Research and development policy is one of the European Union's priorities at the heart of the Lisbon Strategy to boost employment and growth in Europe. Research, with education and innovation, forms the "knowledge triangle", which is the base of Europe's economic dynamism and social model.
The European Research Area (ERA) was launched by the European Commission in 2000 with the idea of developing truly attractive opportunities for researchers. It brings together all of the Community's resources to better coordinate research and innovation activities at the level of both the Member States and the European Union.
Previously, research at European level had faced numerous difficulties: fragmentation of activities, isolation of national research systems, disparity of regulatory and administrative frameworks, and low levels of investment in knowledge. Through the resources made available, the ERA should make it possible to share data, compare results, carry out multi-disciplinary studies, transfer and protect new scientific knowledge and gain access to centres of excellence and state-of-the-art equipment.The European Research Area should thus fulfill a great ambition of the European Union, namely to develop a genuine common research policy.
Coordination of research and development initiatives within the Community is based on various instruments:
The framework programmes for research and technological development
These European Union funded, multi-annual programmes, introduced in 1984, fund research collaboration in fields from information and communication technologies, to environment, biotechnology, energy (including nuclear power), transport and mobility of researchers. The Seventh Framework Programme (2007-13) responds to the needs of industry, placing knowledge at the service of economic, social and environmental progress. It seeks to consolidate the European Research Area (ERA) and stimulate the national investment needed to reach the target of 3% of GDP spending on research.
The Seventh Framework Programme (2007-13), with the largest budget since the creation of a European research identity, bundles all research-related EU initiatives together under a common roof and plays a crucial role in reaching the goals of growth, competitiveness and employment; along with a new Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), Education and Training programmes, and Structural and Cohesion Funds for regional convergence and competitiveness. It is a key pillar for the European Research Area (ERA).
The broad objectives of FP7 have been grouped into four categories: Cooperation, Ideas, People and Capacities. For each type of objective, there is a specific programme corresponding to the main areas of EU research policy. All specific programmes work together to promote and encourage the creation of European poles of (scientific) excellence.