On 23 January 2008 the Commission made a far-reaching package of energy and climate change related proposals including a draft directive to promote renewable energy and increase its share to 20% by 2020[1]. Offshore wind energy has the potential to make a significant contribution to reaching this target but exploiting this potential is associated with a number of specific challenges that might require further, more targeted actions.

The on-line consultation is aimed at providing the Commission with a clearer understanding of the specific key challenges for future large-scale development of offshore wind energy in Europe, as well as with ideas on how the EU could support the development of European offshore wind energy resources. The consultation will be open until 20 June 2008.

Press Room - European Commission
  More information:

Help us make research in Europe more European, say researchers

Jeudi 24 avril 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 New framework programme for research and technology aiming at better exploiting research capacities in Europe and transforming scientific results into new products, processes and services.

Careers and mobility, international co-operation, research infrastructures, joint programming and knowledge sharing are today’s main concerns of European research actors, according to a report just published by the European Commission.

The report draws on over 1000 responses to a public consultation on the Green Paper “The European Research Area: New Perspectives” published in April 2007. The responses show strong overall support to further consolidate the European Research Area through new and more ambitious actions at all levels in the EU – regional, national and transnational.

In 2000, the EU called for realising a European Research Area, creating a single area across Europe, and overcoming under-capacity, fragmentation and lack of coordination between national and European research programmes. Since then, the European research landscape has changed, with growing socio-economic challenges and the impact of globalisation on science and technology requiring R&D policy responses.

The consultation results show that the original ERA objectives remain valid and relevant, but that action remains needed on the issues raised by the ERA Green Paper. Most respondents deem “sharing knowledge” and “developing world-class research infrastructures” most important, the former placed top by universities, research funding organisations and NGOs and the latter by industry and governmental bodies. “Researchers’ careers and mobility”, “international cooperation” and “infrastructures” were identified as the three most important in terms of need for action at EU level.

Respondents also draw attention to crucial interactions between research, education and innovation. Virtually all of the responses from Member States emphasise the need to consider the role of industry in ERA and its links to wider innovation and education policy. Industry itself regrets that the Green Paper focused more on challenges to public research systems and not enough on the central roles of private R&D within ERA and of the linkages between research and innovation.

Respondents endorse the use of a variety of instruments to promote ERA – financial incentives, increased EU budget, co-ordination and guidelines. While there is little demand for binding legislation, there is significant support for considering legislative action to improve the careers and mobility of researchers, as well as for a new non-binding legal framework for pan-European research infrastructures.

Concerning publicly funded research, over 70% of respondents call for more open and easy access to scientific data and 84% call for more immediate, accessible and wider dissemination of scientific publications.

More than 80% of respondents support the idea of the EC and Member States collaborating to define common European research priorities, to ensure coordinated, efficient and coherent use of legal and financial instruments and resources.

Most respondents favour Europe adopting a more active approach to define the global S&T agenda internationally. 75% of the respondents expressed the wish that Europe should “speak with one voice” and 69% of them considered that this could be achieved through placing emphasis on a small number of high-priority research themes.

A dominant theme was the need for Member States to commit to a wide and ambitious ERA policy agenda as a genuine European Research Area would only be fully realised through Member States, stakeholders and the Commission working in partnership, with each accepting their responsibility to make it happen.

Five new specific initiatives, following directly on from the consultation, will be launched in the coming months. These initiatives will address in particular:

* The management of intellectual property by public research organisations (recommendation adopted on 10 April 2008)
* The promotion of mobility and careers of Europe’s researchers
* The legal framework for pan-European research infrastructures
* Joint programming and programmes and
* International science and technology cooperation.

Press Room - European Commission
  More information:
ERA and full report

OPEN DAYS 2008: ‘Regions and cities in a challenging world’

Jeudi 24 avril 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants in the framework of national sectoral or regionalised programmes to support the improving of employment and social inclusion
 Grants in the framework of national sectoral or regionalised programmes to support projects for growth and jobs creation in the least favoured regions of the Member States
 Grants in the framework of national sectoral or regionalised programmes to sustainable regional development in the least favoured regions of the Member States
 Support for investment of economic public and private actors in order to reinforce competitiveness, attractivity of regions and employment

‘Regions and cities in a challenging world’ is the theme of OPEN DAYS 2008, announced today by Danuta Hübner, Commissioner for Regional Policy, and Luc Van den Brande, President of the EU Committee of the Regions.

The sixth edition of the European Week of Regions and Cities, OPEN DAYS, will be held in Brussels from 6 to 9 October. This year, 217 regions and cities from 32 countries have signed up as partners, and participants are expected from many other countries. There will be 120 events in Brussels and around 250 local events all over Europe during OPEN DAYS, which has become the most important annual gathering of EU and regional policy-makers, experts and representatives of banking, business and civil society groups.

