ERA.NET RUS – New horizons in European-Russian research cooperation
According to a European Commission report from April 2007, “Science knows no boundaries and the issues that research is asked to deal with are increasingly global”.
Russia, as the European Union (EU)’s largest direct neighbouring country is certainly crossing such boundaries as it is the most successful third country having participated in approximately 300 projects worth close to €2.5 billion under the 6th EU Research Framework Programme (FP6). Nevertheless, lack of knowledge on joint calls and how to actually cope with the administrative procedures has hampered progress. In addition, apart from a few good practice examples, much still needs to be done to integrate this significant partner fully into the European Research Area (ERA).
ERA.Net RUS was thus set up to encourage durable partnerships as well as bilateral research programmes between the EU and Russia. It is a €2.6 million project funded under the 7th EU Research Framework Programme (FP7), running from February 2009 until January 2013. The project is coordinated by the International Bureau of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany. It comprises a consortium including 18 prominent institutes from 10 countries, 11 partners from Member State Countries, 2 from Associated Countries, 4 from Russia and 1 partner from the European Commission.
ERA.Net RUS provides support for the transnational networking and co-ordination of bilateral research programmes that will improve both the efficiency and the effectiveness of Europe’s research efforts. It will also contribute to mutual learning, joint strategy development and joint funding activities in EU Member States (MS), Associated Countries (AC) and Russia. Particular emphasis is placed on actively involving Russian programme owners in the planning, implementation and assessment of a pilot joint call and the organisation of a sustainable Science and Technology (S&T) programme.
The individual tasks proposed in the work plan cover a wide array of activities within six work packages. They include analytical exercises, the implementation of a joint call with the aim of developing a sustainable programme, the organisation of conferences and workshops as well as project coordination and management.
The political and strategic impact of ERA.Net RUS is undeniable. The project puts the focus on the largest neighbouring country of the EU and one of its main strategic partners. It will thus further enhance the significance of the EU-Russian partnership and will help reach a new level in EU-Russian S&T cooperation by improving the coherence and coordination of European scientific cooperation with Russia. In addition, previous fragmentation of activities towards S&T cooperation is expected to be reduced.
“ERA.Net RUS is strengthening the international dimension of the European Research Area (ERA). It will help to widen the ERA`s trans-national approach on S&T cooperation, with benefits for European and Russian S&T communities, policy-makers, economies and societies alike,” said Project Coordinator and Executive Director at the International Bureau of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF PT-DLR), Dr. Jörn Sonnenburg.
Once ERA.Net RUS comes to an end in 2013, an additional programme is due to commence. The “ERA-NET Plus” project as it is known will provide a financial contribution to those national research programmes that pool financial resources to organise and fund a joint call for transnational research projects. ERA-NET Plus will apply only in a limited number of cases, those which are of particular European added value.
“ERA-NET Plus will enable national programmes, together with the Community programmes, to address research topics that, due to the nature of the field, are better addressed jointly or which could not have been addressed independently,” adds Sonnenburg.