The European Union's next round of funding for scientific research is a step closer to being implemented.
Europe wants a competitive, knowledge-based economy
A common position has been reached by the European Council on adopting the so called 7th Framework Programme (FP7).
The text of the common position will be sent to the European Parliament, which will take a vote on the 50bn-euro (£34bn) plan.
It is hoped the funds available through FP7 will help stem the numbers of European researchers leaving science.
For the past five years, European research has been funded by individual national agencies and the EU's Framework 6 programme (FP6). It had an approximate budget of 19bn euros over the period 2002-6.
But FP6 was criticised widely for being over-bureaucratic, skewed towards big, complex collaborations and subject to political pressures.
One significant change made for FP7 will be the inauguration of a European Research Council (ERC) to support basic research across all disciplines.
The final position of the member states - communicated through the Council - must be put to a vote in the European Parliament. Ministers would like FP7 to begin by January 2007, so officials want to get a final version ready for voting in November.
The framework programme will contribute to fulfilling the reforms laid out in the "Lisbon strategy" which aims to make Europe the "most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world".
Another objective in the strategy was to boost Europe's research and development spend to 3% of GDP by 2010. But observers say Europe now looks set to miss this objective.
When the Lisbon strategy was drawn up, it was agreed that public spending would contribute one third of the 3% figure, with the other two-thirds coming from the private sector.
Most of the public spend comes from the member states themselves; the framework programme makes up a smaller part of this overall figure.
"While the framework programme is an important part, it can't make or break the 3%," said Antonia Mochan, spokesperson for science and research at the European Commission.
Peter Cotgreave, director of the UK Campaign for Science and Engineering (Case), commented: "The British government has revised its own targets to be 2.5% by 2014 and even that's pretty challenging.
"So, if you're going to go round Europe saying 'we want 3% R&D by 2010', then 50bn [euros] sounds like a lot of money but if fact it isn't all that much.
"If you want to set an example, if you want to say 'this is the way we're going', then you have to talk big numbers."
Scientists have warned that Europe faces an unprecedented brain drain if it does not make good on promises to boost its knowledge-based economy.