Case study: Impact of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy on research funding policy through the EC Framework Programmes funding stream

2007-08-31 08:04:51

Laura Macháčkové Henderson

In the context of global milestones in political commitment to sustainable development, this case study looks briefly at the influence of European Council approaches to sustainable development on the priorities for research funding administered by the European Commission, and notes the increasing mainstreaming of sustainability objectives in diverse areas of research.

The European Commission and Council's approach to sustainable development and environmental protection is reflected in the Commission's research funding stream, the Framework Programmes. Framework Programme 1 began in 1984 and ran for three years, subsequently, each FP has run for four years (with the exception of FP 7, which runs for eight years from 2007) and the eligible themes for funding change with each FP according to Council and Commission policy interests.

In 1992, the "Earth Summit"[1], United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, took place in Rio, the outcome of which was "Agenda 21"[2], a global partnership which recognises the interdependence of nations and the need for a more equitable world economy via sustainable development. In the same year, the language of sustainable development appeared in the Maastricht Treaty (Treaty on European Union), article 6[3],

"Environmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of the Community policies and activities...... in particular with a view to promoting sustainable development."

In line with these commitments the European Commission allocated 6.9% of the budget for Framework Programme 4 (1994-1998) to the theme "Environment and Climate" (914 million ECU from the total budget of 13 215 million ECU). While there were passing references to environmental and sustainability issues in other thematic areas such as agriculture and fishing, Environment and Climate was treated as a standalone issue rather than a cross-cutting theme.[4]

In June 1998, six months before Framework Programme 4 finished, European heads of state and government met in Cardiff, calling for actions to integrate environmental protection and sustainable development across policy areas, as established in article 6 of the Treaty on European Union. The process of examining and implementing the integration of environmental considerations into all policy areas to ensure sustainable development is referred to as the "Cardiff Process"[5].

Between 1998 and 2002 in the Framework Programme 5[6], there were four thematic programmes, three of which contained a substantial emphasis on environmental protection and sustainable development. A total budget of 13 700 million EUR was allocated for the four thematic and 3 horizontal activities. The four thematic activities received a total of 10 843 EUR, much of that dedicated to themes related to sustainable development. This was broken down as follows:

  • Environment and sustainable development: 1 083 million EUR, 10% of the budget
  • Energy: 1 042 million EUR, 10% of the budget

In 2001, as the Fifth Framework Programme was coming to the end, the European Commission and Council launched "A Strategy for Sustainable Development" for the European Union, commonly referred to as the Gothenburg Strategy[7]. This impacted on the "Lisbon Strategy", the European Council's ten year plan to make the EU the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010[8]. Following the development of the Strategy for Sustainable Development, a "third pillar" of environmental renewal was given equal rhetorical importance alongside the original two pillars of the Lisbon Strategy: economic and social renewal. The necessity to "de-couple" or "de-link" economic development from environmental degradation was emphasised, and this relationship was reversed, at least theoretically, as policy thinking turned towards economic investment and growth supporting and acting positively on the environment. This was reflected at global level in the United Nations' Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg 2002[9].

This link between economic growth and the environment, i.e. sustainable development was reflected to some extent in Framework Programme 6 (2002-2006)[10]. The budget allocated for the seven research themes was 12 438 million EUR. The Sustainable development, global change and ecosystems theme was allocated 19% of the budget, and two themes (Nanotechnologies - 11% budget share, and Aeronautics and space - 10% budget share) had environmental and sustainable development issues integrated into the thematic developments. The total budget break down was follows:

Sustainable energy systems: 890 million EUR

Sustainable surface transport: 670 million EUR

Global change and ecosystems: 769 million EUR

o    SD aspect: investment into greening traditionally polluting industries and linking the protection of eco-systems with economic development.

In 2005, the Lisbon Strategy mid-term review took place, and the European Council emphasised the importance of integrating the Strategy for Sustainable Development with the Lisbon Strategy in ensuring environmentally sustainable economic growth and development as seen in the Presidency Conclusions of the June European Council[11]. This concern is reflected in the "Cooperation" programme supporting research activities of Framework Programme 7[12], which runs from 2007 to 2013 and takes integration of environmental protection and economic growth for sustainable development a step further than in FP 6. While "Environment (including climate change)" is present as specific theme with 6% of the budget, eight out of the remaining nine themes are framed in terms sustainable development being a key objective.

