European Research Area (ERA)

Since the publication of the European Commission’s  communication „Towards a European Research Area“ in 2000 the realisation of the European Research Area (ERA) is one of the  central missions of the EU in the field of research.

lready in the Lisbon treaty ERA is described as unified research area open to the world and based on the Internal Market, in which researchers, scientific knowledge and technology circulate freely and through which the framework conditions for competetive research and innovation in Europe are improved.

The most important instrument to implement ERA is the framework programme for research, technological development and demonstration.

The European Commission explains the ERA conecept in a video.



Horizon 2020 is the essential contribution of the European Union (EU) concerning the European Research Area (ERA). ERA represents a vital concept for the EU research funding and policy, developed step by step over time:

  • Already back in the 1970s, the concept of an integrated European research area was considered, comprising synergies in the use of infrastructures, joint research planning and enhanced mobility of researchers and knowledge.
  • Around 2000, the ERA concept became part of the so-called Lisbon Strategy, gaining political momentum. The vision of an "open space" for Research in Europe covered the grouping of resources and infrastructures, the mobilization of private investment and the strengthening of mobility and human capital; it was designed to turn the EU into the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy worldwide until the year 2010.
  • In April 2007, European Commission published a Green Paper on ERA to report on the progress, identify shortcomings, and start a public discussion. The "Leitmotiv" of the Green Paper is the reduction of fragmentation in ERA and the fostering of Europe`s international competitiveness.
  • Based on the Green Paper and the results of a public consultation, in spring 2008 EU started the so-called Ljubljana Process to further develop ERA. In the connecting "Vision 2020" EU stated the demand for a stronger interaction within the knowledge triangle (education, research, innovation), supported by a "fifths freedom", the open circulation of researchers, knowledge and technology in Europe. A strong cohesion policy and a reasonable coordination of EU member states were added and meant to enable Europe to communicate as a unified entity and to compete successfully with Asia and the U.S.A.


  • With the Lisbon treaty coming into effect at the end of 2009, ERA was established as a legal concept. Art. 179 states: "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 [...]."
  • The European Council of February 2011 has defined the objective to complete ERA until the end of 2014.
  • In July 2012, European Commission published the communication "A Reinforced European Research Area Partnership for Excellence and Growth", outlining five action items crucial for the completion of ERA, amongst them the definition of cornerstones for efficient national research systems and suggestions for a stronger role of EU research funding as blueprint for national funding systems.
  • In summer 2013, a discussion about the necessity of EU legal action for the completion of ERA was started; the discussion is still going on.
  • With the change of the European Commission at the end of 2014, the fokus has shifted from ERA to the new priorities in research policies „open innovation“, „open science“ and „open to the world“.

Additionally, the scientific community in Europe developed several instruments to contribute to ERA. The (now dissolved) Heads of European Research Councils (EUROHORCs) and the European Science Foundation (ESF) have published a so-called "Roadmap to Excellence"; the new organisation Science Europe has continued theses activities. The respective documents describe a number of science-driven projects focusing mainly on the quality of research, independently implemented by the European research and research funding institutions.