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Brussels, 10 July 2007

Commission adopts new guidelines for coal and steel research

The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a Council Decision on the revised guidelines for spending funds on coal & steel research. The Research Fund for Coal and Steel (RFCS) has an annual budget of about €60 million for research in these two areas, financed by interest on the assets of the now expired European Coal and Steel Community Treaty. The RFCS programme is a separate, complementary programme to the Research Framework programme and covers all aspects of coal and steel, from production processes to application, looking at the utilisation and conversion of resources, safety at work and environmental protection by improving the use of coal as a clean energy source and reducing CO2 emissions from coal use and steel production.

"This proposed revision of the technical guidelines looks to further the good results already achieved to date. In our view no major overhaul is needed, but we are keen to make the programme as straightforward for its participants as possible," says Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for Science and Research.

The proposed decision simplifies some administrative procedures, such as:

  • deleting some accompanying measures since they are already covered by the 7th Framework Programme (RTD FP);
  • increasing financial support from 40 to 50% for pilot and demonstration projects, and allow dedicated calls on identified priorities that converge with the 7th Research Framework Programme and dovetail with the Strategic Research Agendas of the relevant European Technology Platforms.

Participation is simple: proposals can be submitted any time with a cut-off date of 15 September each year. There is no ceiling for the project budget or for the number of participating partners in each project. Third countries may participate, but do not receive any European financial support. Projects are evaluated by external experts and selected based on the quality of the research proposed. The monitoring of projects is done according to an annual "peer review" process.

It has also been necessary to make some changes to the rules governing membership of the Advisory Groups and the role of Member States in the Coal and Steel Programme Committee, particularly in the light of recent enlargements of the European Union.

This revision is required by the legislative Decision that created the RFCS. In the Commission's view the RFCS has so far worked well and so a major overhaul is not required.

Examples of on-going projects include:

ULCOS, an ambitious project to find innovative and breakthrough solutions for reducing the steel industry's CO2 emissions in a post-Kyoto era. Its ultimate objective is to build a pilot plant for producing steel at much reduced CO2 emission levels, thus promoting the preservation of the ecosystem in relation to steelmaking. The project involves 47 partners across Europe. It has been broken down into two major components, with funding of about €9.6m from the RFCS and €20m from the 6th Research Framework Programme contributing to an overall project budget of around €50m.

COMTES 700, a project for Clean Coal Technologies which aims to improve the overall efficiency by 50% of coal fired power plants over and above levels currently possible. Achieving this objective will lead to meaningful progress in sustainable coal usage which is less harmful to the environment. The research consortium is composed of a group of major European power producers and other players in the field of power generation. The total budget amounts to €15.2m, 57% from power producers, 3% from equipment suppliers and 40% (€6m) from the RFCS.

Further information on the RFCS, including information on projects, can be found on

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