Global Research in Non-Nuclear Energy: Positioning EC Portfolio vis-à-vis other National Portfolios

AuthorEuropean Union Publications Office, 2006

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Evolution of EC Research Portfolio

Europe is suffering from structural weaknesses where research is concerned1. Europe lags behind the United States and Japan - both aiming to be world leaders in research and innovation - in terms of public research spending as a proportion of GDP, of researchers, and of the number of patents and high-technology exports per capita. Furthermore, a decisive factor characterising research in Europe is the co-existence of national and EU-funded research activities. This is in stark contrast to the nationally organised research areas of Japan and USA.

In the context of increasingly complex and interdisciplinary research, a significant step in overcoming the obstacles is to establish a European Research Area (ERA). The overall aim is to make a tangible improvement in Europe's innovation performance, in the short, medium and long term, by stimulating a better integration between research and innovation, and by working towards a more coherent and innovation-friendly policy and regulatory environment across the European Union2.

Amongst other elements this strategy includes:

* Organising co-operation at different levels both within Europe and internationally.

* Creating conditions that make it possible to increase the impact of European research efforts by strengthening the coherence of research activities and policies conducted in Europe.

* Enhancing coordination between research conducted at national and EU level.

* Developing appropriate mechanisms for networking national and joint research programmes in order to take greater advantage of the concerted resources devoted to R&D in the Member States.

* Improving the environment for private research investment and R&D partnerships.

* Stepping up public and private-sector research efforts in the EU.

The sixth framework programme for Research and Technological Development (FP6) is the main financial and legal instrument of the European Commission for implementing the ERA. Thus, a main objective of FP6 is to contribute to the establishment of the European Research Area by improving integration and coordination of research in Europe which, so far, is largely fragmented3. At the same time research will be targeted at strengthening the competitiveness of the European economy, solving major societal issues and supporting the formulation and implementation of other EU policies. The work programme embodies specific programmes emphasising strategic research areas such as "Sustainable development, global change and ecosystems". One part gives attention to the "Sustainable Energy System".

The prominence of energy in the development of welfare in the European Union and its competitiveness on global markets, as well as the challenge of reducing Europe's increasing energy dependence4 and meeting climatic and environmental concerns5, are major features in structuring the framework within which RTD in Non-Nuclear Energy takes place. Numerous legal instruments such as Directives6 are complementing the efforts to meet the objectives.

Key Objectives of EC Strategy in Non-Nuclear Energy research (NNE)

The key objectives and priorities for EC research in NNE have been identified in a linked evaluation, design and decision-making process using a variety of approaches to assess impacts, taking into account lessons learnt from FP5, and involving various European bodies as well as Member States and stakeholders from industry and the research community.

Reflecting the above-mentioned objectives and concerns of Europe's future development, the thematic focus of NNE research is to achieve more sustainable energy systems and services by aligning research activities to the development of cleaner energy systems, including renewable energies, economical and efficient use of energy, and socio-economic aspects of energy. Three mutually connected elements frame the scope of RTD in NNE.

Structuring research activities in different fields of reference to ensure that the diversity of promising technologies is represented and that RTD is arranged according to the varying time-frames that technologies have on their avenue to commercialisation.

Coordinating the strategic outline of research through developing and promoting a European Research Area in conjunction with the application of new instruments:

* ERA-NET: Designed to step up the cooperation and coordination of research activities carried out at national or regional level, through the networking of research activities conducted at these different levels, and the mutual opening of national and regional research programmes.

* NoE: Here the objective is to strengthen scientific and technological excellence on a particular topic through the durable integration of the research capacities of the participants (both in terms of resources and expertise) in order to overcome the fragmentation of European research.

* IP: Designed to support objective-driven research, where the primary deliverable is new knowledge on products, in processes, services, etc.

Strengthening the collaboration of RTD between countries and researchers and industry, leading to added value in form of targeted results and international front-line competence as well as enhanced competitiveness.

Some interesting trends have been noticed between FP5 and FP6:

* Along the lines of decreased funding in NNE, certain thematic areas such as hydrocarbons and coal are no longer specifically addressed.

* An increased effort is laid on coordinating and clustering RTD in order to reach critical mass, through an enhanced exchange of information and better linking of EU and Member State RTD programmes.

* The European Research Area is strongly addressed through using new procedures, instruments and initiatives such as ERA-NET scheme, CA and European Technology Platforms.

* EC RTD moving towards larger volumes and more integrated projects and with more involvement of industry.

