ERA - The concept
The idea of a European Research Area grew out of the realisation that research in Europe suffers from three weaknesses: insufficient funding, lack of an environment to stimulate research and exploit results, and the fragmented nature of activities and the dispersal of resources.
To tackle this problem, the Commission proposed, in January 2000, the creation of a European Research Area. The initiative combines three related and complementary concepts:
- the creation of an "internal market" in research, an area of free movement of knowledge, researchers and technology, with the aim of increasing cooperation, stimulating competition and achieving a better allocation of resources;
- a restructuring of the European research fabric, in particular by improved coordination of national research activities and policies, which account for most of the research carried out and financed in Europe;
- the development of a European research policy which not only addresses the funding of research activities, but also takes account of all relevant aspects of other EU and national policies.
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: "Towards a European research area" (PDF) - COM (2000) 6 - 18.01.2000
A high-level, independent, advisory committee, EURAB, was created by the Commission on June 2001 to provide advice on the design and implementation of EU research policy.
Many initiatives have been taken by the EU and Member States in order to achieve an ERA. But there are still strong national and institutional barriers which prevent ERA from becoming a reality. For this reason, on 4 April 2007, the European Commission has published a Green Paper on new perspectives on the ERA (PDF).
The Green Paper raised a number of questions on how to deepen and widen the ERA so that it fully contributes to the renewed Lisbon Strategy aiming for more growth and jobs, and resulted in the launch of a wide institutional and public debate (Consultation on ERA) on the issue to help the Commission to prepare proposals for concrete initiatives in early 2008.
Since the adoption of the communication in January 2000, there have been a number of key milestones in the ERA history.