In 2000, the European Union agreed to pursue the goal of a unified research area across Europe. Known as the European Research Area (ERA) , the aim was to allow facilities and knowledge to be shared between countries, to encourage joint programming in Europe, and to take a leading role as a united front in important global initiatives.
In late 2008, the Council of Ministers of the European Union announced a renewed series of targets through the ensuing 'Vision of 2020 of the European Research Area'. An accompanying statement to Vision 2020 underscores that the ERA cannot realise its full potential if it does not mobilise society.
It reads: 'The European Research Area is firmly rooted in society and responsive to its needs and ambitions in pursuit of sustainable development. ' Science and technology, it explains, have a key role to play in responding to the needs of citizens and businesses, and the ERA aims to build on trust and dialogue between the science community and society.
In July 2009, hundreds of researchers, funders, politicians and other stakeholders attended a conference in Lund, Sweden to discuss the future of European research. A set of conclusions from the conference, which became known as the Lund Declaration , centred on the need for research policy to be focused on the challenges confronting society at a global scale, such as climate change and water shortage.
These 'Grand Challenges', according to the declaration, must engage all major stakeholders, including the European institutions, business, public services, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the research community. 'Measures are needed to maximise the economic and societal impact of new knowledge in areas such as industrial, environmental and social policies, agriculture and regional development. Links between these policy areas and research policies must be strongly improved.'
The SIS Work Programme, therefore, has an important function to perform in implementing both Vision 2020 and the targets of the Lund Declaration in the pursuit of research that is truly European.
In the period 2010-2013, the SIS Programme will undertake the following activities in support of the ERA.