The initial political concept of the European research Area (ERA) was launched by the publication of the Communication of the European Commission “Towards a European Research Area“ in 2000. The initiative was driven by the increasing negative effects on European competitiveness caused by the absence of a science and research policy process at EU level, and by the massive fragmentation and compartmentalisation of the EU science and research landscape at that time.

From its beginning, the initiative to establish the ERA aimed at improving the framework conditions for the mobility of researchers and for the collaboration across Member States at the level of researchers, research performing organisations (RPOs) and research funding organisations (RFOs). Among the main achievements of the ERA so far are the establishment of a European approach on Research Infrastructures – the ESFRI process - and of the European Research Council (ERC).

In 2009, the ERA was incorporated into the EU Treaties. Since then, the objective of the EU to achieve a European Research Area (ERA) in which researchers, scientific knowledge and technology circulate freely is set out in Article 179 TFEU. Furthermore, in Article 182 (5), the European legislator is given a broad legislative competence for establishing measures necessary for the implementation of the ERA.

Although further progress was made towards the objectives of the ERA, in 2018 many research policy makers in the EU realised that the ERA would need more visibility, relevance and effectiveness in order to finally realise a common European internal market for knowledge. To this end, the Council of the EU and the European Commission initiated a process to renew the ERA, and to establish a new ERA narrative, new objectives and a more effective ERA governance.

In late 2021, the Council of the EU finally adopted a Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe, as the foundation of the “new ERA”, as well as a new governance framework for its implementation. Furthermore, the Council adopted a first ERA Policy Agenda for the years 2022-2024 and called on the Member States and the European Commission to work together in partnership towards its implementation.