Why does the European Union support research?
Picture this scenario: a team of scientists in Lisbon makes a breakthrough in cytogenetics, unlocking the vital clues to hereditary cancer. They spend significant time and money verifying their findings only to be told that a Swedish team reached virtually the same conclusion just two months earlier.
Sum of (sm)all parts
When the European Union laments the fragmentation of European research, this is partly what it is referring to. Helping research stakeholders communicate more efficiently and improving the way they coordinate their activities across Europe are major EU objectives.
Shaping ERA In the same year that ERA was born, Europe’s leaders came up with the Lisbon Strategy at the European Summit in Portugal. The strategy focused on helping Europe become the “most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010”. Two years later, at the Barcelona Summit, sensing the EU was falling behind schedule, this strategy was reinforced with targets encouraging Member States to increase the percentage of GDP they spend on research and development – the so-called 3% Objective.
A summary review of the inventions and scientific discoveries which changed the world, such as television and the Web, reveals Europe’s long-standing tradition of excellence in research and innovation.
While it continues to lead the way in many fields of science and technology – notably in energy and medical breakthroughs – Europe’s skilled scientists and centres of expertise have tended to be scattered across the continent. Just as the scenario above shows, the Union’s research efforts suffer in the absence of adequate networking and co-operation.
Today, with the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) – the latest of a series of EU-level actions for funding research – the stage is set to better assemble Europe’s dispersed research activities under one roof, building a robust support structure and networks so that research and innovation may flourish.
That uniform structure is called the European Research Area (ERA) – a platform to regroup and intensify research efforts at the EU level, coordinating them with national and international initiatives. ERA is intended to guide and help streamline Europe-wide research activities and innovation policy, thus securing the economic and competitive future of the EU’s 25 Member States.