The European Research Area : new perspectives

The European Research Area : new perspectives

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about The European Research Area : new perspectives


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The European Research Area (ERA): new perspectives

In January 2000, the European Commission launched the idea of a European Research Area, combining a European “internal market” for research, truly coordinated activities, programmes and national and regional policies at European level, and initiatives designed and funded by the Union. This provided the basis for a genuine European knowledge society. Seven years later, the time has come to inject a new dynamic into the project. With this green paper, the first stage of the relaunch, the Commission is submitting its new ideas for meeting the challenges and problems still posed by the fragmentation of research, the weakness of investments and the progressive internationalisation of science and technology.

Document or Iniciative

Green Paper of 4 April 2007 on “The European Research Area: New Perspectives” [COM(2007) 161 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


Without better production and better use of knowledge, the European Union (EU) will be unable to achieve its economic, social and environmental objectives, which would signal a serious failure of the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs.

Seven years after launching the concept of a “European Research Area”, the Commission aims to open up new perspectives to build on the progress achieved thus far.

Keen to involve all European research contributors, it is submitting its ideas for public consultation via this Green Paper.

The European Research Area (ERA)

The ERA combines three concepts:

  • a European “internal market” for research where researchers, technologies and knowledge circulate freely;
  • effective European-level coordination of national and regional research activities, programmes and policies;
  • initiatives implemented and funded at European level.

The ERA should have the following features:

  • an adequate flow of competent researchers with high levels of mobility between institutions, disciplines, sectors and countries;
  • world-class research infrastructures, integrated, networked and accessible to research teams from across Europe and the world through new generations of electronic communications infrastructures;
  • excellent research institutions engaged in effective public-private cooperation and partnerships through “virtual research communities”;
  • effective knowledge-sharing, notably between public research, industry and the general public;
  • well-coordinated research programmes and priorities;
  • a wide opening to the world, with special emphasis on neighbouring countries and a strong commitment to addressing global challenges with Europe’s partners.

Principles of the ERA

Three main principles cut across all dimensions of the ERA:

  • European research policy should be deeply rooted in European society;
  • the right balance must be found between competition and cooperation;
  • full benefit should be derived from Europe’s diversity which has been enriched by successive EU enlargements.

Achievements of the ERA thus far

Since its inception at the European Council of Lisbon in March 2000, the concept of the ERA has become a reference for European research policy, generating a number of initiatives.

Successive EU Research Framework Programmes have actively supported the creation of the ERA. The current (7th) programme has laid the foundations for two important projects: the creation of the European Research Council and a European Institute of Technology.

The European Technology Platforms (pdf ) and the “ERA-NET” scheme have helped to improve the coordination of research activities and programmes.

The “open method of coordination” and the use of guidelines and recommendations stimulate debate and reform in all the Member States.

The EU has also adopted:

  • a “broad-based innovation strategy” which will improve the framework conditions for research and innovation;

  • a new Community framework for state aid for research, development and innovation;
  • guidance for a more effective use of tax incentives for R&D.

A European patent strategy is being proposed to overcome the deadlock on the Community patent.

Initiatives have been launched to stimulate the emergence of pilot markets in growth sectors from a technological standpoint.

EU cohesion policy and its financial instruments – the Structural Funds – give strong priority to the development of research and innovation capacities, particularly in less developed regions.

Towards making the ERA a reality

Building on the progress made thus far, there is still work to be done to achieve a fully-fledged ERA:

  • pursuing a career as a researcher in Europe remains something of an assault course: researchers must overcome numerous legal and practical obstacles which still hinder professional development, particularly in terms of mobility between institutions, sectors and countries;
  • companies are still finding it difficult to establish partnerships with universities, particularly foreign establishments;
  • national and regional funding lacks coordination and will remain broadly ineffective without a genuine European perspective and transnational coherence;
  • the results of research could be used far more effectively;
  • the fragmentation of public research continues to render Europe unattractive to investors (the private sector is supposed to contribute up to two thirds of the objective of 3% of GDP set aside for research).


This Green Paper launched a wide consultation which closed in December 2007. The information collected was used to launch concrete actions to develop the ERA the implementation of which started in 2008.

Related Acts

Results of the public consultation on the Green Paper “The European research Area : New perspectives” of 2 April 2008 (pdf ).
This report highlights the necessity to undertake new action at national and/or European level in order to fully exploit Europe’s potential research capacity and to make the ERA a reality. Respondents consider that the sharing of knowledge, research infrastructures, international cooperation, programming and the mobility of researchers should be among the priorities of the EU. They also consider that the role of the private sector should be taken into account even further due to its links with innovation and education policy. Even if few request strict legislation, many are favourable to the idea of legislative action to improve the careers and mobility of researchers or to establish a legal framework for European research infrastructures. Respondents approve Community instruments aimed at promoting the ERA, such as financial incentives, budgetary increases (the 7th Framework Programme has a total budget of EUR 54 billion), guidelines, etc.

Following this consultation, five initiatives concerning the ERA came to fruition in 2008:

In addition to the above initiatives, the Council has decided to reinforce the dimension of the ERA through the launch of the new cycle (2008-2010) of the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs. In their programmes for national reform, the Member States are invited to define policies which will contribute to the development of the ERA.

Communication from the Commission to the Council, to the European Parliament, to the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 18 January 2000: “Towards a European Research Area” [COM(2000) 6 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

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