University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


EU research networks fall apart

The European court of auditors criticises European Union research funding projects, saying that »most research networks fall apart when EU funds dry up«

Sharp criticism of European Union research funding has been made in a report by the Court of Auditors, the the EU’s spending watchdog agency.

Their report questions the viability of research networks after EU funding stops, and criticises many of the administrative procedures of EU research funding writes education news site

The report is an evaluation of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), which introduced two new projects; ‘Networks of Excellence’ and ‘Integrated projects’.

Networks disintegrate

These projects, which ended in 2006, aimed to create lasting integration of EU research and sharpen the focus of pan-European research.

The two pan-European projects cost around EUR 17 billion, making them the single largest public source of research funding in Europe. They come under fire in the auditors’ report for failing to have clear objectives.

The Auditors’ most serious charge concerns the long-term viability of the research networks. It says that »most networks of excellence fall apart once EU funding dries up«.

Researchers, companies and institutions gladly cooperate while the EU funds keep flowing. However, the programme »failed to reach the ultimate goal of attracting additional public and private funding which would have stimulated a self-sustaining network«, the auditors write.

Several positive outcomes

Aside from failing to attract private funding, the networks were plagued with a number of other obstacles. One problem was the requirement that researchers should share intellectual property with other participants.

The report is not entirely negative.

It notes several positive outcomes from EU spending, saying new knowledge was created and shared and the quality of work carried out by scientists was generally high.

No easy task

A survey published alongside the report shows that participants in the networks were generally satisfied with the results of the work funded through the EU programme.

The European Commission has defended the scheme, saying that it considers FP6 to have been properly planned, monitored and evaluated.

In a somewhat terse response published with the report, the Commission also insists that its work »has always been based on a sound intervention logic« and points out that juggling the desire for a speedy disbursement of funds with the need for accountability is no easy task.