European research area (ERA) – Regional and cross-border perspectives

30-04-2019

The ERA is a coordination system for national research infrastructures, and itself constitutes an infrastructure designed to create a single market for science. The main implementing instrument for the ERA is the European Union (EU) framework programme for research and innovation (R&I), currently Horizon 2020, alongside national roadmaps for implementing the common priorities. While the ERA offers a way to improve joint programming for research and innovation activities, interaction between research infrastructures, the use of public-public partnerships between Member States, the application of smart specialisation strategies (S3) and the mobility of researchers, challenges still remain. The Horizon 2020 focus on excellence as the main criterion for receiving funding – a requirement designed to cement the EU's reputation in science and its global competitiveness – has led to a concentration of funding as well as R&I capacities in some countries and regions, while increasing the (innovation) gap between EU-15 and EU-13 countries. Other main challenges include the absence of a clear, shared definition of the ERA concept, the multiplication of instruments, and the non-use of binding legislation for ERA implementation. One way to improve the ERA and to broaden participation and cohesion without undermining the criterion of excellence might be to enhance the interoperability between funding and programmes and to continue working on making the EU state aid rules more R&I-friendly.

The ERA is a coordination system for national research infrastructures, and itself constitutes an infrastructure designed to create a single market for science. The main implementing instrument for the ERA is the European Union (EU) framework programme for research and innovation (R&I), currently Horizon 2020, alongside national roadmaps for implementing the common priorities. While the ERA offers a way to improve joint programming for research and innovation activities, interaction between research infrastructures, the use of public-public partnerships between Member States, the application of smart specialisation strategies (S3) and the mobility of researchers, challenges still remain. The Horizon 2020 focus on excellence as the main criterion for receiving funding – a requirement designed to cement the EU's reputation in science and its global competitiveness – has led to a concentration of funding as well as R&I capacities in some countries and regions, while increasing the (innovation) gap between EU-15 and EU-13 countries. Other main challenges include the absence of a clear, shared definition of the ERA concept, the multiplication of instruments, and the non-use of binding legislation for ERA implementation. One way to improve the ERA and to broaden participation and cohesion without undermining the criterion of excellence might be to enhance the interoperability between funding and programmes and to continue working on making the EU state aid rules more R&I-friendly.