EUA signs Memorandum of Understanding with European Commission to outline partnership in delivering the European Research Area
EUA last week signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the European Commission, which recognises the key role of universities in delivering a strong European Research Area (ERA). This Memorandum was signed and presented on 17 July on the occasion of the launch of the European Commission’s new Communication on a ‘Reinforced European Research Area Partnership for Excellence and Growth’, which outlines the EC strategy with regard to completing the ERA.
EUA was also one of five stakeholder organisations (*please see list below) that signed a Joint Statement with the Commission, on working in partnership towards the achievement of the ERA by 2014. EUA considers that the direct engagement of universities as key research actors will strengthen the ERA and contribute to building a unified research area, open to the world, in which researchers, scientific knowledge and technology circulate freely and thereby strengthen Europe’s competitiveness and capacity to collectively address grand challenges.
Most of the current barriers and bottlenecks to the completion of the ERA are already well-known and documented and require policy and funding action that should be taken at the level of the EU, (Member State) national and regional level governments, and national funding agencies. Therefore, the commitments that EUA has made in the Memorandum concern topics where university’s own initiatives are already helping to overcome the identified barriers and bottlenecks, and where EUA has been working with its membership to promote wider take-up and development of best practices already in place. Through promoting the actions outlined in the Memorandum with its members EUA will look to build on existing activities to support its member universities across the continent in areas such as strengthening researchers’ careers; improving researcher mobility, university-industry collaboration and knowledge transfer, cross-border cooperation, and the development of open access to research publications and data.
EUA Secretary General Lesley Wilson said: “We are delighted that the central contribution of universities has been formally recognised in the development of a successful and unified European Research Area. Our experience with the development of the European Higher Education Area has shown that voluntary processes involving both public authorities and key stakeholders can indeed be very successful."
“EUA will now look forward to taking forward the actions outlined in Memorandum with its members, as far as their national legislation allows. In doing so, however, EUA also emphasised that increased investment by the EU and Member States in training, skill development and research and innovation activities will be essential to lead Europe out of the economic crisis – and to underpin a competitive ERA,” she added.
The European Commission’s new Communication on the ERA is a response to the deadline set by EU leaders to make the ERA a reality by 2014. The Commission outlined that it had opted for a reinforced partnership focused approach in order to make rapid progress towards this goal and to encourage different stakeholders (research stakeholders, member states, and the EC) to take responsibility and action towards achieving the ERA.
Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn underlined the five key priorities for progress outlined in the proposals: more effective national research systems; improved transnational cooperation and competition; a more open labour market for researchers; gender equality and mainstreaming in research organisations; and optimal circulation, access to and transfer of scientific knowledge. To complement the ERA proposal, the Commission also presented on 17 July a separate Communication on improving access to scientific information.
*The five stakeholder organisations that have signed Joint Statement are: EUA, the European Association of Research and Technology Organisations (EARTO) the League of European Research Universities (LERU), NordForsk, and Science Europe (SE). EUA together with EARTO, LERU and NordForsk have also signed individual Memoranda of Understanding with the European Commission and in which they commit to providing a report on the implementation of their actions by end of 2013.
EUA’s Memorandum of Understanding and the Joint Statement can be downloaded from this page of the EUA website. Further background on the ERA Communication is available on the Commission website.
Photo: © European Union, 2012
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