In the 21st century, economic and social development will become increasingly knowledge based, putting ever growing demand on our research abilities. Society is growing more and more dependent on the results of scientific and technological development. New products, new processes and new technologies will be essential to maintain economic growth, competitiveness and employment.
Major EU policies in fields such as the environment, transport, including sustainable mobility and road safety, and consumer protection - from food safety to counterfeit goods - also all need support from scientific and technological development.
The main targets of the Competitive and Sustainable Growth Programme are:
- to produce, disseminate and use the knowledge and technologies needed to design and develop processes and produce high quality, environment- and consumer-friendly products which will be competitive on tomorrow's market;
- to help increase economic growth, maintain and/or create new jobs in Europe;
- to sustain the continuing innovation and modernisation efforts of manufacturing, processing and services enterprises (including SMEs) so as to improve their competitiveness; and
- to support the development and implementation of Community policies that enable competitive and sustainable development.
This goes hand in hand with the development of related services, including transport, which are economic, safe and protective of the environment and quality of life as well as with the development of quality materials, reliable measurement and testing methods and the optimal use of specific research infrastructures.
Competitiveness and sustainability require a 'systems approach' in which research activities support the development of coherent, interconnected and eco-efficient industrial and social systems, responding to both market and social needs.
The Programme is structured in three main interconnected elements:
- A set of four Key Actions, helping to develop critical technologies, concepts and policies to solve clearly identified problems. The four key actions are: 'Innovative products, processes and organisation'; 'Sustainable mobility and intermodality'; 'Land transport and marine technologies'; and ' New perspectives in aeronautics'.
- Research and technological development activities of a generic nature with potential multi-sectoral applications, helping to develop the scientific and technological base in a limited number of critical areas, such as new materials, their production and transformation, and measurements and testing.
- Support for research infrastructures, which will stimulate infrastructure operators to co-operate and pool resources among themselves, as well as with users of the infrastructure. In addition it will help to provide a relevant networked environment in the fields covered by the programme.
RTD activities supported under the Growth programme include:
- Shared-cost actions (financial participation between 35 % and 75 % of total eligible costs);
- Training fellowships (financial participation up to 100 % of additional eligible costs);
- Research training and thematic networks (financial participation up to 100 % of eligible costs);
- Concerted actions (financial participation up to 100 % of eligible costs); and
- Accompanying measures (financial participation up to 100 % of eligible costs).
Total funding of the four key actions, the three generic research branches, and the support for research infrastructures in the GROWTH programme amount to 2.705 billion Euro.
Supporting the research needs of small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) and encouraging their participation in research is a priority for the European Commission. Two mechanisms to encourage such participation in the programme have been Co-operative Research (CRAFT) Awards and Exploratory Awards, where 50 % and 75 %, respectively, have been financed by the EC. Simplified SME access has been organised through a single entry point at the Commission for project proposals, a dedicated SME info desk and an information pack.
The GROWTH programme features a couple of particular highlights from the below mentioned research themes, such as:
- Galileo, the next-generation global satellite navigation system;
- 'When the earth moves', a campaign dealing with shock-resistant constructions;
- PRODIS thematic network on the future of European ships;
- AFAS and MA-AFAS projects, intending to set Air Traffic Management standards and to validate an advanced Airborne Separation Assurance System;
- ART, MPFLOW and LCB Polyolefins projects, producing an advanced tool for the prediction of structure-property relations in complex polymer systems;
- SAFERELNET thematic network to improve the coherence of safety and reliability considerations in the design of products, production facilities, industrial systems and structures.
The following research themes have been covered: innovative products, processes and organisation; sustainable mobility and intermodality; land transport and marine technologies; new perspectives in aeronautics; new materials and production technologies; new and improved materials and production technologies in the steel field; measurements and testing; support for research infrastructures; and cross-disciplinary projects.