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EU-Canada S&T Relations

by Frank J. Deeg

EU-Canada S&T relations, are set to advance on several fronts as a result of the growing recognition by both sides of the value of trans-Atlantic cooperation, and also of the increasing number of areas of common interest and concern being pursued by both European and Canadian scientists.

{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick - all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest}EU-Canada S&T cooperation was initially launched under the umbrella of the 1976 EC-Canada Framework Agreement for Commercial and Economic Cooperation, but was given a special boost with the signing in 1995 of the EU-Canada S&T cooperation agreement. At several more recent EU-Canada Summit meetings, political leaders of both sides have called for such cooperation to be further strengthened.

Already in the EU's Framework Program 6 (FP), Canadian researchers are represented in a dozen projects, with emphasis on projects in information society technologies, and in the broad area of sustainable development, global change and ecosystems. Projects submitted in response to the various Calls for Proposals under FP6 since 2002 that have included Canadian participants have achieved a "success rate" for approvals of almost 20 percent, a rate that is higher than that for most other non-EU countries and about the same success rate as that achieved by strictly "domestic" EU project proposals. One recent proposal that has been approved is Information Society Technologies Europe-Canada II (IST-EC), the second phase of a project launched three years ago with the goal of acting as a catalyst between Canadian and EU researchers to create co-operative participation in comparable Canadian and European R&D programs, with a focus on the domains of e-work, e-learning, e-commerce, e-culture and e-media. IST-EC II is expected to commence a new round of activities early in 2005.

Another related initiative undertaken recently by the Commission's Directorate General Information Society (DG INFSO) was an e-infrastructure mission of EU-based researchers to the US and Canada. The EU, in part through FP6, is developing the next generation of transnational information and communications infrastructure (or e-infrastructure) to enable researchers to have a controlled, secure, seamless, easy and economical access to shared science and engineering resources. Such an e-infrastructure will change the way R&D is carried out in such diverse fields as astronomy, environmental planning and weather forecasting, aerospace technologies, etc. The mission provided an opportunity for both those engaged in establishing such networks, such as GEANT in Europe, and those making use of the emerging e-infrastructure to conduct their research, to exchange views and identify areas where emerging networks on either side could be extended across the Atlantic.

Having agreed not just to try to strengthen EU-Canada S&T cooperation, but to focus on areas of mutual and special interest, the European Commission and the Canadian federal government recently organized two workshops bringing together scientists, and other experts, from both sides to try to identify specific issues, and projects, in which cooperation may prove to be mutually beneficial. The first workshop took place in Brussels in March 2004 on the topic "Environmental Assessment, Climate Change and Policy Implications in the Arctic," while the second was held in Ottawa last June on the subject "Population Genomics for Health."

Another important area of increasing mutual interest is space, and space applications research. This interest has recently been expressed on the occasion of successive visits to the Commission in Brussels by Canadian officials, including former astronaut Marc Garneau and now President of the Canadian Space Agency headquartered near Montreal. As a cooperating member of the European Space Agency (ESA), Canada participates actively in the GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment & Security) initiative that was launched jointly by ESA and the European Commission.

EU-Canada cooperation in this sector may be further enhanced in the context of the evolution of the Group on Earth Observation (GEO) project involving over 50 countries and more than 20 international organizations. The Director General of the European Commission's Research Directorate General, Achilleas Mitsos, one of four GEO co-chairs, led a team of EU officials at the GEO-5 meeting in Ottawa in late November to pave the way for the next Earth Observation Summit (EOS III) in Brussels in mid-February 2005. It is hoped that EOS III, in turn, will lead eventually to a formal launch of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS)a ten year plan to establish an international program of coordinated earth observation information collection and exchange to improve the sustainable management of the Earth, its ecosystems and its environment.

The EU's GALILEO project creating an international satellite navigation system has already seen Canadian involvement in the original design phase and consideration is being given to additional Canadian involvement as the project begins to take concrete shape. In fact, Canadian interest to implement cooperation with the EU across the broad spectrum of space-related technologies, both directly through participation in FP6 projects and indirectly through involvement in ESA-led projects, may lead to consideration of a more formal cooperation arrangement to coordinate both the diverse initiatives and the many players on both sides that may become involved.
A new proposal was recently submitted by a group of Canadian federal science-based departments and agencies, in response to a recent Commission Call under FP6 for activities in support of strengthening EU S&T cooperation with countries, like Canada and the US, that have formal S&T cooperation agreements with the EU. If approved by the Commission, the Canadian government will establish an office in Canada mandated to promote and facilitate EU-Canada R&D cooperation across the entire range of programs operated by either the EU or by Canada, such activities to be funded in part by the Commission. Moreover, and in recognition of the growing emergence of a European Research Area, the office would work closely with EU-based S&T promotion organizations, such as the IGLO network. And, given that many EU Member States already have extensive bilateral programs of S&T cooperation with Canada, the yet-to-be established office will also be expected to work in concert with EU Member State S&T representatives stationed in Canada.

Yet another opportunity to strengthen EU-Canada R&D cooperation currently being examined involves the EU's recently (in 2003) launched European Researcher's Mobility Portal. Interest in Canada, particularly from the Canadian federal granting councils (three government agencies each supporting, with extensive programs of grants, researchers in the social sciences and humanities, in natural sciences and engineering, and in medicine and public health), may lead to establishment of an equivalent Canadian portal that could then be linked to the EU's existing portal.

In sum, it appears that S&T cooperation between the EU and Canada is poised for rapid growth in the coming years, to the benefit of the research community on both sides of the Atlantic.{/access}

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