In 2009, the European Research Area Board (ERAB) released its first annual report, Preparing Europe for a New Renaissance – A Strategic View of the European Research Area. This landmark publication explores six priority policy areas for Europe to focus on in the next two decades in order to prepare for the many challenges ahead.
The new Renaissance in question concerns science. Scientific knowledge is already feeding and sustaining most of the world's population, and science has robust challenges in front of it to feed, clothe and house the world's continually growing population (due to reach 9 billion by 2030).
Many other issues need swift responses too. Biodiversity, for example, is shrinking due to climate change, human activities and overpopulation. Global warming is also causing havoc with the planet's ecosystems, triggering ocean acidification, contributing to desertification and changing traditional weather patterns around the globe.
ERAB has identified six main areas in which European research policy must focus on if the above goals are to be achieved:
According to the report, for a truly vibrant European Research Area (ERA), Europe needs to develop a whole new way of scientific thinking and novel scientific activities, and of looking at how we manage the world and its resources. What can we improve through better and more coordinated scientific research and technology, and new approaches in strategy?
Scientific research must play a full part in society if the ERA is to be realised. The board lays down firm guidelines for how science can remove itself from its academic box and play a more central role in people's lives.
The report highlights the necessity for public and private companies, and public and private funding research bodies to forge greater research interaction. Lively and enthusiastic scientific partnerships must be instigated between educational institutes, businesses, research organisations and funding bodies to spark off fruitful research projects for science and innovation.
There also needs to be more crossover between the different scientific disciplines, which are often still entrenched in their traditional categories of biology, physics and chemistry. Another important factor is that there is also a traditional aversion in Europe to risk taking; this reduces the likelihood of research teams willing to undertake 'blue sky research'.
The annual report was officially launched with a press conference and an open debate with ERA stakeholders in Brussels on 6 October 2009. It was also the subject of a consultation of relevant stakeholders.