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Joint commitment to achieving ERA reaffirmed

Brussels, 13 December 2013

The European Commission and organisations representing key research organisations and research funding bodies have today reaffirmed their joint commitment to achieving the goals of the European Research Area (ERA). They signed a Joint Declaration today on continued and closer cooperation. European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn signed on behalf of the European Commission. The six research stakeholder organisations represented were the European Association of Research and Technological Organisations (EARTO), the European University Association (EUA), the League of European Research Universities (LERU), NordForsk, Science Europe and the Conference of European Schools for Advanced Engineering Education and Research (CESAER).

A year and half after the ERA Communication “A Reinforced European Research Area Partnership for Excellence and Growth”, which launched the reinforced partnership between Stakeholder Organisations (SHOs) and the Commission, the Joint Declaration renews political support for the initiative, and recognises the key role which stakeholder organisations will continue to play in realising a true European Research Area.

Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn said: "This partnership so far has made real progress towards the goals of ERA. Yet there is much more still to do and working towards ERA's key priorities is more urgent and important than ever. Continued commitment is now required by the stakeholder organisations and indeed by Member States.”

SHOs agreed that participation in the Stakeholder Platform, with its free exchange of information and ideas, has produced a number of positive results. These were evident in the discussions at today’s meeting. Open Access to Publications had proved to be a key issue, with both Science Europe and NordForsk holding workshops in early 2013, involving all the other SHOs, and all the SHOs being engaged in the development of policy. In April 2013, all Science Europe Member Organisations agreed a set of Principles on the Transition to Open Access to Research Publications.  LERU is about to publish a new paper about open access to and management of research data.

CESAER puts human resources for research high on the agenda by running a campaign for strengthening Human Resource Strategies for Researchers at member institutions and taking initiatives towards career development, leadership training and development of complementary and transferable skills of engineers whereby entrepreneurship plays an important role.

LERU and CESAER have been particularly active on the gender dimension in research, with LERU having established a working group focusing on how to implement and assess gender action plans and gendered research in universities and CESAER about to launch a gender survey. NordForsk put in place a new gender policy this year, which will be monitored annually and Science Europe established a Gender and Diversity Task Force which has led to the creation of a new working group on this topic.  

EUA has entered into an innovative partnership with the JRC Seville Smart Specialisation Platform to create enhanced collaboration between universities and regions in research and innovation activities, including cross border twinning and teaming initiatives, based upon good practices.  EARTO and EUA both underlined the importance of structured Doctoral training, with EARTO pointing to the formal links which most Research and Technology Organisations (RTO) have with the universities which have special competence or facilities in the particular RTO’s areas of expertise and EUA confirming that considerable progress has taken place with regard to inter-university cooperation, transferable skills training and career development opportunities. EUA and CESAER are also planning further actions with regard to structured Doctoral training and LERU has collected examples of innovative practice in doctoral training in a soon to be published paper.

The Nordic e-Infrastructure Collaboration (NeIC) is currently NordForsk’s flagship initiative in the field of research infrastructure. In 2013, the Nordic countries signed a 10-year agreement on joint development of advanced IT services for research. NordForsk has, in partnership with the French National Research Agency (ANR), facilitated JPI Climate’s first joint call for transnational collaborative research projects.

As the European network of RTOs, EARTO will continue to support the activities of the SHO’s platform in 2014 as well as the European Commission in bringing RTOs specific inputs to ERA policy.

However, it was noted that issues, such as the creation of a pan-European pension fund for researchers and the portability of grants in support of a truly mobile researcher workforce, still require more focused efforts. As noted in the 2013 ERA Progress Report, cross border research cooperation would need more support to achieve its full potential.

In the last three years, the need to achieve ERA has been plainly recognised by the European Council in its conclusions of February 2011, March 2012 and October 2013. The Commission, in its Annual Growth Survey 2014, has explicitly mentioned the protection of investment in research and innovation as well as the role of ERA objectives in modernising national research systems.

More information:

Read the text of the Joint Declaration here

The European Research Area website

The European Research Area Progress Report

Contacts:

Michael Jennings, Tel. +32 229 633 88 Twitter: @ECSpokesScience

Inmaculada Martinez Garcia Tel. +32 229 873 03