past, the European Union has focused its R&D efforts on organising
research co-operation between partners from different countries through
its multi-annual Framework Programmes.
This approach, while successful in building
strong links between Europe's researchers and in producing world-class
scientific and technological results, was not sufficient to bring
about a coordinated European research policy. National research
programmes in the Member States are still undertaken independently
of one another.
Making the most of Europe's research potential
and ensuring Europe's future competitiveness requires a more coordinated
approach between Member States. It involves more than simply funding
joint research projects and is where the idea of the European Research
Area (ERA) comes in.
The ERA — key to Europe's
was proposed by the Commissioner
for Research, Philippe Busquin, in January 2000. It aims to
create a genuine 'internal market' in research and knowledge and
to improve the way research is conducted in Europe through better
coordination of national research policies. It is based on the belief
that the issues and challenges facing Europe can only be met by
integrating Europe's research efforts and capacities.
The ERA is an important element in achieving the
EU's objective of becoming the world's most competitive and dynamic
knowledge-based economy by 2010. Europe still lags behind the US
and Japan in terms of spending on R&D (1.9% of GDP compared
with 2.7% and 3% respectively) and is less able to exploit the results
of its scientific work in economic terms.
The EU is responding to these challenges by
ensuring that Europe's future research activities are carried out
within a common framework, by developing a common science and technology
policy across the Union, by implementing the Sixth Framework Programme
for Research based on a common set of priorities, and by committing
to increase R&D spending to 3% of GDP by 2010.
The ERA and researcher mobility
To a large extent, the ERA is about making the most
of Europe's human resources. For the ERA to develop successfully,
Europe must increase the number of researchers in Europe and make
it easier for them to access training elsewhere.
The EU's Sixth Framework Programme for R&D (FP6)
was designed to help bring about the ERA. Activities in favour of
the training and mobility of researchers receive considerable attention
under FP6 - in fact, almost 10% of the entire budget has been allocated
to the Marie Curie Actions promoting research mobility, training
and career development.
These actions will help to make the ERA as
open and accessible as possible. They will help to enhance the transfer
of scientific knowledge worldwide, making Europe a more attractive
place for talented researchers to train and work, while also recognising
excellence in European research.
For more background information on the ERA,
read the following Communications from the European Commission:
Research for Europe - Towards 3% of GDP (
European Research Area: providing new momentum - Strengthening -
Reorienting - Opening up new perspectives (101
'The Role of
Universities in the Europe of Knowledge'