The European Union annual budget for funded research was increased to EU 5.3 billion when the 7th Framework Program (FP7) was launched in 2006, which represents a 41% increase on the previous program (at 2004 prices). This represents 4.3% of the EU Commission’s spending commitments. This budget is projected to increase to over EU 10 billion by 2012.
FP7 allocates EU 32.4 billion to the “Cooperation Programme”, which supports all types of research activities carried out by different research bodies in trans-national cooperation and aims to gain or consolidate leadership in key scientific and technology areas. The budget is devoted to supporting cooperation between universities, industry, research centres and public authorities throughout the EU and beyond. The key areas for research funding within the Cooperation Programme are:
Aside from a string of minor changes in the FP7 rules of participation, we take this opportunity to draw attention to one change that benefits universities in particular and is at risk of going unnoticed.
Under the previous (FP6) rules, access rights for use of the results of a project were royalty-free unless otherwise agreed before signature. Under FP7 the rule (Regulation (EC) No 1906/2006, Article 50) is that access rights for use of foreground, as well as essential background, can be granted under fair and reasonable conditions (or indeed royalty-free), but there is no time limit for agreement on terms. This change is brought in because some participants, especially universities, may not have the possibility to exploit their results commercially. So greater flexibility has been introduced for negotiating licensing terms.
Provided Universities do not sign away these access rights at the time of entering into an FP7 agreement, there is an opportunity for a revenue stream from foreground and background. It is all the more important that background is protected before entering into the project, and universities may seek to enter projects in which protected background can be developed.
REGULATION (EC) No 1906/2006 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 18 December 2006 laying down the rules for the participation of undertakings, research centres and universities in actions under the Seventh Framework Programme and for the dissemination of research results (2007-2013) can be downloaded here.
European Research Portal: www.ec.europa.eu/research.
General information on the Seventh EU Research Framework Programmes: www.ec.europa.eu/research/fp7.
Specific information on research programmes, projects and FP7 Call documents: www.cordis.europa.eu/fp7.
 Agriculture EU 52.6bn, Structural actions EU 44.6bn, External actions EU 5.6bn, Preaccession aid EU 3.6bn, Administration EU 6.5bn and Other policies EU5.6 bn.