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To become an increasingly competitive knowledge-based economy, Europe must not only improve the production of knowledge, but also its dissemination and exploitation. All research builds on former work, and depends on scientists’ possibilities to access and share information. The digital age represents a great opportunity for the dissemination of research results. To ensure exploitation, effective knowledge transfer between those who do research, particularly universities and public research organisations (PROs), and those who transform it into products and services, namely the industry/SMEs is essential.

Optimal circulation, access to and transfer of scientific knowledge

When scientists, research institutions, businesses and citizens have the opportunity to access, share, discuss and use existing scientific knowledge the innovation system as a whole benefits.

The ERA Communication adopted in 2012 COM(2012)392 focuses on the following issues:

  • Implementing Open Access (OA) i.e. free internet access to and use of publicly-funded scientific publications and, as far as feasible, research data
  • Fostering Open Innovation and knowledge transfer between public research institutions and the private sector (while respecting intellectual property rights)
  • Strengthening the knowledge triangle between research, business and education as via the European Institute of Technology
  • Removing all barriers which prevent seamless access to online research services and e-infrastructures ("digital ERA")
  • Factoring in these issues in research cooperation with non-EU countries
Open access

Open access refers to the practice of granting free access to research outputs over the Internet, mostly peer-reviewed publications and research data. Open access is one way to tap into the enormous potential of public investment to boost productivity, competiveness and growth, the main goal of the EU 2020 strategy. OA will also increase openness and transparency and thereby contribute to better policy making and ultimately benefit society and citizens.

The following open access measures are included in the ERA as part of the activities on optimal circulation and transfer of scientific knowledge:

  • Member States are invited to define and coordinate their policies on access to and preservation of scientific information. A separate Recommendation provides detailed proposed activities to the Member States
  • Research Stakeholder Organisations are invited to adopt and implement open access measures for publications and data resulting from publicly funded research
  • The Commission will establish open access to scientific publications as a general principle for all EU funded projects in Horizon 2020. For research data the Commission will adopt a flexible approach that takes into account different scientific areas and business related interests
  • The Commission will also continue to fund projects related to open access (through FP7 and Horizon 2020)
  • The commission has adopted a Communication setting out its approach and a Recommendation to Member States on access to and preservation of scientific information in the digital age
  • The Commission will support activities to raise stakeholder awareness on OA

More information about the European Commission's open access policies and activities, as well as background material is available at

Intellectual property and knowledge transfer

Proper management of intellectual property is critical to ensure that both parties get the most out of any knowledge transfer activity. Following the Publication of the ERA Green Paper in April 2007, a Communication titled Improving knowledge transfer between research institutions and industry across Europe including voluntary guidelines for universities and other research institutions to improve their links with industry across Europe was issued.

The Communication on knowledge transfer was followed up with a Commission Recommendation on the management of intellectual property in knowledge transfer activities (the Recommendation) and the Code of Practice for universities and public research organizations (PROs) (the Code of Practice), which were adopted in April 2008.

The Recommendation and the Code of Practice offer a coherent framework for the management of IP in agreement between PROs and the private sector, in order to promote knowledge transfer at national, European and international levels. It comprises a set of key policy recommendations to Member States, a Code of Practice for PROs, and an annex containing examples of good practice from several Member States.