The European Research Area is composed of all research and development activities, programmes and policies in Europe which involve a transnational perspective. Together, they enable researchers, research institutions and businesses to increasingly circulate, compete and co-operate across borders. The aim is to give them access to a Europe-wide open space for knowledge and technologies in which transnational synergies and complementarities are fully exploited.
ERA consists of activities, programmes and policies which are designed and operated at all levels: regional, national and European.
There are a number of fully integrated European-level structures and programmes: the EU RTD Framework Programmes, including the current Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013), related European agencies and undertakings, as well as a number of intergovernmental infrastructures and research organisations. Some have existed for more than 50 years, such as the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the research activities of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). Many were created in the 1970s and 1980s, such as the European Space Agency (ESA) and the first Framework Programmes. But there are also important new organisations which are changing the ERA ‘landscape’: notably, the European Research Council, the Joint Technology Initiatives and the European Institute for Innovation and Technology.
Some public policies which have an important impact on research are defined at the European level. This is notably the case for state aid and competition law, as well as for many relevant internal market rules. The EU also develops and promotes voluntary guidelines and recommendations which serve as common European references. Examples can be found in areas such as researchers' careers and mobility, knowledge transfer and co-operation between public research and industry. The EU also fosters a broad-based approach to innovation. With the launch of the Europe 2020 strategy and the Innovation Union Flagship Initiative a strategic approach to innovation is now on the European agenda.
While most research activities, programmes and policies take place at regional and national levels, no single country offers sufficient resources to be competitive on the world scale. To strenghten ERA , such activities and policies should be increasingly designed and operated from a transnational perspective, including, where relevant, cross-border co-operation. But this does not mean that they should be centralised in Brussels.Transnational co-operation helps make the most efficient and effective use of national and regional resources.