The total budget is 32 413 million EUR, the breakdown of which is as follows:


Example of specific call for proposals to be funded under the FP7 Cooperation Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Biotechnology priority


Area 2.2.5 Environmental impacts and total food chain, Call 2A: FP7-KBBE-2007-2A Sustainability of the food chain

Research using life cycle assessment in combination with other tools for ‘system analysis', should establish to what extent food chains differ with respect to their sustainability. Parameters affecting the sustainability at the global level of food supply systems will be identified and will enable the development of pilot models to be used for identification of more sustainable production systems, taking into account also the issues of fair and ethical trade. Secondly, technological and management solutions to increase sustainability may be developed for the identified 'hot spots' within production, processing, packaging and transportation, from a food chain perspective. Thirdly, research will develop methods for increasing the transparency of sustainability attributes with the aim of enhancing consumer trust and facilitating food choice. Participation of third countries, especially of ICPC developing country partners, is encouraged.

Funding scheme: Large collaborative project

Expected impact: Systems analysis of the food supply systems will provide data required to

improve the sustainability of food chains. Technologies to be developed to aid implementation of sustainability strategies. Help will be provided to the consumer in choosing sustainably produced foodstuffs.





Example of specific call for proposals to be funded under the FP7 Cooperation Nanosciences, nanotechnologies, materials & new production technologies priority


4.1.3 Health, Safety and Environmental Impacts, Call NMP-2007-1.3-5 Coordination in studying the environmental, safety and health impact of engineered nanoparticles and nanotechnology based materials and products


Technical content / scope: Knowledge regarding the toxicological and ecotoxicological profile of nanomaterials as well exposure data should be integrated to the rapid development of the technology and sufficient data should be available for a proper risk assessment. Existing standard test methods have been developed under current regulatory regimes for traditional chemicals and may need adjustment to be applied to nanomaterials. An effort is therefore needed to develop adequate methodologies, taking advantage of the latest

scientific and technical evidence across all relevant disciplines. Collaboration among research groups and coordination of research efforts will increase efficiency, which may more rapidly lead to adoption of standardised and validated methods essential for regulatory activities. The expected coordination action should address amongst others but not exclusively, the following activities:


Funding scheme: Coordination and support actions aiming at coordinating research activities.


Specific features: None


Expected impact: (i) Synergy, increased efficiency and effectiveness in the European research activities in this field; (ii) better understanding of the impact of nanoparticles on health and the environment, and definition of actions; (iii) safe and responsible development and industrial use of nanotechnology; (iv) support to regulatory measures and  implementation of legislation (v) support to industrial decision making, to EU research and to

other EU policies; (vi) implementation of the European Commission's Action Plan for Nanotechnology; (vii) creation of one (or more) leading pole(s) of excellence that will be able to support industrial activities, in particular benefiting high-technology SMEs.



o    SD aspect: the objective is to establish technologies necessary for adapting to a more sustainable, competitive and secure energy system depending more of diverse, non-polluting and renewable energy sources.



Example of specific call for proposals to be funded under the FP7 Cooperation Energy priority


Area 1.2: hydrogen supply, Topic 1.2.2: New materials and processes for advanced multi-fuel processors


Content/scope: The main emphasis should be on development of novel, efficient and cost effective functional materials for critical components (e.g. catalysts, catalyst supports, membranes) for new, efficient and low cost advanced multi-fuel (liquid and gaseous) processors for distributed production of hydrogen. Effort should take advantage of recent advances in nano-scale synthesis and architectures, analytical tools and screening methods, and modelling/simulation of complex chemical systems including catalyst / chemical interfaces. Research could also include the design of innovative concepts for the fuel reformer, the water gas shift and the hydrogen purification steps as well as their integrated engineering. Cost reduction and scale-up potential of the investigated critical components must also be addressed.