The event will enable participants to share their first experiences of implementing 345 Cohesion Policy programmes for 2007-2013 at local and regional level, with investment of about EUR 500 billion of EU and national funds. The debate about the policy’s future after 2013 is in full swing, and the Commission is expected to adopt an important Green Paper on territorial cohesion just before OPEN DAYS.

The OPEN DAYS 2008 seminars and debates will focus on four themes:

* Innovating regions: Promoting research, technological development and innovation;
* Sustainable development: Regional responses to climate change;
* Cooperation and networking: Exchange of best practice in regional development;
* Looking forward: A European cohesion policy for tomorrow.

Attracting about 5,000 regional and local experts to Brussels, OPEN DAYS 2008 is organised jointly by the European Commission’s Regional Policy Directorate-General and the Committee of the Regions. Partner regions and cities from 26 Member States are represented, along with others from Turkey, Croatia, Norway, Switzerland and – for the first time – Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iceland. France has registered the highest number of partners, 22, followed by Italy and Spain (19), the United Kingdom (18), and Poland (17). In addition, representatives from other countries, including China, Russia, Brazil and Serbia are expected to contribute to the event, along with international organisations. OPEN DAYS will also be an opportunity for private companies, financial institutions and civil society organisations to get together with regional stakeholders. The European Investment Bank, Businesseurope, the European employers’ organisation, Siemens, General Electric, Philips, Veolia and the European Citizen Action Service will be among organisations represented at the “Investors Café”, the event’s exhibition and meeting area.

Press Room - European Commission
  More information:
Open Days

Europe ahead of US in funding nanotech risk research

Jeudi 24 avril 2008

European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
New framework programme for research and technology aiming at better exploiting research capacities in Europe and transforming scientific results into new products, processes and services.

Europe invests nearly twice as much as the US in research addressing the potential risk of nanotechnologies, a report issued by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) indicates.

While the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) allocated USD13 million (€8.1 million) to risk-related projects in the fiscal year 2006, Europe set aside USD24 million (€15 million) over the same time period.

The report was conducted by PEN, an initiative of the US-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Pew Charitable Trusts, and is based on data listed in the NNI research strategy.

According to the PEN assessment, 62 US-government funded nanotech projects with a total annual budget of USD13 million could be categorised as highly relevant to potential environment, health or safety (EHS) hazards.

The US government, on the other hand, disagrees. Their estimates amount to USD37.7 million (€23.6 million) invested in EHS research in nanotechnology.

In contrast, the EU has incorporated EHS concerns into nanotechnology research as an important part of a balanced approach to the subject. ‘It is fundamental to have a high level of public health, safety, and environmental and consumer protection,’ EU Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik said at a conference in Brussels in April 2007.

Earlier this year, the Commission adopted a code of conduct for responsible nanotech research, encompassing seven general principles to ensure that nanotechnologies are developed in a safe manner. Among other things, these principles include calls for sustainability and precaution as well as accountability of researchers and research organisations.

In addition, funding for nanotech safety research has been expanded under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), bringing into focus quantitative data on (eco)toxicology as well as development of nano-specific tests, exposure and risk assessment methods, and methodologies for life cycle analysis. FP7 has become the world’s largest public funding source for nanotechnology with a total budget of €3.5 billion.

Experts estimate that by 2014, about 15% of the total global output of manufactured goods, worth USD2.6 trillion (€1.6 trillion), will incorporate nanotechnology.

  More information:
PEN Project

Commission facilitates interoperability for Europe’s trains

Jeudi 24 avril 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants in the frame of the Trans-European Networks for transport

Today the European Commission adopted an amendment to the European standard for train signaling and speed control – the European Train Control System (ETCS) - which guarantees a common standard that enables trains to cross national borders and enhances safety

Deployment of ETCS across key freight and high speed corridors will greatly improve the competitiveness of European railways.

The ETCS concept is simple: information is transmitted from the ground to the train, where an on-board computer uses it to calculate the maximum authorised speed and then automatically slows down the train if necessary. ETCS is one component of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS).

Currently, there are more than 20 different signalling systems in operation in Europe and their incompatibility is a major technical barrier to international traffic. ERTMS is a tool to establish an integrated and intelligent railway transport system in Europe. Using the most up-to-date technologies, ERTMS allows for reduced transport costs and improved punctuality and safety. It helps make rail a more competitive alternative to road, air and sea transport. ERTMS is also a key element of several trans-European transport network (TEN-T) priority projects and is important for the overall upgrade of European railways.

Following an intense ten year phase of research and development, validation of the ETCS standard was carried out from 2000 to 2007 with real scale projects underway in parallel. Since 2005, feedback from projects prompted the need to fine tune the specifications in order to move from local to global compatibility and ensure interoperability between all projects in Europe. Today’s decision eliminates the risk of any ambiguities that might have resulted in incompatible projects and guarantees that Europe’s trains equipped with ETCS can travel on any line equipped with ETCS.