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The Work Programme differentiates clearly between research with a potential for exploitation in the short to medium term and that having an impact in the medium to longer term. Budgetary appropriations are intended to be split equally between the two time-frames:

> With an emphasis on 2010 energy policy objectives, short to medium term project design, with an optional research component of up to about 20 %, is designed to achieve greater efficiency, cost reduction and transfer through:

- Integrated demonstration action under full-scale operation conditions, including effective production procedures

- Implementation and integration of new technologies into existing technologies/infrastructure/systems

- The combination of different technologies with their respective advantages

- Input for future development of energy policy and legislation as well as improvement of existing regulatory measures.

> Medium to long term research should deliver results with a time horizon generally beyond 2010, and should address:

- Further development before technologies are ready for full-scale commercial use

- Pre-normative and socio-economic research as well as the validation of technical and economical feasibility in pilot plants and prototypes

- The generation, exploitation and dissemination of new knowledge.

EC RTD Portfolio: Overall picture and trends

The NNE RTD portfolio in FP6 comprises five clusters of technologies, which are:

* Fuel Cells (FC), including their applications

* New technologies for energy carriers/transport and storage, in particular hydrogen

* New advanced concepts in renewable energy technologies

* Capture and sequestration of CO2 associated with cleaner fossil fuel plants

* Socio-economic tools and concepts for energy strategy.

The existing budget for NNE is roughly divided into a share of 40% for renewables, 55% for the other technologies and 5% for coordinating and cross-cutting activities. For every technology cluster the Commission has specified research areas and topics (see below), which are addressed in different calls7. Diverse (new) instruments with different purposes are used in order to meet identified challenges in research areas, to bridge gaps and meet objectives. The application of these instruments influences the layout of research (programme approach, objective-driven, providing leadership etc.), the degree of vertical or horizontal integration expected, and the amount of potential funding. Another step in building the NNE RTD portfolio applies at the level of final project selection: this depends on the quality of proposals submitted, which are competing within the whole area addressed in the call. The Commission intervenes in this process when areas of research assessed to be strategically important are not appropriately covered by approvals.

Although a complete overview of the 6th Framework Programme was not available at the time of writing, some key trends are already visible. Reflecting the implementation of the new instruments compared with FP5, the number of projects in FP6 has decreased (see table below). On the other hand, the average project funding has increased from about euros 1.4 M to about euros 3.5 M. Based on the provisional information the ratio between funding and eligible costs deteriorated from FP5 to FP6. Although the third call was not complete and the fourth call was not taken into account at all with respect to funding allocation, some areas like hydrogen, fuel cells, wind and ocean systems already have a bigger absolute funding than in FP5.

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Summarised EC Funding of Non-Nuclear Energy RTD in different fields of reference

Sustainable Energy Systems Technology Paths (Strategically important areas and topics) EC Funding in
Number of Projects Eligible Costs in M€ Total EC Contribution in M€ Number of Projects Eligible Costs in M€ Total EC Contribution in M€
New Advanced Concepts in Renewable Energy Technologies PV Bioenergy Wind Geothermal Systems Ocean Concentrated Solar Thermal Total renewables 85
Others Fuel Cells CO2 storage and capture Hydrogen Grid Socio-economic Total Others 41
NNE Total 347 1,385.75 479.37 201 1,286.28 694.85

Note: EC funding figures mentioned in this report include the funding provided by different departments of the Commission, e.g. DG RTD J (Energy), DG RTD H (Transport), DG TREN, etc.



[2] OJL294, 30.9.2002, p. 48

[3] Compare inter alia: DG Research; DG TREN (2003), Clean, Safe And Efficient Energy For Europe. Impact Assessment of Non-Nuclear Energy Projects Implemented under The Fourth Framework Programme. Synthesis Report, Brussels, p. 38; Greer, Heather (2002), Assessment of The Development of The European Research Area In Non-Nuclear Energy Research. Study Report to the EC Research Directorate-General (Energy Programme), Brussels, p. 39

[4] European Commission: Green Paper on the Security of Energy Supplies (COM (2000) 769)

[5] European Commission: Energy for the Future: Renewable Sources of Energy. White Paper for a Community Strategy and Action Plan (COM(97)599 26.11.1997)

[6] for example: Directive 2001/77/EC on the promotion of electricity from renewable energy sources, 27 Sept 2001

[7] This analysis comprises information from the first three calls of FP6

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