EU Framework Programme

The Framework Programme is the EU’s main way of funding collaborative, research and development across different countries.

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For information on European support for research and development, and innovation, see the Innovate UK support page section for Horizon 2020. Further information on Horizon 2020 can be found on the European Commission’s website.

The Framework Programme (FP)

The Framework Programme (FP) is the EU’s primary funding mechanism for supporting collaborative, transnational research and development. The current programme (FP7) will run from 2007 to 2013 with an EU budget of some €50.5 billion. Its primary aims are to:

  • strengthen the EU’s science and technology base
  • improve the EU’s competitiveness
  • support policy development in the EU

Evaluation of FP7

In November 2010, the Commission published the report of the Expert Group on the Interim Evaluation of FP7. The report’s conclusions and recommendations will influence the remainder of FP7 and is a key document in shaping the successor programme.

European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research (COST)

FP7 also supports COST (European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research), an inter-governmental framework for the coordination and networking of existing research activities.

The current 230 COST actions cover all areas of FP7, but arise from ‘bottom-up’ proposals from scientists. COST Actions particularly aim to help integrate early-career researchers into their fields by training and exchanges (missions), and it also has a focus on interdisciplinary research.

International Science and Innovation Unit (ISIU)

The work of ISIU includes:

  • analysis of FP7 participation data
  • representation of UK interests on the FP7 Cooperation Committee (and on ‘SME’, ‘Regions of Knowledge’ and ‘Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities’ committees)
  • work with stakeholders to improve business participation in FP7
  • co-ordination of the National Contact Point (NCP) network
  • representation of UK interests on the COST Committee of Senior Officials (CSO)

ISIU also seeks to influence the debate on the legal status of COST.

ISIU’s role also covers development of the successor to FP7, which will run from 2014. ISIU ran a public Call for Evidence on the successor to FP7 from October 2010 to January 2011, the responses to which are being used to inform the UK’s position.

In February 2011, the European Commission published a green paper on the future of EU funding for research and innovation. This outlined a ‘Common Strategic Framework’ bringing together different EU instruments for funding research and innovation, including the Framework Programme, the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

FP7 implementation

FP7 is largely delivered through 4 specific programmes plus a fifth specific programme on nuclear research (EURATOM).


The largest part of FP7, cooperation funds research activities involving work across different countries in 10 areas:

  • health
  • food, agriculture and fisheries, 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


This was a new element introduced in FP7 where funding is given to investigator-driven research projects across all fields, carried out by individual teams in European competition and managed by a European Research Council (ERC). Projects are evaluated solely on the basis of excellence, as judged by peer review.

The ERC is run separately from the Commission, consisting of a Scientific Council (to plan scientific strategy, establish the work programme, quality control and information activities) and an implementing executive agency (dealing with administration, support for applicants, proposal eligibility, grant management and practical organisation).

The Scientific Council consists of representatives of the European science community at the highest level, who act in their personal capacity, independent of political or other interests.


Providing support through ‘Marie Curie’ actions aimed at the mobility of researchers. The budget is greater than previous Framework Programmes and more emphasis is given to industry academic transfers.


Key aspects of European research and innovation capacities in the following areas:

  • infrastructures - continuation of successful past activities with support for new infrastructure based on the work of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) over the past 3 years
  • science and society - with a view to building an open, effective and democratic European knowledge-based society this strand encourages pan-European reflection and debate on science and technology and their relationship with the whole spectrum of society and culture
  • regions of knowledge and research potential - though still requiring excellence these schemes are aimed at helping to involve ‘regional research driven clusters’ in FP7 and to help excellent researchers in convergence regions to achieve higher visibility by participation in collaborative projects
  • international cooperation - building the capacity of selected third countries and providing opportunities to take part in research not covered under the cooperation specific programme
  • co-ordination of national programmes and international cooperation - these activities are largely integrated into the main thematic priorities but some horizontal support actions and measures with a focus other than a specific thematic or interdisciplinary area are implemented here


The European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) adopts a separate Framework Programme for nuclear research and training activities. The Euratom budget for the 5 year period 2007-2011 is €2.8 billion, and funds 3 specific programmes:

  • fusion energy research (including ITER)
  • nuclear fission and radiation protection
  • the activities of the Joint Research Centre in the field of nuclear energy

The Joint Research Centre (JRC)

The EU Joint Research Centre is charged with research to support European policy. It is particularly active in the nuclear field, but also has an important role in most policy areas, particularly metrology, materials and prospective and technical studies.

For these it has budgets of €517,000 from Euratom (2007-11) and €1.75 million from FP7 (2007-13). General information about the JRC can be found on the JRC website.

JRC does not operate formal calls, but there are opportunities for institutions to collaborate with JRC or join consortia led by JRC; JRC directly recruits and seconds scientists; full details can be found on the JRC website.

