The European Research Area (ERA) and ERA-NET projects
The European Research Area
Despite Europe's long standing tradition of excellence in research and innovation, the efforts in this area are fragmented in part due to the lack of coordination among national research programmes and policies and also the lack of adequate cooperation among European researchers. For the past two decades, the European Union, via its framework programme, has had a policy of supporting science and technology aimed essentially at encouraging co-operation between European research players, however, to overcome the current fragmentation, better coordination of research activities and the convergence of research and innovation policies, at national and EU levels is necessary.
To achieve these objectives in March 2000 the Lisbon European Council adopted the European Research Area (ERA), as a foundation for a common science and technology policy across the European Union. At the 2002 Barcelona European Council the ambitious target was set for the European Union to increase its global expenditure on research to 3% of GDP - or one and a half times the current level – by 2010.
The Sixth Framework Programme and the European Research Area
The sixth framework programme is a key instrument of ERA. It has set three main areas of actions (specific programmes): integrating European research, structuring the ERA and strengthening its foundations. In addition to continuing many of the elements of previous framework programmes, FP6 includes a set of new instruments specifically dedicated to realizing the ERA:
- support for the networking of centres of excellence in different countries – and situated equally in universities, research centres and organisations and in business enterprises. These networks will have clearly defined thematic objectives and will be directed towards advancing scientific and technological knowledge, within medium- to long-term time-frames;
- support for integrated projects, involving a critical mass of scientific and industrial partners, and directed toward significant products, processes or service applications;
- participation by the Union in specific science and technology co-operation programmes set up jointly by certain governments or national research organisations(1).
Furthermore, the sixth framework programme encourages researcher training and mobility, and supports the development of European scientific and technological infrastructures. Significant resources are dedicated to identification of future EU science and technology policy priorities, as well as the coordination and opening up of national programmes.
ERA-Net: Supporting the Cooperation and Coordination of Research Activities carried out at National or Regional Level
The specific programme "Integrating and Strengthening the European Research Area" introduces a new initiative: the ERA-NET Scheme. The ERA-NET Scheme is a bottom-up approach to coordination, in which national and/or regional programme makers and managers from Ministries of funding agencies can submit proposals for initiating coordination actions in any field of science and technology. Up to100% of additional costs of such coordination can be funded in ERA-NETs.
ERA projects and other coordination initiatives in the IST field