Consultation on ERA finds opportunities and challenges for EU research landscape
Making Europe more attractive for top scientists and globally-mobile private R&D investment; increasing transnationally-coordinated research; achieving higher scientific excellence; moving, working and co-operating freely across borders or tackling global challenges. These are some of the key themes resulting from a public consultation on the European Research Area (ERA), which ended on 30 November 2011. The Commission will now decide which issues should be addressed as priorities when finalising the ERA Framework, to be tabled in June 2012 with a view to completing ERA by 2014. The findings were presented by Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn at the “ERA conference 2012, Fostering Efficiency, Excellence and Growth” in Brussels.
Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: “With Europe crying out for growth, ERA can’t wait any longer. We can’t continue with a situation where research funding is not always allocated competitively, where positions are not always filled on merit, where researchers can’t take their grants across borders, where large parts of Europe are not even in the game, where there is a scandalous waste of female talent and where our brightest and best are leaving never to return. I want an entirely new ERA-partnership, with stronger role for key stakeholders, and much tougher monitoring of Member States’ progress. I will not hesitate to “name and shame” those who perform badly against ERA objectives.”
The European Commission received 590 responses to the on-line questionnaire and 101 ad hoc position papers by national and European research organisations and governments. Respondents to the online survey indicated deficiencies in research careers and mobility as the most urgent priority. This was followed by problems relating to research infrastructures, knowledge transfer and cross-border collaboration. A broad majority of respondents also highlighted that a higher involvement of women in science will contribute to European socio-economic growth. In position papers, cross-border collaboration, international cooperation, as well as open access to publications and data were on a similar footing to researcher-related issues.
One of the main messages from the research community is the need to attract and retain more leading researchers in Europe and to provide researchers with better and especially business-relevant skills. The global attractiveness of Europe as a location for researchers and private R&D investment should also be increased by reducing the fragmentation of the European market, and by improving employment and career prospects for researchers. The lack of open and transparent recruitment procedures is regarded as one of the main barriers to internationally mobile researchers. It is also necessary to coordinate research at transnational level to raise research quality, reduce costs and tackle global challenges.
The Commission is engaging with stakeholders to design an ambitious ERA Framework. At the European Council of 4 February 2011, EU heads of state and government endorsed the Commission’s proposal to create Innovation Union and called for the completion of the European Research Area by 2014 to create a genuine single market for knowledge research and innovation. The ERA Framework will focus on non-funding measures, while Horizon 2020 is the financial pillar of the Innovation Union.
Proposed in January 2000 by the European Commission in its communication “Towards a European Research Area” (COM(2000)6), and launched at the Lisbon European Council in March 2000, the creation of a European Research Area (ERA) was given new impetus in 2007 with the European Commission’s Green Paper on ERA (COM(2000)161), followed by the Ljubljana Process in 2008.