Funding scheme: Collaborative Project (small or medium scale focused project), with a predominant R&D component.


Expected impact: cost competitive processes for small scale hydrogen production with minimal environmental impact and potential to achieve overall efficiencies of 70%-80% (LHV basis) at system level and non energy costs <1.5 €/kg of hydrogen produced.





Example of specific call for proposals to be funded under the FP7 Cooperation Environment priority


Area Climate Change Natural and Socio-economic Impacts call ENV.2007. Climate change impacts and adaptation strategies in water policies


The aim is to study European and international adaptation measures and strategies related to

climate change impacts and how these are taken into account in water policies. The project should bring together scientific and policy experiences on the existing and/or missing links between climate change and water management. It will contribute to; the identification of research needs on climate change impacts on water cycle and resources; to the development and application of methodologies for adaptation measures to climate change; to the development of scenarios of water demand and to potential implementation on water policies.


Funding scheme: coordination and support actions (coordinating type or supporting type)


Expected impact: To provide a coherent framework on adaptation strategies of climate change impacts on water. The project will also give the fundamentals on the European/international adaptation strategies that water policy has to take into account when considering climate change impacts. Furthermore, it will support the implementation of the EU water policy, including its relation to other sectors and policies, and the identification of research gaps in the field.






Example of specific call for proposals to be funded under the FP7 Cooperation Transport (including aeronautics) priority


SST.2007.1.1.2. Vehicle/vessel and infrastructure technologies for optimal use of

Energy Vehicle/vessels and infrastructure technologies (excluding research on power-trains

which are covered in previous topics) to further reduce energy consumption.


Proposals will cover one or more of the following subjects:


1. advanced low mass, low friction and low rolling resistance concepts and materials applied to components and structures for vehicles and vessels;

2. fluid-dynamic and aero-dynamic analysis and solutions for drag reduction;

3. exploiting additional natural and non-polluting sources of energy such as wind or solar energy;

4. improved interactions between vehicles/vessels and infrastructure (including the surrounding medium) for minimal energy consumption and wash (for high speed vessels);

5. smart components and auxiliary systems to reduce energy consumption and/or which make use of energy harvesting;

6. design tools and methodologies for optimised overall energy efficiency and life cycle performance.


Funding scheme: Collaborative Projects small or medium-scale focussed research,

Coordination and Support actions aiming at coordinating research activities






§  socio-economic models within Europe and across the world;

§  economic and social and cohesion across regions;

§  social and economic dimensions of environmental policy.


Example of specific call for proposals to be funded under the FP7 Cooperation Socio-economic Sciences and the Humanities priority


SSH-2007-2.1.2 Trade-offs and synergies between the different aspects of sustainable development



Research should address the extent to which and the conditions under which trade-offs or, on the contrary, synergies or mutual support, exist between the different objectives related to sustainable development. For example: (i) between the economic and social aspects: e.g. between levels and types of growth, on the one hand, and social cohesion or inequalities, on the other; between economic flexibility and quality of life; (ii) between economic and environmental aspects: e.g. the role of levels and different types of growth; (iii) between social and environmental objectives: e.g. between poverty reduction and environmental protection in developing countries, consumption behaviour; (iv) between economic, social, and environmental objectives in the perspective of sustainable development: e.g. combating unemployment, developing new markets for clean technologies, diminishing the ‘ecological footprint', improving quality of life and the living environment. It could address how the tradeoffs and synergies occur at different levels, macro to micro. It should identify factors that may enhance the effectiveness in achieving the combination of objectives.


Funding schemes:

Collaborative research projects (small or medium-scale focused projects) Coordination and Support Actions aiming at coordinating research activities and policies






Example of specific call for proposals to be funded under the FP7 Cooperation Space priority


SPA.2007.1.1.02 Developing pre-operational GMES pilot services in new application

Fields A: Atmospheric composition and dynamics monitoring


The proposed project should demonstrate a suitable structure at European level for implementation of a core service, its sustained operation and availability. Scenarios and developments of capabilities to deliver the following pre-operational services need to be targeted: