The European Research Area (ERA)
Cutting-edge research must not stop at national borders. European research teams are the leaders in many areas of science and technology. However, centres of excellence are scattered all over Europe and are not always adequately networked. This means that their potential can often not be fully exploited. In order to overcome this partial fragmentation, the EU Member States and the European Commission are working on the development of a real internal area for research and innovation with standardized framework conditions - the European Research Area (ERA).
The idea of a common European Research Area (ERA) has been a guiding principle for the design of all research and development measures in the European Union since the Commission Communication "Towards a European Research Area" in January 2000. At that time, there was little coordination between the Member States and the Commission regarding research and development measures at programme and project level and the aim of a European Research Area was to network these measures.
The European Commission drew up an initial interim balance in 2007 and presented proposals for a realignment of the ERA based on six central objectives under the German EU Council Presidency:
- The establishment of a single European labour market for researchers
- The establishment of world-class research infrastructures
- Strengthening the European research institutions through better networking and cooperation and through the formation of innovation clusters
- The establishment of a simple and harmonized regulatory system for intellectual property rights in order to increase the efficiency of the transfer of knowledge
- Improved coordination of research programmes and priorities
- Opening the European Research Area to the rest of the world
In May 2008, the Council of the European Union then launched the so-called Ljubljana Process with the aim of improving and strengthening the design of the ERA by establishing a strategic partnership between Member States, Associated States and the European Commission and by developing a long-term vision for the ERA with the following characteristics:
- Free movement of knowledge as the "fifth freedom"
- Modern universities and research organizations to establish globally competitive cutting-edge competence centres
- Favourable framework conditions for all stakeholders in the field of research, inter alia by facilitating investments in research and access to world-class research infrastructures
- Europe's citizens profit directly from research as it contributes to overcoming the great societal challenges of our time
This vision was defined in more detail at the meeting of the Competitiveness Council on 2 December 2008 in the Council conclusions on the definition of a "2020 Vision for the European Research Area":
- The ERA is firmly rooted in society and responsive to its needs and ambitions in pursuit of sustainable development.
- The ERA defines the European way to excellence in research and is a major driver of European competitiveness in the globalized world, inter alia through
- the modernization of systems in the field of research hand-in-hand with the
- modernization of education and innovation systems, and
- coordinated support for outstanding researchers and institutions and the promotion of S&T capacity building across the EU.
- The ERA provides a seamless area of freedom and opportunities for dialogue, exchange, interaction open to the world.
Implementation of the ERA
The following five ERA Initiatives were introduced to help realize the Ljubljana Process and 2020 Vision:
The Treaty of Lisbon of 9 December 2009 anchored the ERA in primary legislation for the first time (Art. 179 TFEU) and the ERA received its own basis for implementation under Art. 182 para 5 TFEU, enabling ERA measures to complement the Research Framework Programme of the EU. In 2010 a new mandate was defined for ERAC (European Research Area Committee, formerly CREST) as the strategic advisory body with five ERA working groups, which provided a governance structure for the ERA covering the five ERA initiatives mentioned above.
In October 2012, the Innovation Union flagship initiative, which is part of the Europe 2020 Strategy to set the course of European policy, proclaimed the goal of establishing the ERA by 2014. The Member States confirmed this goal at the Competitiveness Council meeting on 4 February 2011. In order to achieve this aim, the European Commission conducted a public consultation regarding the ERA framework from September to November 2011 based on the five ERA initiatives. The results were presented at a wrap-up event in Brussels on 30 January 2012. On this basis, the European Commission is planning to publish a further communication on the ERA in mid-July 2012.
EUREKA was founded in 1985 with the aim of strengthening Europe's competitiveness in the area of technology. It offers cooperation opportunities and support to companies, research centres and universities, enabling them to develop innovative products and services.
Cooperation with European countries is one of Germany's top priorities. A major part of this cooperation is multilateral and aims to actively shape the European Research Area. Bilateral cooperation focuses on establishing and developing partnerships between stakeholders in the research community, facilitating coordination processes at all levels, and promoting the generation of synergy between projects and partners. Joint initiatives and the identification of topics that are of mutual interest contribute to European strategy development and to shaping the European Research Area.
The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation - Horizon 2020 - is the most important instrument for the implementation of the Innovation Union. This flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy aims to strengthen Europe's ability to compete. The November 2011 commission proposal for the programme is to be adopted by both the Competitiveness Council and the European Parliament by the end of 2013. The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation is the world's largest funding programme for research projects. The BMBF supports national efforts to ensure excellent research at a European level. Various advisory services are offered to German applicants, for example, by the Federal Government's National Contact Points for the Research Framework Programme (NCPs).