The great integration

Michel Claessens
Michel Claessens
Editor in chief

Where is European research headed? In 2000, when they decided to create a ‘European Research Area’ (ERA) that would be to knowledge what the single market is to the economy, European Union leaders were choosing to tackle head-on one of Europe’s chief weaknesses, namely its fragmented research programmes and initiatives. Less than 10 years later, we take stock of progress to date and of how much remains to be done!

With research investment in Europe at a standstill, is Europe still a force to be reckoned with on the world science scene? This is a fair question. And the answer is that European strategy is crammed with innovations. The ERA promises to deliver integration and cooperation at every level: not only among researchers and industrialists but also among administrators and decision-makers, programmes and policies. And, in the case of the Seventh Framework Programme, this extends well beyond Europe’s borders. For instance, the Asian countries are interested in adopting the concept. And what if (there’s no harm in dreaming) the European Research Area were to herald a full-scale World Research Area? Only the future will tell. For the time being, the ERA represents a major stride towards the introduction of a real European research policy from which we expect to reap the benefits. The future is being written as we speak.