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[MEXICO CITY] The European Union (EU) and Mexico have created a new fund to promote scientific knowledge transfer and joint research projects.

The European Commission and Mexico's National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) announced the creation of the International Fund of Science and Technology Cooperation (Foncicyt) last week (11 February), during a visit by Janez Potocnik, EU commissioner of science and research, to Mexico City.

The initial phase of the project (2008–2010), costing €20 million , has been co-financed — with each party contributing 50 per cent.

"Foncicyt is an ambitious and innovative programme, jointly funded as an equal partnership to deepen the science and technology cooperation between Mexico and the European Union", said Potocnik at the launch.

Issues for the initial phase include maintaining competitive economies, ensuring the health and quality of life of citizens, securing energy supplies, combating climate change, preserving the environment and achieving social justice.

During the ceremony, Potocnik said that Foncicyt shows the objectives and philosophy of the European Research Area and the EU's Seventh Framework Programme For Research, by strengthening research capacity and helping to solve socioeconomic and sustainability issues.

Projects will receive an average of €400,000 over the next two to three years. Research proposals must be partnerships between at least two Mexican research institutions and two European institutions.

"We are the first Latin American country to sign an agreement of this kind with Europe, whose funding is made up of a triple helix that combines universities, business and government", Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, general director of Conacyt, told SciDev.Net.

The first call for research proposals will be next May, Romero Hicks says, and will support the formation of human capital — an issue of importance to Mexico because 60 per cent of its 2,100 overseas doctorate students are based in Europe.

Potocnik also attended the European Mesoamerican Science and Technology Meeting in Guanajuato, Mexico, (10 February), along with the science and technology ministers of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama.

The meeting was intended to establish a common agenda for cooperation between the Latin American countries and Europe in efforts against climate change and emerging diseases, promoting biodiversity conservation, and nanotechnology and biotechnology research.