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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:

  • research infrastructures;
  • research to benefit SMEs;
  • regions of knowledge;
  • research potential;
  • science in society;
  • horizontal activities in the field of international cooperation.

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:

  • to optimise use and development of research infrastructures;
  • to reinforce SMEs' innovation capacities and their ability to benefit from research;
  • to promote and sustain development of regional groupings which depend on research;
  • to unlock research potential in the European Union’s convergence and outermost regions;
  • to bring science and society closer together;
  • to stimulate international cooperation;
  • to encourage coherence in research policy and synergies with other policies and Community programmes.

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:

  • a specific aim;
  • a suitable approach;
  • specific activities.

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:

  • promoting trans-national access to structures already in place;
  • improving coordination through integrated modernisation;
  • developing on-line infrastructure based on ICT;
  • supporting the design and creation of new infrastructures;
  • strengthening cooperation within Europe and internationally.

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:

  • one is designed to aid small business groups to resolve, in the short term, common or complementary technological problems;
  • the second should allow technical solutions to be found for problems common to a large number of SMEs on a longer-term basis (e.g. conformity to European norms or regulations in areas such as health, safety and environmental protection.)

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:

  • analysis, development and implementation of the research agendas of regional clusters (planning capacity and priorities for research and development);
  • “mentoring” of regions with a less developed research profile by highly developed ones, in particular by setting up trans-national regional consortia;
  • initiatives to improve integration of research actors and institutions in regional economies (e.g. trans-national activities organised within the framework of regional clusters);
  • measures aiming to promote the systematic exchange of information and interaction between similar projects (e.g. analysis and synthesis workshops, round tables, publications, etc.).

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:

  • exchanging knowledge and experience;
  • recruiting experienced researchers in charge of imparting knowledge and giving training;
  • acquiring and developing some research equipment;
  • organising workshops and conferences;
  • dissemination and promotion activities to maximise their visibility.

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:

  • insufficient public participation in the debate relating to the priorities and direction of scientific policy;
  • growing reservations with regard to certain scientific developments (lack of control, the questioning of fundamental values, etc.);
  • the perceived isolation of science from the everyday realities of economic and social life;
  • questioning the objectivity of scientific evidence made available to public policy-makers.

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:

  • make scientific research more open, transparent and ethical;
  • strengthen the role of Europe on a global level in debates on shared values, equal opportunities and social dialogue;
  • bridge the gap between those who have scientific training and those who do not;
  • encourage a taste for scientific culture;
  • stimulate public debate on research policy;
  • make the world of science more accessible and more comprehensible;
  • help women to continue to progress in scientific careers;
  • adapt scientific communication to the present (using new means of communication to reach the widest possible audience).

Implementing this aspect will follow three general strands:

  • management of the relationship between science and society: strengthening and improving the European science system, anticipating and resolving political, ethical and social problems, a better understanding of the place of science and technology in society, development of the role of universities;
  • potential and prospects for the scientific world: consolidating the role of women and young people;
  • scientific communication: re-establishing the connection between science and society.

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

  • improving the use of scientific advice and expertise in developing policies in Europe and evaluating their impact;
  • promoting trust and self-regulation within the scientific community;
  • encouraging debate on the distribution of information.

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

  • broader engagement on science-related questions;
  • setting up an informed debate on ethics and science.

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:

  • relationships between science, democracy and law;
  • research on ethics in science and technology;
  • the reciprocal influences of science and culture;
  • the role and image of scientists.

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

  • defining better framework conditions to optimise university research;
  • promoting structured partnerships with the business world;
  • reinforcing knowledge-sharing between universities and society at large.

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:

  • supporting science education in schools;
  • reinforcing links between science education and science careers;
  • research and coordination on new methods in science teaching.

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

  • the reliability of information distributed to the scientific press;
  • creation of a European centre for scientific information;
  • training in and exchange of good practice to bring the media and the scientific community closer together;
  • reinforcing the European dimension of science events targeting the general public;
  • increasing the prominence of science by using audiovisuals;
  • promoting multinational communication (e.g. by awarding public prizes);
  • researching new methods and equipment to aid communication of scientific material.

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:

  • support European competitiveness through strategic partnerships with third countries and welcome their best scientists to Europe;
  • address problems of accessibility that third countries face or will face.

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:

  • the establishment of priorities and definition of policies;
  • improving and developing partnerships;
  • improving coordination of national policies and activities.

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:

  • increase their coordination with other policies;
  • improve the impact of public research and its links with businesses;
  • increase public funding and its leverage effect on private sector investments.

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

  • monitoring and analysis of research-related public policies and industrial strategies, including their impact;
  • supporting open coordination and transnational cooperation initiatives.

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

  • Research infrastructure: facilities, resources and services which the scientific community needs to do its research in all scientific and technological domains. This encompasses personnel, equipment, knowledge-based resources, information and communications technology, plus anything used for scientific research.



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