Towards a 
Research Area


Homepage .

Keynotes .

Programme .

Impressions .

Links .

Contact .


Integration of European Research Systems: a multidimensional phenomenon 
Dr. Jakob Edler, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, Karlsruhe


This paper discusses the complex dynamics as for the integration of European research systems triggered by the ERA initiative of the European Commission and speculates about the consequences for governance in research policy and strategies in Europe.

The paper sets out a political science concept defining integration as "the creation and maintenance of intense and diversified patterns of interaction among previously autonomous units." (Wallace). In this understanding integration is driven or experienced by different actor groups at different levels, and developments in one level may impinge upon other levels.

For the European research systems this means that we have to take into account formal decisions in high politics as well as interaction schemes by national ministerial administrations. Moreover, the cooperation of industrial and public researchers, of research organisations is not confined to the European Framework Programme, and many bi- and multilateral schemes at various levels meanwhile complement the Framework Programme collaborations. In addition, cooperation by research funding bodies have been largely outside the EU system.

The main argument of the paper is that integration of research systems in Europe is a multi-dimensional phenomenon characterised by a double dynamic. The paper shows that integration of European research systems is driven by political, economic, social dynamics at various levels and takes place (1) within and (2) outside the formal system of the EU. The paper provides some evidence and speculations as for this double dynamic:

(1) As for ERA, three features are discussed that potentially act as catalysts of integration of the European Research system: (a) the New Instruments to implement the Framework Programme and to boost integration of research actors, (b) the discursive apparatus set up by the Commission in form of the Open Method of Coordination to accompany the implementation of ERA via inter-governmental reflexive activities and (c) the ERA-NET activities as an attempt to accompany the research integration with an administrative integration.

(2) As for the dynamics outside the formal EU structures, the paper points to an increasing number of 'bottom-up' trans-border collaborative initiatives between nationally based research organisations and research funders stimulated directly or indirectly by ERA, accelerating a process by which the national research organisations and their institutes grow out of their national boundaries in their strategic research activities. This happens, e.g., through (a) integrative joint (transnational) research funding, (b) structural integration (whereby relevant procedures and ways of organisation of research (funding) as well as institutional representation are becoming subject of mutual adaptation) and (c) the likely creation of a European Research Council.

The paper argues that these complex developments are interdependent. There are strong hints that individual actors and stakeholder groups shift their attitudes and their reference level of expectation, adjust their definition of interest and their behaviour according to the new opportunities de-fined at the new the European level. As in this double dynamic the oligopolistic, inter-national power structures soften and increasingly develop into a more complex web of governance structures, the role of national policy-makers changes. How they define their new role will depend on their ability and openness to actively shape the integration process.