Brussels, 24 April 2008
Careers and mobility, international co-operation, research infrastructures, joint programming and knowledge sharing are today's main concerns of European research actors, according to a report just published by the European Commission. The report draws on over 1000 responses to a public consultation on the Green Paper "The European Research Area: New Perspectives" published in April 2007. The responses show strong overall support to further consolidate the European Research Area through new and more ambitious actions at all levels in the EU – regional, national and transnational.
"The Seventh Framework Programme 2007-2013 with a total budget of €54 billion for European research is now in full swing, but the public consultation shows this is not enough. Structural weaknesses prevent Europe from exploiting the full potential of its overall research capability and require further action either at national or European levels, or both. We must sustain our efforts to realise the European Research Area (ERA). At an informal meeting last week, research ministers reaffirmed the fundamental role of ERA as an engine for driving the competitiveness of Europe. They also acknowledged that Europe now needs to develop a common vision and a better political governance of ERA," said the European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik.
In 2000, the EU called for realising a European Research Area, creating a single area across Europe, and overcoming under-capacity, fragmentation and lack of coordination between national and European research programmes. Since then, the European research landscape has changed, with growing socio-economic challenges and the impact of globalisation on science and technology requiring R&D policy responses.
The consultation results show that the original ERA objectives remain valid and relevant, but that action remains needed on the issues raised by the ERA Green Paper. Most respondents deem “sharing knowledge” and “developing world-class research infrastructures” most important, the former placed top by universities, research funding organisations and NGOs and the latter by industry and governmental bodies. “Researchers' careers and mobility”, “international cooperation” and “infrastructures” were identified as the three most important in terms of need for action at EU level.
Respondents also draw attention to crucial interactions between research, education and innovation. Virtually all of the responses from Member States emphasise the need to consider the role of industry in ERA and its links to wider innovation and education policy. Industry itself regrets that the Green Paper focused more on challenges to public research systems and not enough on the central roles of private R&D within ERA and of the linkages between research and innovation.
Respondents endorse the use of a variety of instruments to promote ERA – financial incentives, increased EU budget, co-ordination and guidelines. While there is little demand for binding legislation, there is significant support for considering legislative action to improve the careers and mobility of researchers, as well as for a new non-binding legal framework for pan-European research infrastructures.
Concerning publicly funded research, over 70% of respondents call for more open and easy access to scientific data and 84% call for more immediate, accessible and wider dissemination of scientific publications.
More than 80% of respondents support the idea of the EC and Member States collaborating to define common European research priorities, to ensure coordinated, efficient and coherent use of legal and financial instruments and resources.
Most respondents favour Europe adopting a more active approach to define the global S&T agenda internationally. 75% of the respondents expressed the wish that Europe should “speak with one voice” and 69% of them considered that this could be achieved through placing emphasis on a small number of high-priority research themes.
A dominant theme was the need for Member States to commit to a wide and ambitious ERA policy agenda as a genuine European Research Area would only be fully realised through Member States, stakeholders and the Commission working in partnership, with each accepting their responsibility to make it happen.
Five new specific initiatives, following directly on from the consultation, will be launched in the coming months. These initiatives will address in particular:
More information on ERA including the full consultation report at: