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Historical timeline of the Framework Programme

Since the foundation of the European Community in 1957[1] the idea to support research and innovation on a European scale has always been central and at this purpose the so-called Framework Programme was developed as main research-related policy instrument in the European Union. European Institutions agreed to dedicate financial resources to this new policy instrument; over the years the budget increased and thematic priorities as well as financial support and intervention modalities have been adapted to the emerging EU’s needs.

With the final objective of defining and implementing an overall development, research and demonstration strategy at Community level, the European Commission established the First Framework Programme covering three years from 1984 to 1987. The total budget dedicated to the Programme was € 3.75 billion that was split according to 7 scientific and technical objectives: 

  • 47.2% improvement of the management of energy resources;
  • 28.2% promotion of industrial competitiveness;
  • 10.3% improvement of living and working conditions;
  • the remaining financial resources were dedicated to the promotion of the agricultural competitiveness (3.5%), the improvement of raw materials management (2.1%), stepping up development aid (4.0%) and improving the effectiveness of the Community’s scientific and technical potential (2.3%). 

In 1986 the Single European Act[2](SEA) was approved with the objective of "strengthening the scientific and technological basis of European industry and encouraging it to become more competitive at international level"[3]. The SEA introduced a new criterion to the Second Framework Programme (from 1987 to 1991): the Community’s social and economic cohesion. The total budget was € 5.4 billion to be dedicated to the following objectives: 

  • A larger market and information and communication society (42.2%);
  • Energy (21%);
  • Modernization of the industrial sectors (15.7%);
  • And other such as, among others, the quality of life and the improvement of the European S&T cooperation (5.3 %). 

The Third Framework Programme (from 1990 to 1994), with a total budget of € 6.6 billion, had the main objective of strengthening the scientific and technological basis of the European industry. Moreover the Third FP aimed at encouraging European industries’ competitiveness on a global scale by supporting enterprises, research centers and universities in their research and development activities. The most innovative feature of the FP3 was CRAFT- a new scheme for SMEs with limited or no research resources. 

The following Fourth Framework Programme, run from 1994 to 1998 with a doubled budget compared to the previous FP3 (€13.100 billion). Some major changes have been introduced, in addition to the existing research fields (Information and Communication technologies, Industrial technologies, Environment, Life Sciences and Technologies, Energy, Transport and Targeted Socio-Economic Research). In addition three horizontal programmes had been implemented: the promotion of RTD cooperation with third countries and international organizations – INCO; dissemination and optimization of results and training and mobility of researchers. By stimulating the mobility of researchers and the creation of European research networks, Europe intended to provide researchers with knowledge-sharing opportunities across disciplines and across countries to prepare them to tackle future challenges. Additionally these activities represented a tool to extend the excellence of the European research on a global scale and maximize the potential of the research system. 

With a total budget of €14.960 billion, the Fifth Framework Programme (1998 – 2002) represented a break from the past as it was conceived to respond to major socio-economic challenges in a way that previous programmes has not. It focused on three main criteria: Social objectives; Economic development and S&T prospects and European added value. To maximize its impact the FP5 only concentrated on four thematic programmes (Quality of life and management of living resources, User friendly information society, Competitive and sustainable growth; Energy, Environment and sustainable development) and three horizontal programmes (Confirming the international role of Community research; Promotion of innovation and encouragement of participation of SMEs; Improving human research potential and the socio-economic knowledge base). The most innovative feature of the 5th Framework Programme was the concept of “Key actions” defined as a cluster of projects ranging from scientific to technological disciplines addressing a specific problem. 

The Sixth Framework Programme (2002 - 2006), with a total budget of €17.5 billion, had as main objective the contribution to the creation of a European Research Area (ERA) by improving, integrating and coordinating research in Europe which was highly fragmented at that time. FP6 was divided in three main blocks of activities: Focusing and Integrating European Research; Structuring the ERA and Strengthening the Foundations of ERA. The 6th Framework Programme has been characterized by the introduction of two new instruments: integrated projects and networks of excellence. The first instrument was composed by projects aimed at bringing together a critical mass of resources focused on specific objectives to increase Europe’s competitiveness and address major societal needs. The second one aimed at integrating the critical mass of resources and expertise at a European level by connecting partners around a joint programme of activities. 

The Seventh Framework Programme (2007 – 2013) with a total budget of over € 50 billion represents a substantial increase compared to the previous Framework Programme. FP7 has been implemented to meet Europe’s needs in terms of jobs and competitiveness and maintain leadership in the global knowledge economy. FP7 has been structured through 5 main blocks: Cooperation; Ideas; People; Capacities and Nuclear Research. The Ideas programme was particularly innovative as its main objective was to reinforce excellence, dynamism and creativity across all fields of European research by supporting blue sky research and attracting the most talented scientists. One key aspect of FP7 was the transnationality of many actions: activities had to be carried out by consortia including participants from different Members States or Associated Countries. 

Since the 1st of January 2014 a new Framework Programme has been introduced: Horizon 2020. It will run until the end of 2020 and is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme with a total budget of nearly 80 billion euros of funding available.




[1]The Treaty of Rome was signed on the 25th of March 1957 by Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and Netherlands and it officially established the European Economic Community

[2] The Single European Act was approved in 1986 and came into force in 1987. It has been the first major reform of the Treaty of Rome signed in 1957

[3] Article 130F of the EEC Treaty