Key figures from European aerospace companies and the continent's research establishment have been tasked with developing a strategy for aeronautical research and development (R&D) up to 2020, with the aim of encouraging co-operation and closing the gap with the USA.

A 14-strong group appointed by European research commissioner Phillippe Busquin includes EADS co-chairmen Jean Luc Lagardère and Manfred Bischoff, and Rolls-Royce chairman Sir Ralph Robins.

One means of encouraging greater collaboration proposed by Busquin is to focus European Union (EU) funding on "big technology platforms which show the way forward", rather than on smaller projects which offer shorter-term benefits. The next round of EU research funding - the "Sixth Framework" - will place greater emphasis on proposals with results-orientated business plans, so that project goals are clear and achievements can be measured.

Busquin's latest drive is part of a campaign to develop a European Research Area, a concept he is applying to sectors ranging from biotechnology to the car industry. The role of the aerospace group is to identify 20-year goals, and to suggest ways of encouraging co-operation. It reports back in December.

First proposals for the Sixth Framework - beginning in 2002 - will be made in January. Aeronautics was defined as a specific R&D area only in the Fifth Framework in 1998, and was allocated c700 million ($610 million) during the programme's four-year lifetime.

Source: Flight International