Novel instruments supported by the Framework Programme

Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs)

These combine private sector investment with national and European public funding, including grant funding form the Framework Programme and loan finance from the European Investment Bank.

They fund R&D into industry-oriented topics such as large-scale ‘platform technologies’ that typically don’t fit well into FP7 cooperation Work Programmes 5 potential JTIs were identified during the negotiations on FP7:

  • innovative medicines (IMI)
  • embedded computing systems (ARTEMIS)
  • aeronautics and air transport (Clean Sky)
  • nanoelectronics (ENIAC)
  • fuel cells and hydrogen (FCH)

All 5 were launched early in the lifetime of FP7 and all had been granted their autonomy by the end of 2010, making them operationally independent of the Commission. The first interim reviews have been or will soon be published for all 5.

European Technology Platforms (ETPs) have been set up in areas where Europe’s competitiveness, economic growth and welfare depend on important research and technological progress in the medium to long term.

They bring together stakeholders, under industrial leadership, to define and implement a strategic research agenda. The ETPs contributed to the definition of the themes of the cooperation programme, in particular in research areas of special industrial relevance.

Article 185 (ex169) initiatives are mechanisms established by member states to carry out transnational collaborative R&D that the EU participates in and contributes financially to.

The feature that distinguishes A185s from mechanisms such as JTIs is that the proposal for an initiative comes from the member states and seeks to integrate national programmes.

The underlying idea is to provide open, flexible support for proposals making an effective contribution to closer coordination of the research activities conducted within different frameworks in Europe. There are currently 5 Article 185 initiatives:

  • Eurostars for projects in support of research-performing SMEs
  • Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) , for projects that use ICT to enhance the quality of life of older people
  • European Metrology Research Programme (EMRP) that will ensure collaboration between National Measurement Institutes, reducing duplication and increasing impact
  • The European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) aims to accelerate the development of new or improved drugs, vaccines and microbicides against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis
  • Baltic Sea Research (BONUS) will integrate the national research programmes and activities of the 8 Baltic Sea States into a single joint research programme, mainly focused on environmental research

UK Performance in the Framework Programme

The UK is a strong player in FP. Only Germany has a greater level of involvement in successful projects in terms of funding awarded. Recent Commission data which contains information and data relevant to a total of 50,366 participants in 9,073 signed grant agreements, indicates the UK received the second largest share of funding, €2.282 million, equivalent to 14.4% of all the total FP7 funding.

The UK is involved in more successful projects than either France or Germany, 41% of all grant agreements in FP7 to date. UK academia accounts for 60.3% of all UK participations and 9.7% of all FP7 funding, and UK private and commercial organisations increased to 23.8% of UK participations and SMEs accounted for 16.5% of all UK participations and 14% of all funding.

Total for specific programmes

Country No. of participants No. of participants Requested EC contribution (€m) Requested EC contribution (€m) % of total requested EC contribution % of total requested EC contribution
- FP7 FP6 FP7 FP6 FP7 FP6
UK 6,118 8,791 2,282 2,369 14.4 14.2
Germany 6,792 10,430 2,611 3,022 16.5 18.1
France 4,937 7,911 1,918 2,173 12.1 13.1
All countries 50,366 74,440 15,090 16,665 - -

Support services for FP participants

BIS, through the Technology Strategy Board, funds a support service for UK-based organisations interested in exploiting the opportunities provided by FP7, including:

  • a website
  • a helpline
  • a network of National Contact Points (NCPs) who provide free advice on understanding the opportunity, programme rules and regulations, partnering advice and how to avoid pitfalls. Full details can be found on the FP7UK Community Network page of the Open Innovation website.

The Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) also provides information and advice on CIP, as well as help with finding new business partners and suppliers in Europe and beyond.

Who can apply

FP7 is open to:

  • universities
  • research centres
  • multinational corporations
  • SMEs
  • public administrations
  • individuals from anywhere in the world

Different participation rules apply depending on the research initiative in question.

The maximum reimbursement rates to the costs of a project depend on the funding scheme, legal status of the participants and type of activity. The standard reimbursement rate for research and technological development activities is 50%.

Certain legal entities can receive up to 75% (non-profit public bodies, SMEs, research organisations, higher education establishments). For demonstration activities, the reimbursement rate may reach 50%.

For other activities (consortium management, networking, training, coordination, dissemination etc) the reimbursement can be up to 100% of the eligible costs. The 100% rate applies also to frontier research actions under the European Research Council.

Relevant publications

The FP7 Interim Evaluation (PDF, 775 Kb)

FP7 Interim Evaluation

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Details and downloads for the FP7 programme on the European Commission’s website.

Published 12 December 2012