As the 'last born' under the Sixth Framework Programme, the ERA-Net initiative is something of an exception as regards traditional EU support for research. It is targeted at public or quasi-public institutions responsible for managing research policy and activities at national or regional level in the Member and Associated States. It aims to help them co-operate and coordinate their approaches.
ERA-Net articulates the underlying ambition of the European Research Area (ERA) – that is, to overcome the barriers splitting Europe's scientific and technological potential into a 'patchwork' of national and regional policies.
ERA-Net tackles this 'compartmentalisation' of research by encouraging the networking of research activities, on the one hand, and the mutual opening up of national and regional research programmes on the other. ERA-Net strives to support – using a bottom-up approach – all kinds of initiative aimed at achieving this twofold aim. It is not for the Commission to indicate the avenues to be pursued, that is the role of the decision-makers within the institutions, as well as Member States and Associated States.
Networking The networking can take many forms and does not, in principle, imply the pooling of financial resources. One key aspect is the systematic exchange of information.
The approach can be comparative (benchmarking, dissemination of good practices, analysis of administrative and legal obstacles to mobility) or strategic (identification of potential partners, analysis of synergies for future programmes, identification of interdisciplinary opportunities).
In some instances, the networking will result in concrete mechanisms for co-operation, such as the formation of international or transregional clusters of research projects charged with forming joint working groups, the drawing up and application of common evaluation procedures, or joint training initiatives.
Mutual opening up More complex – insofar as it involves 'extraterritorial' financial intervention and shared funding – the mutual opening up of research programmes between countries and/or regions is a fundamental innovation for strengthening the ERA. The desire is for this to take a number of forms.
By virtue of 'crossed' support, scientists or teams from a national research system may be an integral part of programmes launched in another country or have 'equal' access to their infrastructures. A still more ambitious stage would be for various national entities to pool their resources to launch calls for proposals for joint projects.
The ERA-Net contribution Transnational co-operation is only possible within networks which adopt a long-term perspective. ERA-Net support seeks to ensure – in association with the Commission – the scientific and administrative management of this continuity. A particularly important criterion when selecting proposals is for the coordination and co-operation activities to be relevant and of high scientific quality. Union policy also takes into account other considerations, such as equal opportunity.
ERA-Net projects must include at least three independent research entities located in three different countries (Member States or Associated States). The financial support can be as much as €2 million, to be allocated solely to coordination and co-operation. This new programme has a total budget of €140 million for the period 2002-2006.
An initial call for proposals was published by the Commission in December 2002. This met with 72 responses involving 422 partners by the 3 June 2003 closing date. Many of the proposals covered actions linked to research on health and the environment ...
An initial call for proposals was published by the Commission in December 2002. This met with 72 responses involving 422 partners by the 3 June 2003 closing date. Many of the proposals covered actions linked to research on health and the environment or in the field of the social sciences. Nineteen of them were selected.
Two other evaluation proposals will take place in 2004 (on 2 February and 5 October) as well as in 2005 (on 2 March and 4 October).