European Commission's research commissioner on India's coaction with EU

The first India-European Union ministerial-level science conference took place on February 5, 2007, in New Delhi, signalling, for the first time, India's participation as an equal partner with the union in science and technology projects. The Union ministries of science and technology and earth sciences, the German ministry of education and research and the European Commission signed a joint communiqu to this effect. The European Commission's research commissioner Janez Potocnic spoke to Archita Bhatta on the thrust of the collaboration

By Archita Bhatta
Published: Saturday 31 March 2007

Down to Earth What will be the focus of joint research projects between India and the eu?
The meeting looked at improving co-operation between the eu and India in the area of science and technology. We agreed to prepare joint proposals in the future but still need to identify specific projects, though the climate change workshop organised a day later clearly shows one area of focus. Energy and health are other mutually advantageous areas that will be looked at.

What will be the nature of the cooperation in projects?
The collaboration will come under eu's recently launched Framework 7 programme that supports collaborative research all over the world. Under the programme, eu funds partners from industry, universities and small-scale enterprises on a project basis.In such partnerships, we provide about 50 per cent of the funding (more for small companies) with the rest being given by the partners.

The programme also supports 'frontier research'--research that challenges the frontiers of existing knowledge and generates new ideas.

What kind of role do you envisage for industry in these projects?
Industry has an important part to play in research, which in turn helps to increase industrial competitiveness. In Europe, there are currently more than 30 European technology platforms, which bring together all major players in a particular sector, say, construction or pharmaceuticals. They set out their common view of the industry in the future and identify research that is needed to get them there. These initiatives have been successful and we hope to build a similar platform to identify research needs under Framework 7.

How will you determine intellectual property sharing in research projects under the collaboration?
This will be defined by the partnership under individual projects. Partners will decide on how intellectual property sharing will be managed, keeping in mind eu rules.

Which sector will receive more attention--nuclear or renewable energy?
Framework 7 has a Euratom programme that looks into nuclear research and training. The Rs 15,675-crore programme includes research on fusion energy, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project, improving safety and waste management practices and other activities.

On the other hand, half the funds for energy (around Rs 6,000 crore) will be devoted to research into renewables as well as activities like carbon capture and storage, and the development of hydrogen and fuel cells.

Climate change occupies a very small part of Framework 7, in spite of the fact that EU leads the campaign against climate change. Why is this the case?
Activities to combat climate change will run through the programme. Environment, which includes climate change, has received Rs 10,451 crore under the programme.

Together with this, climate change will also be taken care of within other programmes, for instance, those for transport and energy. The transport sector will look at ways to reduce energy consumption. Materials and production procedures in the construction sector will also look at developing new materials that make houses more energy efficient, while the it sector will look at energy efficiency.

What will be the areas covered under climate change?
It is not possible to give figures in advance for research areas to be covered under each head like medical research and disaster management. These decisions are made on an annual basis, keeping in mind the research needs. Framework 7 needs to be flexible to address emerging research needs.

Will the EU work towards a consensus among its members on cutting emissions beyond the Kyoto Protocol deadline of 2012?
eu is committed to combating climate change through its research programmes and policies. We have started an emissions trading scheme, the first of its kind in the world. We will, of course, remain engaged in all international efforts to combat climate change.

Can EU push for trade barriers on countries that do not meet their emission caps?
There are many ideas being bounced around and we will consider each on its merits. It is important to remember that climate change is an issue that will ultimately affect all of us. So, it is best to work together now to see how to go about changing the situation, before it's too late for all of us. Let's stay focussed on that.

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