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18.2.3.  Direct and indirect research activities of the EU

    European research policy does not mean the "Europeanization" of all programmes or the joint financing of all research and technological development (R & D) activities in the Member States. In application of the subsidiarity principle [see section 3.2], a distinction has to be made between various forms of research. With regard to fundamental research and basic research, which necessitate very large investment and highly specialised researchers and whose results can be expected only in the fairly distant future, it is in the interest of the EU countries to pool their efforts in direct actions financed entirely by the European Union and bringing together researchers of several nationalities.

    For the development of leading-edge technology (nuclear, information, aeronautical and aerospace technologies, etc), on the other hand, indirect actions promoting the coordination of research carried out in the Member States is better suited to ensure industrial success, the transnational restructuring of undertakings, the opening up of public contracts, and even the grouping of purchases by public electricity, telecommunications and transport services. European R & D is therefore distinguished into direct actions and indirect actions.

    Direct actions are research activities proper pursued by the Commission in the research establishments of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and paid for entirely from the Union budget [see sections 3.4 and 18.2.4]. The European dimension of its research is one of the fundamental strengths of the JRC. Its activities are characterised by a multidisciplinary approach based on the broad span of its capabilities. This multidisciplinarity is reflected in the diversity of subjects covered by its institutes and helps it meet Europe's scientific challenges as they rise. The JRC, however, must carry out its activities in close cooperation with the scientific community and enterprises in Europe.

    The second form taken by European R & D, indirect research, which absorbs more than 80% of the financial resources of EU R & D, is conducted in research centres, universities or undertakings, with financial assistance from the Commission and on conditions laid down by the rules governing participation in the various programmes, notably the participation of at least two partners from different Member States. Union financial assistance covers, as a general rule, 50% of the total cost of research work.

    The Commission prepares the research programmes on indirect action which are adopted by the Council. The Commission then publishes in the Official Journal of the European Union calls for tenders for researchers from the Member States, specifying the research objectives written into the European programme. The tenders are appraised by the Commission and the Committees on the basis of criteria determined in advance and aimed at ensuring the best possible results. There are no national quotas for research assistance. The main criteria for selecting projects are, firstly, their scientific and technical quality and, secondly, their effects on growth and competitiveness. The rules for the participation of undertakings (companies, firms), research centres and universities in actions under the "Horizon 2020 - the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020)" identify the procedures for issuing calls for proposals, for submission, evaluation, selection of proposals and award of grants, the redress procedures for participants, as well as the procedures for the dissemination of research results [Regulation 1290/2013].

    The indirect R & D actions are of various kinds: shared-cost actions, which are the principal mechanism for implementing the specific programmes, as well as training fellowships, support for networks, concerted actions and accompanying measures.

    Shared-cost actions are:

    - research and technological development projects, i.e. projects designed to obtain new knowledge likely to be useful either to develop new or significantly to improve existing products, processes and/or services and/or to meet the needs of Union policies,

    - demonstration projects, i.e. projects designed to prove the viability of new technologies which offer a potential economic advantage but which cannot be commercialised directly,

    - combined R & D/demonstration projects, i.e. projects with both a research and technological development component and a demonstration component,

    - access to research infrastructures, by covering the additional costs of receiving European researchers and making facilities available.

    - cooperative research projects, i.e. projects enabling at least three mutually independent SMEs from at least two Member States to entrust the resolution of their common technological problems to third legal entities with appropriate research capacities jointly.

    Training fellowships are Marie Curie fellowships [see section 18.4.1];

    Support for research training networks exists in the context of the fourth activity and thematic networks bringing together, for instance, manufacturers, users, universities, research centres, organisations and research infrastructures around a given scientific and technological objective (Marie Curie Research Training Networks);

    Concerted actions, are the actions designed to coordinate R & D projects already in receipt of funding, in order to exchange experience acquired, to expand the research efforts of the various players so as to reach a critical mass, to disseminate results and to inform users;

    Accompanying measures contribute to the implementation of the specific programmes or the preparation of future activities, with a view to enabling them to achieve their strategic objectives.

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