Answers to frequently asked questions
- What is the forest-based sector?
- What are technology platforms?
- By what means is FTP implementing a Strategic Research Agenda?
- What is the role of the FTP management team?
- What is the relationship between the SRA and the European Commission's budget Framework Programmes FP7 & Horizon 2020?
- Industry has in the past benefited from the European Commission's Framework Programmes for Research. What is different today?
- Does funding of a project outside the FTP also require a national public contribution?
- Who decides on the research areas or projects that will be funded under FP7 / Horizon 2020 and what is the criteria for these decisions?
- How do research projects resulting from the SRA benefit from the EU’s Framework Programmes?
- How do companies apply for research projects under FP7 / Horizon 2020?
- Is it necessary to go through FTP to apply for research projects under FP7 / Horizon 2020?
- How and when do companies form or join a consortium?
- How are EC finances for a research project distributed among consortium partners?
- What is the role of the research institutes in helping industry to be part of a research project under FTP?
- What happens with the results of a research project in which companies have participated? Do the results become public knowledge and can they be used by other competing companies?
- What can be the consequences under competition rules when competing companies are together in a research project?
1) What is the forest-based sector?
The forest-based sector is one of Europe’s largest, and includes woodworking industries, pulp and paper industries and printing industries, as well as forest owners. It contributes some 8% of the EU’s total manufacturing added value, and sustainably manages forests covering 37% of the EU’s land area. It supports 3-4 million industrial jobs in sectors including transport, machinery, construction, instrumentation, information technology, chemicals and energy. The sector is also Europe’s biggest producer and user of bio-based energy.
Back to top
2) What are technology platforms?
European technology platforms – ETPs - bring the key stakeholders - industry, national and European public authorities, the academic community, the financial community, consumers and users - together around a common vision for the development of the technologies concerned. ETPs were designed to better align EU research priorities to industry’s needs and to ensure the transformation of results achieved, into innovative technologies and processes and hence into marketable products and services. The platforms have as a primary objective, the definition of a Strategic Research Agenda for the medium to long-term and the establishment of the necessary, effective public-private partnerships for implementation of this agenda.
3) By what means is FTP implementing a Strategic Research Agenda?
The first Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) for the forest-based sector was drawn up in 2006. Sustainability, development and manufacturing of innovative products, resource availability, multiple forest use, biodiversity, the production of bio-energy and energy efficiency - all these areas were tackled. As a result of the original SRA more than 100 European sector-relevant research projects, with a total funding of around € 500 million, have been established since then.
Now the forest-based sector has produced its revised Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda for 2020, based on a revised Vision for 2030, more keenly aligned with current trends and with the upcoming European funding for the period 2014–2020. The revised SRA 2020 offers the perspective of the forest-based private sector in support of public sector initiatives to stimulate innovation, in particular the new EU framework programme for research and innovation, Horizon 2020. It aims to show public and private stakeholders how they can work together to achieve common objectives.
Nineteen Research and Innovation Areas (RIAs) have been identified as a key to unlocking the potential of the forest-based sector and ensuring its future competitiveness. The RIAs are organised under four Strategic Themes; 'The forest-based sector in a biobased society', ‘Responsible management of forest resources’, ‘Creating industrial leadership’, and ‘Fulfilling consumer needs’. The 19 RIAs are described in detail in the SRA Annex. The documents were launched at the 8th FTP conference in Barcelona in March 2013. Implementation of the SRA entails:
- Developing the SRA into programmes and projects.
- Carrying out research and innovation projects which meet the objectives defined in the SRA.
- Mobilising broad stakeholder participation from industry and the research community.
- Encouraging investments in research and innovation from industry and public sources.
- Stimulating innovation in terms of new products and processes.
- Helping education and training systems to adapt to changing requirements.
- Communicating the necessity of research and innovation and their benefits to various audiences.
4) What is the role of the FTP management team?
FTP management undertakes the following activities:
- Facilitate, communicate and monitor implementation of the SRA, for example, through mobilising the National Support Groups.
