European Research Area: universities positioned and ready to participate in governance

30 November 2021

After calling for the inclusion of stakeholders, like universities, in the governance of the new European Research Area (ERA), EUA welcomes the conclusions approved by the European Competitiveness Council on 26 November and the recommendation on a Pact for Research & Innovation in Europe.

While the proposed governance in the conclusions is a positive first step towards involving stakeholders in the ERA, which is needed to make it a success, it still falls short from what EUA and other European research and innovation organisations called for in an open letter addressed to the EU institutions.

As the letter clearly stated, R&I stakeholders provide high-quality, collective input from different communities within the R&I system, all of which are necessary to achieve an effective and resilient ERA. R&I stakeholders are therefore key players without whom the new ERA cannot become a reality. EUA looks forward to establishing a regular dialogue between R&I stakeholders, member states and the Commission in the ERA Forum with a view to building trust and working towards the co-creation and co-design of the ERA, not just its implementation.

On the Pact for R&I in Europe and the Policy Agenda annexed to the conclusions, all will now depend on how much member states will actually commit to the ERA. The university sector is not yet convinced by these commitments and the conclusions hold no guarantee nor obligation on how much member states will commit financially. Despite the Council reaffirming yet again the target of investing 3% of EU GDP in R&D, EUA is still concerned to see that the level of ambition is not matched by adequate financial investment.

As the Association clearly stated a year ago when the Commission published its Communication on the new ERA: sustainable funding will determine the ERA’s capacity to achieve its objectives for European R&I. Member states must invest both in investigator-driven and mission-oriented R&I. The pandemic has proven how they are mutually reinforcing contributors to both short-term solutions and long-term, sustainable development. In Germany, the future government coalition has put forward in its treaty not just the fundamental role of universities, but importantly it has also committed to spending 3.5% of its GDP on R&D. Now more than ever it is time for member states to make similar commitments clearly and openly.

Universities are committed to the new ERA and EUA looks forward to continuing the constructive role it has played in its development since 2012. Now that the university sector is positioned and ready to be active in its governance, EUA also commits to collaborating with others in the sector to ensure effective engagement and structural representation to make the ERA a reality and a success.

The Association congratulates and thanks Minister Simona Kustec and the Slovenian Presidency for their efforts towards ensuring the inclusion of stakeholders, such as universities, as core actors in the new ERA.

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