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The European Research Area (ERA) is an initiative by the European Union designed to create a better environment for research and innovation across Europe by stimulating coherent research and innovation policy. At its core, it is based on a simple concept – Free circulation of researchers, scientific knowledge, innovation, and technology. In other words, developing integrated research system on the European level is expected to bring an increase in efficiency and productivity and avoid duplication of work.

Since the 1950s, the European need to compete with the United States and Japan in the global innovation arena birthed the idea of some form of unity and developing more unified research and innovation efforts. This strategy has proved to be successful with more narrow scientific fields through organizations such as the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). The first formulations and the development of these ideas were facilitated by various European Commissioners and established thinkers such as Altiero Spinelli, Antonio Ruberti, and Ralf Dahrendorf.

Some of the important milestones in the evolution of the ERA narrative include the formulation of the Single Area for European Science (1973), the inclusion of research as a formal community policy objective (1986), explicit formulation of the current initiative (2000), the green paper ERA: New Perspectives (2007), the Ljubljana process which has fostered a more substantial commitment to ERA priorities among EU member states (2008), EU 2020 strategy which emphasized the fields of research and innovation as central to sustainable development of the European Union (2010), A Reinforced European Research Area Partnership, communication which formulated 5 ERA priorities (2012), the European Research Area (ERA) Roadmap with 6 priorities 2015-2020 (2015), and EU Communication on a new European Research Area for Research and Innovation with 14 actions (2020).

The COVID-19 pandemic showed the critical importance of further developing the European Research Area (ERA) by highlighting the necessity for coordinated and collaborative research efforts as it became evident that addressing such a global health crisis required rapid, efficient, and unified scientific responses and open data sharing. Therefore, the ERA principles of open science, and efficient knowledge flows are vital for addressing not only health crises but other contemporary global challenges as well such as climate change.

These goals however are not that easy to achieve. The investment targets for the EU in regard to research and innovation haven’t been reached so far (3% as a percentage of GDP). Even though there is an overall positive trend (2.24 % in 2022, compared with 2.08 % in 2012), EU is still significantly lagging behind the countries such as the USA (3.46% relative to GDP in 2022), Japan (3.34% relative to GDP in 2022) and South Korea (4.93% relative to GDP in 2022). In Serbia, this indicator during the past years varies between 0.9 and 1%.

Aside from investment, Europe is not achieving the best results of harvesting the fruits of research activities when we look at indicators such as the number of patent applications, the trade balance in high-tech products, etc.


The ERA framework is continuously developing and today, we have ERA Policy Agenda 2022-2024 which includes 4 priority areas and 20 concrete actions.

ERA priority areas:

I Deepening a truly functioning internal market for knowledge;

II Taking up together the challenges posed by the twin green and digital transition, and increasing society’s participation in the ERA;

III Amplifying access to research and innovation excellence across the Union;

IV Advancing concerted research and innovation investments and reforms.

The first pillar is the essence of ERA priorities and it is related to activities such as enabling open Science practices (e.g., European Open Science Cloud), improving copyright and data legislative framework, reforming research assessment systems, promoting gender equality and fostering inclusiveness, protecting academic freedom, upgrading knowledge valorization mechanisms, and promoting international cooperation.

The second pillar deals with harmonizing EU research and innovation missions with ERA priorities, contributing to green and digital transition and increasing the collaborative efforts of the industry within this field as well as the empowerment of Higher Education Institutions and meaningful inclusion of citizens in the processes of creating scientific knowledge and innovation.

The third pillar is related to strengthening innovation ecosystems and fostering collaborations by engaging diverse stakeholders and aligning strategies across regions, enhancing inclusivity by supporting widening countries through cohesion policies.

The fourth pillar aims to develop regional and national R&I systems of Member States encouraging them to develop tailored national plans and align with EU strategies, improve mechanisms for progress monitoring, promote evidence-based policy-making, and support green and digital transitions.


ERA priorities are important as Serbia has a status of a widening country and it is currently in the pre-accession phase for the European Union and can benefit from them in multiple ways. Let’s go through a few.

First, harmonization with ERA priorities means aligning research policies and practices with those of the EU which is a step forward in the integration into the broader European research and innovation community enabling researchers to build collaborations, share resources, and participate in joint research activities with their colleagues from other European countries. Transnational cooperation in this context can provide better answers to social challenges and solutions that are in the public interest.

Second, by aligning with ERA priorities Serbian research organizations can increase competitiveness, improve their scientific performance, and increase the chances of getting EU funding for their proposals through programs such as Horizon Europe.

Third, ERA priorities are designed to strengthen research and innovation capacities on the level of organization and the state level and increase the quality of research by improving excellence, fostering innovation, and supporting the development of young researchers. ERA helps countries develop targeted policies and mechanisms to improve the research infrastructure.


During the last ERA Forum held on the 8th of March this year, the structure of the new ERA Policy Agenda 2025-2027 was discussed including the number and structure of proposed actions. The strategic document will include two new categories to differentiate between the ERA foundations and medium and short-term policy goals (“Structural Policy” and “ERA action”) and an improved progress monitoring system. The main goal is to make the new agenda more concrete, actionable and measurable.

In this context, within the working framework of the BEAMING project funded by the Horizon Europe program, the Institute for Development and Innovation has a challenging role in actively monitoring and participating in the development of the ERA policy framework and harmonizing the project outputs with the most recent progress. The central aim of the BEAMING project is to o promote innovation and valorization of knowledge in the field of bioeconomy through cooperation between higher education institutions in the European Union and Widening countries.


Author: Siniša Borota, sociologist

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