ETCS is already installed on over 2,000 km of track and by 2012 over 11,000 km of ETCS will be in operation. Freight transport will benefit significantly from ETCS and when complemented by other measures, freight volume is expected to increase by 55% along certain corridors, travel time is expected to be reduced by 20% and reliability is expected to increase by 26%. All of this makes rail a more attractive option for freight transport. Rail safety will also be enhanced.

Press room - European Commission

Eurobarometer survey: the importance of access to civil justice for EU citizens is confirmed

Jeudi 24 avril 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants for judicial cooperation projects between practitioners in civil matters

A recent Eurobarometer survey shows that close to three-quarters of Europeans believe that measures should be taken to help citizens gain access to civil justice in other Member States

Citizens would prefer these measures be taken at EU level through common rules. More than 8 out of 10 believe that the EU should assist in the enforcement of civil court rulings in one Member State involving payment to be made in another Member State.

The objective of a recent Special Eurobarometer survey was to gain insight into the experiences of European Union citizens, their opinions and their preferences with regard to civil justice in the European Union. The idea of European civil justice is to ensure that citizens and companies in one Member State can exercise their rights in another Member State in the event of a dispute that crosses national borders.

This survey examines the extent to which European Union citizens have been involved in civil justice matters in another European Union Member State, what their opinions and concerns are about (access to) civil justice in other Member States and what their preferences are when it comes to harmonising European law and enforcing civil court rulings.

The results underline the need for an information campaign targeting Europe’s citizens. The Special Eurobarometer 292 highlights the fact that getting involved in a civil justice matter abroad is frightening, complicated and an unknown prospect for most Europeans. It cannot be ignored any longer.

Press room - European Commission
  More information:
Freedom, Security and Justice EU website

EU funds needed to get Galileo into orbit by 2013

Jeudi 24 avril 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 European project for satellite navigation

After negotiations with the private sector to set up Galileo, the EU’s satellite radio-navigation system, hit a dead-end, the European Commission last year recommended that the satellites, their launch and the earth infrastructure should be publicly funded

During Tuesday’s session in Stasbourg, MEPs returned to Europe’s satellite radionavigation programme, discussing a report drafted in the Industry Committee by Hungarian Etelka Barsi-Pataky (EPP-ED).

Who will fund Galileo?

In May last year the Commission presented a report on the future of Galileo saying that the most realistic and economic option is for the public sector to put the initial infrastructure in place. The system would be operated by a private concession holder.

Originally, the Community planned to establish a public-private partnership to take over the deployment and commercial operation of the satellite navigation system. However, after concession negotiations with the private sector failed, Parliament agreed with the Council in November 2007 to finance the deployment (€3,4 billion) entirely from EU funds.

In June last year MEPs on the Budget Committee agreed on the following principles for Galileo:
- Galileo should be financed from the EU budget
- The EU Budget should be increased accordingly
- Galileo is “of an enormous European added value”.

What is it all about?

Currently, there are two radio navigation satellite networks: the American GPS and the Russian Glonass systems. Both were designed during the Cold War for military purposes, but Glosnass is no longer fully operational.
GPS is widely used but it has short-comings:

- A mediocre and varying degree of accuracy
- Limited reliability, especially in regions in extreme latitudes (crossed by many aviation routes), in densely populated areas and town centres.
- Its predominantly military character means civilian users could be cut off in the event of a crisis.
- No guarantees or liability in the event of an accident caused by GPS error.

The EU decided to develop Galileo, over which it has control, which meets accuracy, reliability and security needs and which covers difficult areas such as Northern Europe and which will ensure continuity of public service. The political decision to launch the Galileo project was taken at the Nice European Council in December 2000 and the aim was that it would be in operation in 2008, after development and the deployment of the satellites.

Under the original Public Private Partnership plan, public funds would cover development costs, while construction and deployment would mainly be financed by the private sector, which would also operate the system.

Where it went wrong

The project hit delays with its testing timetable and over negotiations with the private sector and is now five years behind schedule. So far only one of the three satellites has been launched. Giove A1 was launched in December 2005 and began transmitting Galileo navigation signals in January 2006. The Giove B satellite, which should have been launched in 2006 has been postponed until the end of 2007.

Negotiations with Euro-GNSS, the private consortium of 8 European companies, failed at the beginning of the year because of the companies’ fears of additional costs. Transport ministers agreed in June that the EU’s collaboration with the consortium should end and that the next stage should be managed by the public sector.

So what does Galileo entail?

Galileo will be based on 30 satellites placed in three orbits at an altitude of 24,000 km and covering the entire surface of the Earth with a network of ground control stations. Each satellite will be equipped with an atomic clock providing extremely precise time measurements, making it possible to determine the location of any stationary or moving object to within 1 metre.

Most appliances will be able to use Galileo and GPS.

European Parliament