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The Framework Programmes for Research have two main strategic objectives: one is to strengthen the scientific and technological base of the European industry and the second is to encourage its international competitiveness, while promoting research that supports EU policies.

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The complete name of FP7 is the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. It spans seven years from 2007 through 2013. This programme is a reflection of the high priority of research in Europe.

Most of the funds will be spent on grants to research actors all over Europe and beyond, in order to co-finance research, technological development and demonstration projects. Grants are determined on the basis of calls for proposals and a peer review process, which are highly competitive.

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In order to complement national research programmes, activities funded from FP7 must have a “European added value”. One key aspect of the European added value is the transnationality of many actions: research projects are carried out by consortia which include participants from different European (and other) countries; fellowships in FP7 require mobility over national borders. Indeed, many research challenges (e.g. fusion research, etc), are so complex that they can only be addressed at European level.

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FP7 is open to support a wide range of participants, from universities, through public authorities to small enterprises and researchers in developing countries.

Potential participants can come from:

  • Private companies – such as small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), private research institutes or other industrial participants.
  • Public organisations – for example, universities, regional authorities, public research organisations (PROs).
  • Individual researchers – from both public and private sectors.
  • Researchers and organisations from outside the European Union – whether from Candidate Countries, Associated States, International Cooperation Partner Countries (developing countries, emerging economies or industrial nations).
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The "coordinator" has a very specific role amongst the participants in a given project. It has to "monitor the compliance by participants (or beneficiaries) with their obligations under the grant agreement, which includes the participants' obligations regarding IPR, dissemination and use issues."

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FP7 is the natural successor of the FP6. The new FP7 was established after consultation with the research communities from both public and private sectors, economic actors and with decision takers in the European Union. FP7 is both larger and more comprehensive than its predecessors. It is also more flexible and with simplified procedures. For detailed information on the previous FP6 programme, please click here.

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The duration of FP7 is longer than FP6 and it has a much larger budget. It also has a different structure, introduces the European Research Council to oversee the funding of basic research, and includes the new Joint Technology Initiatives (JTI) funding instrument. Another change is that the international dimension is integrated into the various programmes of FP7. The duration of the Framework Programme has been extended from four to seven years; FP7 runs from 2007 to 2013, while FP6 ran from 2002 to 2006. The overall budget has increased significantly for FP7.

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As a general principle, FP7 is open to participants from any country in the world. However, the procedures for participation and funding possibilities vary for different groups of countries:

  • EU Member States;
  • Associated countries (e.g. Israel, Iceland, Switzerland);
  • Candidate countries;
  • Third countries.

For further information, please click here.

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International Cooperation Partner Countries (ICPC) (e.g. Russia and other Eastern European and Central Asian states, developing countries, Mediterranean partner countries, Western Balkans countries) may participate in the FP7. Participants from these countries are entitled to receive funding under the same conditions as the EU Member States. The one additional requirement for the projects including ICPCs is that the determined number of participants from the EU Member States or from the Associated Countries must be included. Participation from industrialised high-income countries is also possible on a self-financing basis, with EU funding granted only in exceptional cases.

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FP7 is in particular complemented with the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP), which is designed to bring successful Research and Technology Development (RTD) proposals to market.

For further information on CIP, please click here.

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You should look at the case studies and results on the CORDIS website where you will find success stories on the FP7 and earlier programmes.

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FP7 consists of four Specific Programmes:

  • Cooperation – concerns collaborative research in 10 priority areas. 
  • Ideas – European Research Council. 
  • People – Human Potential, Marie Curie Actions.
  • Capacities – research for the benefit of SMEs and specific activities of international cooperation.
  • A fifth specific programme under the Euratom Framework Programme concerns nuclear research. The non-nuclear research activities of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) are grouped under a specific programme.
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The core of FP7, representing two thirds of the overall budget, is the Cooperation  programme. It fosters collaborative research across Europe and other partner countries through projects by transnational consortia of industry and academia.

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The 10 Thematic Priorities within the Cooperation Programme are:

  • Health
  • Food, agriculture and fisheries, and biotechnology
  • Information and communication technologies
  • Nanosciences, nanotechnologies, materials and new production technologies
  • Energy
  • Environment (including climate change)
  • Transport (including aeronautics)
  • Socio-economic sciences and the humanities
  • Space
  • Security

 For further information, please click here.

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The People Programme contains 12 types of “Actions”. The most interesting to companies are Marie Curie Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways (IAPPs), partnerships between the public or non-commercial sector (including universities, research institutes, NGOs) and the private, commercial research sector (including SMEs, manufacturing and other industries), based on common research. However, Marie Curie Initial Training Networks (ITNs), aimed at the initial training of researchers, may also be of interest to the industry; initial training is offered to researchers through this action in order to improve their research and complementary skills, help them join established research teams, and enhance their career prospects in both the public and private sectors.

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The Capacities programme strengthens the research capacities that Europe needs if it is to become a thriving knowledge-based economy. It covers among others research for the benefit of SMEs and specific activities of international cooperation.

For further information, please click here.

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The term "Intellectual Property Rights" refers to the legal rights granted with the aim to protect the creations of the intellect. These rights include Industrial Property Rights (e.g. patents, industrial designs and trademarks) and Copyright (right of the author or creator) and Related Rights (rights of the performers, producers and broadcasting organisations).

