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The Marie Curie Actions - the European Research Area in practice
In the 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 competitiveness

The ERA 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:
More Research for Europe - Towards 3% of GDP (PDF Document 67 KB)
The European Research Area: providing new momentum - Strengthening - Reorienting - Opening up new perspectives (PDF Document101 KB)
'The Role of Universities in the Europe of Knowledge'

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last update: 09-05-2003