The European Union fully recognises its responsibility in the definition and promotion of important research activities, in particular by encouraging undertakings that include small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), research centres and universities. Priority is given to those areas and projects where European-level funding and co-operation are of particular importance.
Running from 2007 to 2013, the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7) brings the major research-related EU initiatives together under a single comprehensive programme, playing a crucial role in reaching the Union's goals defined in the Lisbon agenda of growth, competitiveness and employment. It is a key pillar for the European Research Area (ERA), along with a new Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), education and training programmes, and structural and cohesion funds for regional convergence and competitiveness.
The objectives of FP7 have been grouped into four broad categories:
For each objective, there is a specific programme corresponding to the main areas of EU research. All specific programmes work together to promote and encourage the creation of European poles of scientific and technological excellence.
Non-nuclear research activities of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) are grouped under a specific programme with individual budget allocation.
GNSS research under FP7
To ensure optimal exploitation of results, GALILEO research and development activities under FP7 are managed by the GSA, based on some important underlying principles. First, these activities should build upon work carried out under previous research programmes, especially the GALILEO development programme FP5, FP6 and ESA's GALILEOSat in order to fill remaining gaps and move towards strategic objectives.
Second, FP7 GNSS R&D should create real benefits for its stakeholders. The return on public investment will be assessed on the basis of these benefits, which includes overall economic value, strongly correlated with time-to-market of project outputs.
Also, FP7 should correctly position research activities within the innovation chain. One natural field of investment for FP7 is the setting up of public enablers of GALILEO/EGNOS service adoption. This will include the certification of systems and applications, standardisation of system elements, especially regarding user segment technologies, and development of security-related elements.
Another natural field of investment is the preparation of system evolution, laying the groundwork for mission definition and system requirement updating, based on the timing of system renewal, user demand evolution and cost efficiency.
FP7 will support the development of applications of wide public interest that will improve the quality or the efficiency of public services across the EU or that could become relevant instruments for the implementation of EU policies. It will also support the development of other GNSS applications, taking into account:
- Expected impact in terms of market penetration and economic value
- Funding of high-potential and high-risk applications less likely to attract private investment
- Adequate balance of risks within the FP7 project portfolio.
Finally, within the scope of FP7, the GSA aims to create new tools such as networking, global visibility and support the engagement of SMEs willing to invest in GNSS.
To reach these objectives, the GSA will coordinate its activities with European Space Agency (ESA) research and development programs, not only to avoid averlaps but also to optimize the overall outcomes of the programs from the two agencies.
GNSS research activites will take into account other EC activities with potential synergies in terms of applications and systems, including, for example, the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) and EU satellite telecommunications programmes. Ongoing coordination with other EC programmes managed by DG RTD, DG INFSO and DF TREN will also be maintained.
Research activities under the first call will be carried out within the programmatic context of progressive introduction of EGNOS operations and completion of the GALILEO In-Orbit Validation (IOV) :
- The EGNOS Initial Operation Phase (IOP) is ongoing, already providing Open Service (OS) signals to users with demonstrated performance.
- GALILEO IOV activities will include the launch and in-orbit validation of four satellites, together with the relevant ground segment infrastructure. The GALILEO IOV phase C/D/E1 activities will be completed by 2010.
- The first experimental satellite, Giove A, was successfully launched in December 2005, with the main objective of securing the assigned RNSS frequency spectra for use by GALILEO. It is now operating according to plans.
- The launch of Giove B, which will include two new atomic clock prototypes, is currently intended for the end of 2007.
Because of the global scope of GALILEO and EGNOS, international partners have been involved in the process, mainly in the development of applications and in the evolution of the mission.
Support for SMEs
SMEs play an important role in the innovation processes by developing new visions, focussing research efforts and converting research results efficiently and quickly into business assets.
The GNSS research programme will provide specific opportunities for SMEs to finance early-stage research and prototype development, to establish strategic partnerships and to extend their ‘business perimeters' by pushing operations outside local markets.The priorities and objectives of the GNSS work programme will thus take into account the special needs of SMEs which will form an important part of the GNSS research community, together with bigger industrial players, national institutions, universities and public research entities.