History of ERA
The creation of a European Research Area (ERA) was proposed by the European Commission in its communication 'Towards a European Research Area' of January 2000, which remains a main reference on the subject.
The objective of creating ERA was endorsed by the EU shortly afterwards at the March 2000 Lisbon European Council.
The following sections provide a short assessment of achievements and shortcomings since then.
For more information, please see the Green Paper on ERA and its Annex.
Since 2000, many actions have been taken to progress in creating ERA. Notably:
- The EU Research Framework Programme is explicitly designed to support the creation of ERA. New initiatives launched in conjunction with the 7th Framework Programme (2007-2013), such as the European Research Council, will have an important impact on the European research landscape. The future European Institute of Technology also has the potential to play a substantial role in creating world-class 'knowledge and innovation communities'.
- Initiatives have been launched to improve the coordination of research activities and programmes. They include the European Technology Platforms, through which industry and other stakeholders develop shared long-term visions and strategic research agendas in areas of business interest, and the bottom-up 'ERA-Net' scheme which supports the coordination of national and regional programmes.
- Policy coordination is addressed through the 'open method of coordination' and the use of voluntary guidelines and recommendations. This is stimulating a process of debate and reforms at national level, which has resulted in all Member States setting national R&D investment targets in the context of the overall EU 3% of GDP R&D investment objective and taking measures to improve their research and innovation systems.
- The EU has adopted a 'broad-based innovation strategy', which will improve the framework conditions for research and innovation. In this context, a modernised Community framework for State aid for research and innovation and guidance for a more effective use of tax incentives for R&D were adopted in November 2006, a European patent strategy is being proposed to overcome the deadlock on the Community patent, and initiatives are being prepared to support the emergence of European 'lead markets' in promising technology-intensive sectors.
- EU cohesion policy and its financial instruments - the Structural Funds - give strong priority to the development of research and innovation capacities, particularly in less developed regions. Together with the priority given in most Member States' internal policies, this can help the whole of Europe to participate in and derive full benefit from the European Research Area. These initiatives are valuable steps on which further progress can be built.
…and still to make
Much ground work remains to be done to build ERA, particularly to overcome the fragmentation which remains a prevailing characteristic of the European public research base. Fragmentation prevents Europe from fulfilling its research and innovation potential, at a huge cost to Europeans as taxpayers, consumers, and citizens:
- Researchers still see career opportunities curtailed by legal and practical barriers hampering their mobility across institutions, sectors and countries.
- Businesses often find it difficult to cooperate and enter into partnerships with research institutions in Europe, particularly across countries.
- National and regional research funding remains largely uncoordinated. This leads to dispersion of resources, excessive duplication, unrealised benefits from potential spillovers, and failure to play the global role that Europe's R&D capability would otherwise allow, notably in addressing major global challenges.
- Reforms undertaken at national level often lack a true European perspective and transnational coherence.
A sense of urgency in revisiting ERA stems from the fact that globalisation of research and technology is accelerating and new scientific and technological powers - China, India and other emerging economies - are attracting considerable and increasing amounts of R&D investments. These developments bring new opportunities for Europe and the world. At the same time, they raise the question of Europe's ability to sustain a competitive edge in knowledge and innovation, which is at the core of the renewed Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs.