The European Research Area: Enabling joint research and joint growth

The European Research Area secures and promotes Europe's competitiveness. It provides for close links between national research and science systems and ensures highly effective transnational cooperation.

The EU Member States are already cooperating closely in research and innovation to ensure Europe's long-term competitiveness and economic growth and to address the grand societal challenges. Europe is in a good position with its 7 percent of the world population contributing almost 30 percent to global knowledge generation. But the global race for knowledge and innovation is picking up speed. For this reason, Europe needs an efficient and open common research area which attracts the best talent from around the world.

In this context, it is important to pool Europe's strengths and forge stronger links between national research and innovation activities. The EU Member States are therefore working with the European Commission to firmly establish a common research area in Europe. The aim is to create a genuine single research and innovation area. The European Research Area (ERA) is intended to guarantee freedom of movement for researchers and to enable the free exchange of scientific knowledge and technologies.

Priorities of the European Research Area

The ERA aims to improve and harmonize the conditions for research and innovation in Europe. A European research environment is being designed along the following principles:

  • More effective national research systems
  • Optimal transnational cooperation and competition
  • Open labour market for researchers
  • Gender equality and gender mainstreaming in research
  • Optimal exchange and transfer of and access to scientific findings
  • Internationalization of the European Research Area

The biggest challenge in this process is to integrate the different science systems of the EU Member States and regions to a greater extent without losing their diversity, which represents their major strength.

A Long Way

The European Commission formulated the idea of a European Research Area for the first time in 2000 in its Communication "Towards a European Research Area". EU measures have been pursuing the goal of completing this common research area ever since. The focus is on strengthening joint research and innovation. The central idea of a common research area was incorporated in the Treaty of Lisbon, which took effect in 2009. Since then, the European Commission and the Member States have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to develop the European Research Area in a number of policy documents. For example, the ERA is part of the Innovation Union Flagship Initiative and thus an objective of the comprehensive Europe 2020 Strategy, which provides the basis and direction for European policy.

Meanwhile, the ERA is considered to have been completed in principle. Nevertheless, it must be constantly enhanced in order to make full use of Europe's existing research and innovation potential in the global competition for knowledge and innovation. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is working with other German government departments to achieve this goal. Germany was the first EU Member State to present a national strategy for the European Research Area.