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The European Research Area and Innovation Committee (ERAC) has published a noteworthy overview of the past, ongoing and future policy activities regarding the European Research Area (ERA), titled ERAC Opinion on the future of the ERA.
The Opinion outlines and critically assesses many results achieved since the idea came about in 2000 with a wide range of ERA-related policy reforms and initiatives successfully implemented, contributing towards the overarching objective of realising the ERA. For instance, the policy approach of the ERA Roadmap 2015-2020 to focus on national policy reforms and actions strengthened the role of the ERA at national level, because the European Commission considered that conditions were properly in place at EU level. The ERA Roadmap 2015 therefore included fewer initiatives and actions at EU level, including those based on the essential role of the EU framework programmes for research and innovation in delivering a fully functioning ERA. However, the effects of this are now seen in the major disparities between different national levels when it comes to R&I in the EU.
As stated in the Opinion, despite the multiple achievements of the ERA, an effective European dimension is missing in many national, including regional, R&I policies, hindering joint multi-level action, which is an essential element of a fully functioning ERA. This deficiency is leading to the insufficient co-evolution of European, national, including regional, R&I systems, thus building up an unhealthy level of concentration of R&I pockets of excellence across Europe. Moreover, it leads to an unbalanced mobility and knowledge circulation pattern that contradicts ERA policy objectives.
The Opinion proposes a new ERA paradigm with 20 requirements, 11 elements and five challenges. In order to achieve it, a strong political commitment at all levels and interlinkage with other policy areas are needed.