- Continue to have a constructive dialogue with the European Commission and European Parliament.
- Facilitate the establishment and implementation of consortia, funding initiatives and action plans for the successful implementation of the SRA.
- Provide platforms for the dissemination of research and innovation findings.
- Secure the necessary resources for European FTP work.
- Ensure communication, transparency and involvement.
5) What is the relationship between the SRA and the European Commission's budget Framework Programme Horizon 2020?
The SRA is a long-term research and innovation roadmap formulated by the entire forest-based sector, but it is not a research funding instrument. The Framework Programmes are policy instruments of the European Community to direct research and innovation. Funding is provided for research and innovation activities which are defined in Specific Programmes and derived Work Programmes. The new Framework Programme for the 2014-2020 period is called Horizon 2020. FTP has established a very close dialogue with the European Commission services and invites representatives of the EC as observers to its meetings, conferences and seminars. Most of FTP’s National Support Groups have elaborated (and many are now revising) their own National Research Agendas, based on the European SRA. They are consulted continuously, in order to compile a list of priority topics reflecting the research and innovation needs of the forest-based sector. Other funding sources include additional EU programmes such as the ERA-Nets (e.g. WoodWisdom.Net), national programmes, and industry contributions or loans.
Back to top
6) Industry has in the past benefited from the European Commission's Framework Programmes for Research. What is different today?
Industry participation in research and innovation projects under the different Research Framework Programmes has decreased over the years. Some of the reasons include unfavourable conditions concerning the issue of intellectual property rights (IPR), low participation in programme development, and complicated administrative requirements. IPR issues are now being dealt with in a much more favourable way for companies. Project consortia have much more flexibility in allocating work and budget. The European Technology Platforms were created to facilitate private-public partnerships for research and industry was actively involved from the beginning of this initiative.
Back to top
7) Does funding of a project outside FTP also require a national public contribution?
Often this will be the case. The original SRA was developed together with nearly 1000 experts from all over Europe whilst for the revision of the SRA representatives of European industry, forest owners, researchers and public bodies around Europe have been actively involved. Focus remains on issues of importance to the entire sector but there will still be many areas outside the SRA where research, development and innovation are needed. Projects outside the SRA are facing the same challenge to acquire financing as projects under FTP. Sources of financing for these other projects can be from the Framework Programmes and other EU and national programmes as well as being funded by industry.
Back to top
8) Who decides on the research areas or projects that will be funded under Horizon 2020 and what is the criteria for these decisions?
The content of the Framework Programmes and especially of the Specific Programmes and the Rules of Participation were developed by the European Commission (EC) and subsequently adopted by the European Parliament and the European Council. The Work Programmes with their detailed description of objectives and activities have been developed by the EC in consultation with, for example, Programme Committees consisting of National Delegates at political level. Which projects ultimately obtain funding depends on the outcome of the evaluation procedure under a specific call for proposals for a Specific Area or theme in a Work Programme. Evaluation procedures are well-defined and involve unbiased, external experts.
Back to top
9) How do research projects resulting from the SRA benefit from the EU’s Framework Programmes?
One of the tasks of the FTP network is to brief the European Commission's Research and Innovation Directorate, the National Delegates in the Programme Committees and members of the European Parliament on issues important to the sector. As a result, the Work Programmes and calls for proposals within Horizon 2020 will provide possibilities to submit proposals for cooperative research and innovation projects that adhere to the SRA. It is the task of research institutes, universities and industry to form consortia, develop projects that meet the respective call, to prepare excellent proposals and to submit these in due time. The FTP Management has a facilitating role in this process and will include under the FTP umbrella, those projects or proposals that contribute to the SRA and fulfil certain criteria.
Back to top
10) How do companies apply for research projects under Horizon 2020?