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Participants are strongly encouraged to consider and tackle IPR issues as soon as possible during the preparation of their project and to negotiate any relevant questions with the other participants before starting the project. Indeed, IPR issues can affect both the way a project is conducted, and the exploitation of results after the end of a project. Moreover, certain provisions foresee a default regime if no alternative agreement has been reached.

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FP7 was adopted by the European Union (EU) with clear objectives, in particular to strengthen industrial competitiveness and to meet the research needs of other EU policies. It is therefore natural that the EU shaped this funding programme with regulations, some concerning IP, aimed at better achieving those goals. Hence, participants should be familiar with the specific IP rules related to the programme in question. It is of particular importance in terms of IP to consider the following documents:

  • the Rules for Participation, for the general legal framework;
  • the Model Grant Agreement concerning the specific programme (by reading this document, in particular Annex II, applicants may anticipate the specific IP rules they would have to comply with in case the proposal is accepted);
  • the call fiche (to verify whether there is any special clause to be included in the Model Grant Agreement related to IP);
  • the Guides for Applicants applicable to the specific call which may help to identify the concrete evaluation criteria that may require the consideration of IP related matters;
  • Guide to Intellectual Property Rules for FP7 Projects, which explains important aspects that participants may encounter when they are preparing and participating.
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The basic regulation of issues related to intellectual property (IP) rights in a project funded under FP7 is established in the Rules for participation and, more specifically, in the Grant Agreement (essentially, Annex II), which participants conclude with the Commission in order to carry out the project. Furthermore, participants may develop this basic regime in internal agreements, particularly in the Consortium Agreement. Note that the latter cannot contradict the Grant Agreement; it can only further detail it and integrate it.

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Most of the provisions can be found in Annex II, Part C, Section 1 and 2 of the Grant Agreement. However, for certain types of FP7 projects, more specific IPR provisions may be found in Annex III, such as the ones applicable to research actions for SMEs or for SME associations. In specific cases, "special clauses" may also be included in Article 7 of the core Grant Agreement with rules concerning IP. A list of all “special clauses” is available with the Model Grant Agreement.

Moreover, it is important to be aware that in addition to the standard Model Grant Agreement, separate models have been adopted for the parts of the 'Cooperation' (Space, Security), the 'Capacities' (Research for the benefit of SME's) and the 'People' (Marie Curie) Specific Programmes that are under REA responsibility, and for the 'Ideas' (European Research Council) Specific Programmes.

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Knowledge, a basic term of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), means the results, including information, whether or not they can be protected, as well as copyrights or rights pertaining to such information following applications for, or the issue of, patents, designs, plant varieties, supplementary protection certificates or similar forms of protection.

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Background is information and knowledge (including inventions, databases, etc.) held by the participants prior to their accession to the Grant Agreement, as well as any intellectual property rights which are needed for carrying out the project or for using foreground.

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Foreground means the results, including information, materials and knowledge, generated in a given project, whether or not they can be protected. It includes intellectual property rights (such as rights resulting from copyright protection, related rights, design rights, patent rights, plant variety rights, rights of creators of topographies of semiconductor products), similar forms of protections (e.g. sui generis right for databases) and unprotected know how (e.g. confidential material). 

Thus, foreground includes the tangible (e.g. prototypes, micro-organisms, source code and processed earth observation images) and intangible IP results of a project. Results generated outside a project (i.e. before, after or in parallel with a project) do not constitute foreground. Results generated in parallel with a project are often informally referred to as "sideground".

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In some cases the Grant Agreement foresees that third parties may carry out some work in the project, for example as subcontractors, affiliates or members of a joint research unit. Nevertheless, even in these situations third parties do not become participants.

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A department or university faculty can be a participant in a project if it is considered as a legal entity. Nevertheless, when a department or university faculty (with no legal entity status) participates in a project, the participant will be considered to be the legal entity to which the department or university faculty in question belongs, that is, the private company, university, institution or organization.

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Partners acting together under the implementation of the same project form a consortium. Consortium members conclude amongst themselves an agreement (consortium agreement) that allows them to determine detailed provisions necessary to carry out their project. It shall also include rules regarding the settlement of internal disputes between the consortium members. Depending on the arrangements of all consortium members, the jurisdiction chosen to settle disputes can be a national court or an alternative dispute resolution mechanism such as mediation or arbitration. If arbitration is chosen, the consortium agreement will have to determine some or all characteristics of the procedure to be followed. Partners themselves choose the competent jurisdiction for the conflicts arising under, out of or relating to the consortium agreement.

It is, furthermore, advisable to set rules regarding the settlement of internal disputes between potential participants already in the proposal phase. In the proposal phase potential project partners develop ideas for joint research activities and already at this stage certain disputes regarding Intellectual Property may arise. In order to be prepared for such eventuality it is recommended to conclude an agreement which defines the framework of the negotiations between applicants and determine competent jurisdiction in case of a dispute (e.g. a memorandum of understanding). Depending on the intentions of the potential project partners, the jurisdiction chosen to settle this kind of dispute can be a national court or an alternative dispute resolution mechanism such as mediation or arbitration.