Specific programme “Capacities”

This specific programme aims to reinforce research infrastructure in Europe. The various measures are intended to bring together SMEs, the regions, civil society and third countries in the scientific community, and to reinforce the research potential of the various players and coherence between policies. The document presents the specific programme in a detailed manner (specific objectives, features, approaches, spheres of activity, etc).


Council Decision 2006/974/EC of 19 December 2006 on the Specific Programme: capacities implementing the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities (2007 to 2013).


Continuing previous action, the "Capacities" programme aims in the main to create new research and innovation infrastructures across Europe.

To this end, the programme calls for a strategic approach in two phases: a preparatory phase and a construction phase. This approach concerns the following areas:

The budget required for executing this specific programme is estimated at EUR 4 097 million for the period from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2013.


All of the financial resources mobilised by the programme correspond to specific aims in each area:

It is worth noting that the 7th Framework Programme, including the various specific programmes and the research activities they give rise to, should respect fundamental ethical principles and give consideration to social, legal, socio-economic, cultural and gender equality aspects.


For each of the themes touched on by the programme, the following are defined:

Research infrastructures

The specific programme aims to optimise the use and development of European research infrastructures * and to support their creation or modernisation. Support measures could also be proposed in order to respond to possible needs arising at a later date. More generally, it is a question of reinforcing the technological know-how of Europe to benefit a more competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy.

The measures relating to research infrastructures (which may already exist or have been newly created) and the emergence of new needs involve:

The budget allocated to this field of research will amount to EUR 1 715 million.

Research benefiting SMEs

To allow SMEs and SME associations to use advances made in research to benefit their growth, their know-how and their innovation capacity, two special schemes are planned:

These projects will receive funding of EUR 1 336 million.

Regions of knowledge

Strengthening the research potential of European regions is the prime objective pursued here by the specific programme. To do this, support will be concentrated throughout Europe on the development of "regional clusters", bringing together regional authorities, universities, research centres, businesses and other stakeholders. Better coordination between regional policy and research policies is one of the priorities of the programme.

The different projects in this section concern the following activities:

The budget allocated to the regions of knowledge will be EUR 126 million.

Research potential

The programme's impact should centre around the European Union’s convergence and outermost regions to enable them to benefit fully from their research potential. This should, in the long term, stimulate the research potential (reinforcing knowledge, developing new skills, increasing visibility) of the enlarged Union.

In terms of specific activities, the focus will be on encouraging strategic partnerships, including twinning, between research groups from these regions (from both the public and private sectors) with prominent research groups elsewhere in Europe. These partnerships and twinning schemes will allow research groups in the least advanced regions, selected on the basis of their quality and potential, to benefit from:

EUR 340 million funding will be dedicated to the development of research potential.

Science in society

Building an effective and democratic knowledge-based European society inevitably entails the integration of the scientific dimension into the European social fabric.

Despite being the driving force behind innovation and therefore growth, well-being and sustainable development, scientific research remains, generally speaking, badly integrated within society. Several causes for this can be identified:

Further ambiguities arise from the increasing desire to undertake more research to address major social challenges (diseases, pollution, epidemics, unemployment, climate change, ageing of the population, etc.) and from a growing feeling of distrust regarding the possible misuses of science.

The danger of an increasing scientific divide in our societies therefore makes it essential to:

Implementing this aspect will follow three general strands:

In terms of the European science system, three aspects are on the agenda:

In anticipating and resolving political, ethical and social problems, two aspects come into play:

To improve understanding of the place of science and technology in society, the programme advocates the formation of specialised university networks. These would have the task of demonstrating the actual role of science in building a European society and identity. To this end, several elements should be highlighted:

Regarding the evolving role of universities, emphasis will be placed on:

Furthermore, programmes will be put in place to reinforce the role of women and the gender dimension within scientific research.

Equally, youth-based activities will be centred around:

On matters of scientific communication, efforts will focus on the following aspects:

The budget allocated to this topic will be EUR 330 million.

International cooperation

To develop an international policy of the first order for science and technology, the EU intends to:

Cooperation with third countries will mainly involve the candidate countries, the Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPC), the Western Balkan countries (WBC), the countries of Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus (EECAC), developing countries and emerging economies.

This cooperation will entail:

A budget of EUR 180 million will be dedicated to activities in the field of international cooperation.

Coherence of research policies

In addition to enhancing the efficiency and coherence of national and community research policies, the EU aims to:

To do this, two lines of action will be adopted:

These activities will receive EUR 70 million funding from the programme.


Since 1984, the EU has been following a technology research and development policy based on multi-annual framework programmes. The Seventh Framework Programme is the second since the launching of the Lisbon strategy in 2000. Its role is vital in relation to growth and employment in Europe over the coming years.

Key terms in the act



Entry into force and expiry date

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Decision 2006/974/EC

1.1.2007 – 31.12.2013


OJ L 400 of 30.12.2006


Communication from the Commission of 29 April 2009 to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the progress made under the Seventh European Framework Programme for [COM(2009) 209 – Not published in the Official Journal].

All actions under the “Capacities” programme are in heavy demand, notably those supporting research for SMEs and SME associations. The realisation of 44 priority infrastructure projects of strategic European interest identified by the 'European Strategic Forum on Research Infrastructures' (ESFRI) are limited by a lack of Community and national resources. However, the adoption of a new legal framework for European research infrastructures in 2009 should provide a further boost and financial planning security integrating other financial instruments (EIB, Structural Funds).

The "Research potential" and "Regions of knowledge" activities which bring together scientific capacity between regions have not produced the expected results (particularly in convergence regions), as they also suffer from a lack of resources. A more efficient, targeted use of Structural Funds would raise the level of scientific and technological excellence in the EU.

The new financial system is more encouraging towards the creation of a partnership between research and society.

Decision N° 743/2008/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 July 2008 on the Community’s participation in a research and development programme undertaken by several Member States aimed at supporting research and development performing small and medium-sized enterprises [Official Journal L 201 of 30.7.2008]. The Eurostars programme supports research and development (R&D) performing SMEs. This programme is founded on Article 169 of the EC Treaty concerning the participation of the Community in the R&D programme implemented jointly by several Member States. Eurostars is aimed at aligning and synchronising national research and innovation programmes to establish an integrated joint programme in scientific, management and financial fields and to contribute towards the realisation of the European Research Area.

Eurostars is a joint programme between Eureka and the Seventh Framework Programme for technological research and development (Capacities).

It is co-funded by Member States, the other participating countries and the Community. The Community financial contribution will be EUR 100 million, whilst the 22 Member States of the EU and the 5 countries associated to the 7th FPRD will jointly provide an additional EUR 300 million. Private funding will reach EUR 400 million. The total amount for European SMEs that are active in the field of research will therefore be EUR 800 million over six years.

Last updated: 30.05.2010