|Research > Growth > The European Research Area > What is the European Research Area?|
|What is the European Research Area?|
On 18 January 2000, the European Commission adopted the Communication "Towards a European research area" (COM (2000) 6) setting forth a new approach towards scientific and technological activities and calling for a more coherent research policy in Europe. The European Union had already put considerable effort into organising co-operative research between European partners through a series of successive RTD Framework Programmes. The Growth Programme, for example, is provided for under the current Fifth Framework Programme.
While the impact of the Framework Programmes has been highly significant, the Commission's new vision recognises explicitly that the enormous European potential for research will not be realised solely through the provision of funds for co-operative projects. According to Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin, what is required is the creation of a true European Research Area. But what exactly does this mean?
The ERA in concrete terms
Ultimately, the establishment of the new ERA will lead to increased coherence and hence a greater impact for European research. The Communication cites seven concrete requirements:
One could liken the establishment of the ERA to the restructuring of a large company. The pooling of dispersed resources and expertise allows the undertaking of more important and more rewarding projects. Improved information exchange and co-ordination will help to eliminate redundancy, increasing efficiency and confidence.
New methods and priorities
More recently, the Communication entitled "Making a reality of The European Research Area: Guidelines for EU research activities" (COM (2000) 612) has proposed the following as areas for increased activity:
Increasing activity in these areas will require new management methods and simplified procedures for dealing with larger projects.
New priorities for future research were also set out, including:
A long-standing goal
The ERA is not a new concept. The implementation of the Fifth Framework Programme already marked a turning point with its widening of support for European research. EC-funded actions like the Growth Programme and its predecessors have been involved for over ten years in such European co-ordination, paving the way for a European industrial research area and making for a stronger, more rational and more profitable Europe.
Indeed, this web site is, in part, meant to illustrate how the Growth Programme has sought to advance the ERA cause through stimulation of industrial networking, linking up of infrastructure activities, creation of virtual institutes and benchmarking of research results.
Openness is the key
Underlying all of this are the concepts of sharing and exchange. Clearly, European researchers must learn to stop thinking of themselves as living and working separately in individual states and to be more open and communicative about the results of their work. We are all Europeans, living and working in Europe, with all that Europe has to offer in terms of resources, expertise and human imagination.
Thus, according to Commissioner Busquin, the European Research Area will not be created by a single decision. Rather, it will be the result of a process, a way of thinking, to which all relevant actors will contribute. Communication is a crucial factor. All those who are involved in or concerned about the future of European research must be ready and able to make their voices heard.
Building a European Research Area then is not unlike building Europe itself. It means getting to know and to trust each other, finding commonalities while appreciating our differences, and then putting it all together in a strong, united and economically powerful package that will send chills through our American and Japanese competitors.
As this invitation to a new openness and exchange of ideas applies not only to EU institutions and large research and industrial entities, but also to individual researchers and interested citizens, resources like the Growth Programme web site aim to contribute to the increasing accessibility and transparency of European research results.