The JRC research programmes are decided by the Council of the European Union and funded by the EU budget with additional funding from associated countries.
The JRC multi-annual work programme, running from 2007 to 2013, focuses on clearly defined themes, reflecting a coherent approach to user needs.
The main customers of the JRC are the policy making Directorates General of the European Commission. Depending on the subject matter, the JRC’s scientific-technical support covers the complete policy cycle or parts of it: the JRC anticipates policy needs, assesses policy options and their impacts, and monitors and contributes to the implementation of policies. It also provides operational support in certain cases, for example in anticipating environmental disasters, providing assistance to managing crises and assessing any consequential damage and their impact on human life and/or the environment. The ultimate beneficiaries of these activities are the EU Member States.
In July 2010, the JRC published its strategy for 2010 - 2020 with the intention to focus its efforts on seven thematic areas, which respond to major EU and global challenges and take into account the JRC's proven competences:
- Towards an open and competitive economy: by contributing to the goals of the Europe 2020 Strategy by providing integrated socio-economic and policy support on macro-economic policies, structural reform, employment, education and skills, research and innovation ("Innovation Union").
- Development of a low carbon society: by addressing energy, transport, clean production technologies and consumption patterns, issues that will be pivotal to the progressive transition of the EU towards a 'low carbon society'.
- Sustainable management of natural resources: by addressing issues related to the sustainable management and use of strategic resources such as food, water, air, minerals and land.
- Safety of food and consumer products: by providing S&T support to EU policies on safety of food and feed, and other new consumer products.
- Nuclear safety and security: by providing independent and reliable S&T assessment in the fields of nuclear safety, safety of the new generation of reactor technologies, and nuclear safeguards and non-proliferation.
- Security and crisis management: by contributing to the development of new technological approaches to enhance the security of the citizen, including support to crisis management.
- Reference materials and measurements: by maintaining a strong reference role in the area of standards and reference measurements.
In keeping with its mission, the JRC strives to play a role as a centre of reference in its key competence areas through extensive networks with the relevant organisations in the Member States and, where appropriate, international organisations.
In addition to these institutional activities, the JRC co-operates closely with external organisations. In line with a strategic approach to the JRC's role as a partner, several high level agreements have been set up with large scientific and industrial communities on new networks and research collaboration.