Europe's top research universities in FP6: scope and drivers of participation

Luisa Henriques, Antoine Schoen, Dimitrios Pontikakis

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


The present note characterises the participation of universities in the European Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development (FP) with a substantive focus on the profile of participation of the top research universities on FP6. A commonly held belief is that top research universities prefer not to participate to the FP. Purported 'cumbersome' administrative procedures, 'low content of basic research' and availability of other, 'more attractive' sources of funding have been put forward as possible explanations. Another stereotype is that the principle of symmetric representation of member states' interests, often leads to charitable participations to organisations from less well-off countries. The present policy note takes a step back and puts such commonly held beliefs to the test. Collectively our findings lend support to the view that FP 6 has managed to involve excellent universities regardless of where they come from, maintaining overall neutrality despite political pressure for either "cohesion" or "juste retour". Europe's top research universities account for the lion's share of higher education participations to the FP6 and act as leading coordinators and key partners. Top research universities participate more in thematic priorities that are close to the knowledge frontier. NoE was the main instrument used by top research universities, in accordance with policy expectations. These findings need to be seen under the light of the study's limitations. First, the quantitative bibliometric criteria employed in the construction of our sample of top research universities may underestimate important research activities that do not usually register on standard bibliometric indicators. Second, the narrow definition of universities chosen may not be representative of the full range of academic research in Europe. Nevertheless, the fact that our sample compares favourably with well-known university rankings makes it likely.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLuxembourg
PublisherOffice for Official Publications of the European Communities
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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