Contribution of the French rectors’ conference on the ERA

17 août 2020

Contribution of the French rectors’ conference on the ERA

1. An ERA to increase the impact of investments and industrial policies in territorial ecosystems
The ERA must monitor its objectives within the framework of sectoral approaches, allowing the EU to become a leader in green technologies, artificial intelligence, or priorities linked to decarbonization such as clean hydrogen; these are all objectives which will enable the EU to develop its comparative advantages and guide investments, mobilize funding and also increase citizen engagement. These interactions between the ERA and sectoral approaches will make it possible to better feed other policies (including taking into account citizens and the socio-economic development of territories, for example) in the context of the Green deal and the digital agenda, so as to maximize the impact of ERA which will in turn be impacted by EU policies. As such, the ERA will also strengthen territorial specialization at EU level, notably through the S3 framework.
Achieving the objectives of the ERA requires a stronger alignment effort between the EU and the Member States, which is all the more important as we are going through periods of transition which require shared objectives and visions. It remains essential to interact closely between the European, national and regional levels, most notably in order to achieve greater alignment of national and European priorities in the areas of HR and research infrastructures and as regards the abovementioned thematic priorities (decarbonization, hydrogen …). Otherwise, this might limit the impact of the Horizon Europe program. •European partnerships must be more impactful and transformative compared to FP7 and H2020 partnerships and could strengthen the links between all stakeholders and help align the implementation of national priorities or between companies and the representatives of ecosystems. Through European partnerships, Member States could also increase their financial commitment to joint programs and European partnerships, with the aim of reaching a 5% public investment target by 2030.
These convergences will have all the more impact as they will be transferred to the territorial ecosystems in terms of research, innovation and skills.
A new ERA must be based on more efficient national research systems. The 3% target was not met and should remain a target, although further steps need to be taken to strengthen participation in the R&I framework program.

2. For an ERA better linked with the EHEA
We need to better articulate the European Research Area and the European Higher Education Area. This would remove obstacles to mobility, transfer research results more systematically to higher education and lifelong training through skills, in the service of employment and in response to challenges of inclusiveness and social cohesion.
It would be useful to identify topics that provide the basis for enhanced consultation between the two Areas. This becomes all the more relevant as new stakeholders such as European universities need coherence. European universities can serve as a testing ground to strengthen this link between these two areas, and, through the pilot projects, identify the common needs of these two areas and the synergies.
Research activities focused on major issues like sustainable development goals as well as the Green deal would also benefit from convergence between teaching and research activities. The convergence could go even further, through the development of a mechanism for entrepreneurship that would require partnership with industry.

3. An ERA for the circulation of researchers
The traditional objectives of the ERA, including the free circulation of researchers (social rights, recognition of mobility in the development of careers…) have still not reached their maximum efficiency. The mobility of researchers is still too little encouraged. Efforts still need to be made to develop incentive and reward systems to encourage the mobility of researchers, both geographical and inter-sector (industry / research institutions).
Therefore the circulation of researchers must not be tantamount to a brain drain.
Gender must be a priority in the European research area, particularly within the framework of Horizon Europe to support socio-economic, environmental and technological transitions. Progress in mainstreaming gender should be assessed in research, and Horizon Europe should fund specific gender-focused projects

4. To ensure a coherent system
A reinforced convergence via the European Semester will make it possible to articulate the dynamics at the European level while guaranteeing the subsidiarity principle.
The ERA seems to oscillate between two aims: excellence and inclusiveness. No one calls into question the principle of excellence while inclusiveness seems to us to be more of a principle than a goal. If the objective is to strengthen the links between the ERA and the industrial strategy, that is the links between stakeholders at territorial, national and European levels. The impact objective seems to us more relevant, in particular to partially register the activity of R&I stakeholders within the framework of EU policy objectives.
“Inclusiveness” in the global sense of the term must be a priority to avoid fragmentation between Member States (hence the need to devote special attention to Widening actions) and also within Member states. The ERA must contribute to reducing fragmentation at all levels and this can only be achieved by taking into account the importance of local ecosystems.

5. An ERA based as well on research infrastructures
Research infrastructures must also be the subject of a stronger alignment between European and national policies, as they are essential catalysts for the circulation of scientific knowledge, technology and researchers. Promoting access to research infrastructures is essential in order to establish a link with collaborative R&I projects relevant to society. We can consider including an evaluation criterion for Framework Program projects on access and use of research infrastructure.

6. An ERA for reinforcing the role of the EU at the international level
The ERA, as part of the EU’s international policy favoring multilateralism, must as well reaffirm the sovereignty of the EU in this period fraught with tensions.
A more global ERA has to position the UE on a par with the great powers, primarily China and the USA by reaffirming European values (such as the principle of reciprocity, the defense of European rules – e.g. the Green deal, data monitoring…) and promoting a collective, inclusive multilateralism to meet increasingly connected global challenges.