A new European Research Area: Commission sets out a new plan to support the EU's ecological and digital transition and recovery

28/10/2020
Accelerating the EU's transition to climate neutrality and digital leadership are the main objectives of the plan to relaunch the ERA (European Research Area).

One month ago, the European Commission approved a Communication on a new European Research and Innovation Area, based on excellence, competitive, open and talent-driven, the new European Research Area will:

  • improve Europe's research and innovation landscape,
  • accelerate the EU's transition towards climate neutrality and digital leadership,  
  • support its recovery from the societal and economic impact of the coronavirus crisis,
  • and strengthen its resilience against future crises.

The Commission set out strategic objectives and actions to be implemented in close cooperation with the Member States, in order to prioritise investments and reforms in research and innovation, improve access to excellence for researchers across the EU and enable research results to reach the market and the real economy. Additionally, the Communication will further promote researchers' mobility, skills and career development opportunities within the EU, gender equality, as well as better access to publicly funded peer-reviewed science.

Objectives of the new European Research Area (ERA)

Communication defines four strategic objectives and these are some of the highlights:

  1. Prioritise investments and reforms in research and innovation towards the green and digital transition, to support Europe's recovery and increase competitiveness.

EU support towards research and innovation is foreseen through various programmes, such as Horizon Europe, the Cohesion policy, and the Next Generation EU. To bring about the required positive change and ensure the quality of results, EU support must be complemented by investments from Member States and the private sector. The Communication reaffirms the target of 3% of GDP to be invested on EU research and innovation and prompts further cooperation among Member states, and alignment of national efforts, by setting a target of 5% of national public funding to joint research and development programmes and European partnerships, by 2030.  

The principle of excellence, which entails that the best researchers with the best ideas can obtain funding, remains the cornerstone for all investments under the European Research Area.

  1. Improve access to excellent facilities and infrastructures for researchers across the EU.

Member States' research and innovation investments remain uneven, which translates into gaps in scientific excellence and innovation output that need to be bridged. The EU already supports lagging countries, including with tailor-made support on the ground, and Horizon Europe will further ensure so, through enhanced collaborations with more experienced counterparts, in order to improve access to excellence. The Commission proposes that Member States, lagging behind the EU average research and innovation investment over GDP, direct their efforts to increase their investments by 50% in the next 5 years.

To this end, mobility opportunities for researchers to access excellence and expand their experience will be created through dedicated training and mobility schemes between industry and academia. In order to reflect the progress towards research based on excellence, Member States lagging behind the EU average on highly cited publications should reduce the gap to the EU average by at least one third in the next 5 years.

  1. Transfer results to the economy to boost business investments and market uptake of research output, as well as foster EU competitiveness and leadership in the global technological setting.

In view of speeding up the transfer of research results into the real economy and supporting the implementation of the new Industrial Strategy, the Commission will encourage and guide the development of common technology plans with industry that will allow crowding in more private investments in key international projects. This will foster the development of competitive technologies in key strategic areas while securing a stronger European presence in the global scene.

In parallel, following a detailed monitoring exercise, the Commission will explore the possibility of developing a networking framework that will build on existing entities and capacities, such as centres of excellence or Digital Innovation Hubs, to facilitate collaboration and exchange of best practices by 2022. Still, in this two-year framework, the Commission will update and develop guiding principles, which will ensure that innovation can be valorised and rewarded, as well as a code of practice for the smart use of intellectual property, to ensure access to effective and affordable intellectual property protection.

  1. Strengthen mobility of researchers and free flow of knowledge and technology, through greater cooperation among Member States, to ensure that everyone benefits from research and its results.

The EU will aim to improve career development opportunities to attract and retain the best researchers in Europe as well as incentivise researchers to pursue a career outside academia. To this end, it will also deliver, by the end of 2024, in partnership with Member States and research organisations, a toolbox of support for researchers' careers. The toolbox will consist of the following elements: a Researchers Competence Framework to identify key skills and mismatches; a mobility scheme to support exchange and mobility of researchers across industry and academia; targeted training and professional development opportunities under Horizon Europe; and, a one-stop-shop portal for people to more easily find information and manage their learning and careers.

The EU will work to achieve these strategic objectives, in close cooperation with the Member States, through fourteen interlinked actions. You can see them in the fact sheet provided by clicking here.

These actions will be decisive for the realisation of the European Research Area. In addition, before the end of the first half of 2021, the Commission will propose that the Member States adopt a Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe, which will strengthen their commitment to shared policies and principles and indicate the areas in which they will jointly develop priority actions (agreeing to increase public spending on R&D from the current 0.81% to 1.25% of GDP).

 

For more information:

Factsheet: A new European Research Area

European Research Area

Video ‘The new European Research Area'

Communication: A new European Research Area for Research and Innovation

Staff Working Document

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