A call for proposals must be issued by the European Commission. This call describes the area of research which is announced, the regulations and the deadline for submission. In principle every legal entity can form a project consortium, and prepare and submit a project application. In reality, most project ideas are developed during discussions between partners from industry and research organisations and are in line with research and innovation needs expressed in the SRA. National or European research groupings, the FTP's National Support Groups and FTP networking events, such as annual brokerage events, can support project preparation. Projects need to closely adhere to the content of the respective call. Companies are invited to participate or engage themselves in project preparation. As the period between publication of a call for proposals and the deadline for submission is usually quite short (3-4 months for a pan-European R&D project), preparation work usually starts earlier. The first call for proposals under Horizon 2020 was launched in December 2013.
Back to top
11) Is it necessary to go through FTP to apply for research projects under Horizon 2020?
No. In principle every legal entity is free to form a project consortium and prepare and submit a project application. Some organisations or companies will prepare proposals without informing FTP or others, especially if they are going to apply for a project with a strong competitive edge. It could be beneficial to check if the proposed project has links with the FTP's SRA. In this way, the proposal will be taken into account in FTP's efforts to implement its SRA and strengthen research and development coordination in the sector.
Back to top
12) How and when do companies form or join a consortium?
Companies that want to participate in EU funded projects should collect information on the programme and its calls, for example from the official information sources of the European Commission (e.g., www.cordis.eu) and the National Offices for European funding. Other sources of information are the FTP's National Support Groups, FTP Management and organisations such as EFI, InnovaWood and EFPRO. Companies can initiate or join consortia and prepare an application for a specific call for proposals. They can do so when a call is published or by anticipating the content of a call. Participation in a project consortium should start as early as possible. Joining a consortium after a proposal has been submitted will in principle not be possible. Participation in FTP activities can help companies with identifying promising calls, finding partners, and so forth.
Back to top
13) How are EC finances for a research project distributed among consortium partners?
Distribution of the EC's financial contribution to the individual partners is done according to the partners' workload and is based on approved costs. During the proposal preparation stage, partner contributions to the various work packages are allocated according to competences and capabilities. EC funding allocation depends on the allowable funding rate, which differs for activities like management, research and innovation, demonstration or training. Rules for maximum EC funding (as a share of total cost) also vary for different types of organisations, such as industry, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), research institutes or universities.
Back to top
14) What is the role of the research institutes in helping industry to be part of a research project under FTP?
Some (larger) research institutes have a long experience in carrying out research projects under the various Framework Programmes (FP). This experience comprises not only scientific expertise but also profound knowhow on planning, proposal writing, contract negotiation, and management and coordination of multi-partner projects. In the forest-based sector, industry so far has very seldom taken the lead in preparing FP projects. Several institutions offer advisory services to partners within project consortia, from the planning stage until project completion. In the pulp and paper sector, for example, research institutes and universities in Europe have formed a network called EFPRO. This network, together with its partnering organisations in the forestry and wood research areas (EFI and InnovaWood), provide crucial support to the work of FTP in implementing its SRA.
15) What happens with the results of a research project in which companies have participated? Do the results become public knowledge and can they be used by other competing companies?
An EU funded project usually has to have a European dimension and therefore requires a consortium consisting of partners in, typically, more than three countries. During the creation of a consortium each partner should be aware of other partners and what potential competition conflicts might arise. Still, each partner owns the intellectual property rights of the results that he has generated. It is up to the partner to protect the knowledge generated and to decide on making it public (or not). But partners have to provide access to this knowledge to those consortium partners which need it to carry out their own project tasks.
16) What can be the consequences under competition rules when competing companies find themselves together in a research project?
Research and innovation cooperation is generally permissible as technical development is good for the community as a whole and would be hampered if competitors were not allowed to cooperate. It is important that partners are free to carry out their own research and development work based on results obtained during the project and outside of its control. However, caution is needed when competitors constituting dominant market positions participate in the same project. This situation must be analysed on a case-by-case basis and contract conditions regarding exploitation must be carefully drafted. Previous experience on competition matters should always be consulted.