All you need to know on the European Research Area (ERA)

The European Research Area (ERA) was launched by the European Commission in 2000, with the idea of developing attractive opportunities for researchers within Europe. Today, ERA is at the heart of the EU 2020 Strategy and of the Innovation Union (IU) where it can help contribute to growth and jobs.


The Legal basis of ERA is found in Article 179 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union:

  1. The Union shall have the objective of strengthening its scientific and technological bases by achieving a European research area in which researchers, scientific knowledge and technology circulate freely, and encouraging it to become more competitive, including in its industry, while promoting all the research activities deemed necessary by virtue of other Chapters of the Treaties.
  2. For this purpose the Union shall, throughout the Union, encourage undertakings, including small and medium-sized undertakings, research centres and universities in their research and technological development activities of high quality; it shall support their efforts to cooperate with one another, aiming, notably, at permitting researchers to cooperate freely across borders and at enabling undertakings to exploit the internal market potential to the full, in particular through the opening-up of national public contracts, the definition of common standards and the removal of legal and fiscal obstacles to that cooperation.
  3. All Union activities under the Treaties in the area of research and technological development, including demonstration projects, shall be decided on and implemented in accordance with the provisions of this Title.

Definition of ERA. ERA is composed of research and development activities, programmes and policies with a transnational angle. The national research systems of the Member States, funded from national tax revenues, remain as they are. They are however encouraged to be more open to each other and the world, more inter-connected and more inter-operable. The following definition of ERA is taken from the Lisbon Treaty and the European Council’s conclusions:

A unified research area open to the world based on the Internal Market, in which researchers, scientific knowledge and technology circulate freely and through which the Union and its Member States strengthen their scientific and technological bases, their competitiveness and their capacity to collectively address grand challenges”. 


What are ERA priorities?

  • More effective national research systems that include increased competition within national borders and sustained investment in research;
  • Transnational cooperation and competition which define and implement common research agendas on challenges, raise quality through Europe-wide open competition, and construct and run key research infrastructures on a pan-European basis;
  • An open labour market for researchers so as to ensure the removal of barriers to researcher mobility, training and attractive careers;
  • Gender equality and gender mainstreaming in research to end the waste of talent and to diversify views and approaches in research and to foster excellence;
  • Optimal circulation, access to and transfer of scientific knowledge including via digital ERA to guarantee access to and uptake of knowledge by all.

The European Research Area and Innovation Committee (ERAC) is a strategic policy advisory committee whose mandate is to provide timely strategic input to the Council, the European Commission and Member States on research and innovation issues that are relevant to the development of the European Research Area, the European Semester and the Innovation Union.

State of play of ERA in 2013. Several Member States have already included a dedicated ERA section or referred indirectly to ERA in their National Reform Programmes (NRP). The ERA progress report highlights however the need for more transparency concerning the conditions for transnational access to research infrastructures. Researchers should also have access to an open labour market. What’s more, the report stresses the importance of reducing the existing gender gap between men and women in research institutions and programmes.

What’s next for ERA? The European Commission is seeking to enhance its contribution to ERA through Horizon 2020. Member States are invited to use the European Semester as an instrument to implement ERA priorities.


More information:

European Research Area website

Key documents

Survey button