Brussels, 19 Apr 2004
Today's launch of a special networking programme for transport research, ERA-NET TRANSPORT, sets the scene for a broader European vision in this important sector. With EU backing, it will help Member States overcome both the fragmentation and duplication of their research efforts.
ERA-NET TRANSPORT – a new EU project for transport research providing joint procedures, programming and project management models and guidelines – was launched today in The Hague by the Dutch transport minister. This research project aims to promote co-operation between national transport research programmes and to open them up to European partners.
This is just one aspect of the broader ERA-NET scheme, which was designed to help breath life into the European Research Area (ERA), a concept born out of the Lisbon Summit in 2000.
Oliver Althoff of TÜV-Akademie Rheinland GmbH, a research management organisation coordinating the new project, says transport is an important topic for national governments but also for Europe. "We want to find ways – instruments and procedures – to take transport research from a nationally-oriented to a more European-oriented structure," he comments.
"Of course, national interests are important, but we need to convince governments of the benefits of co-operating at the European level by identifying topics where shared values can be shown," Althoff explains. He offers railway transport as a classic example where transnational research makes sense. Overlapping national research on track safety, for instance, can be avoided through greater collaboration at the EU level. National transport research is not being replaced, but greater effort must go into looking for the European angle in many research topics, he says.
The four-year project, which comprises 11 partners from nine European countries, is being financed by the Union's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) for research. In December last year, the Commission announced 32 successful research networking proposals – involving 422 funding agencies – eligible to receive a share of the €148 million set aside for ERA-NET. In addition, the scheme also provides incentives to national administrations to launch joint research projects co-financed by the EU.
Addressing research problems that could not otherwise be solved by a single entity, the projects include a European medical emergency network, a research initiative to help ageing populations, one on marine sciences in the Baltic sea and, of course, the transport research project. Eleven of the 32 proposals accepted are working in the life sciences field, a further eight in industrial technologies and six in the social sciences.
According to the project's website, "Efficient transport systems are central to Europe's single market. Most countries still view their transport networks and research from a national perspective." The project's programme aims to provide the means by which transport and research policy-makers can tackle future challenges and European research priorities in this field.
Althoff also makes it clear that co-operation between national programmes is voluntary within ERA-NET TRANSPORT. "National projects and programmes are only joined when there is a clear benefit for all parties involved," he says.
For years, a group of European transport research managers – the 'European Platform for Co-operation and Coordination in Transport Research' – has worked to increase co-operation and knowledge sharing between national transport research programmes. But, Althoff explains, the initiative faced funding problems: "To take such a project to the next level, we needed more robust financial and administrative support. ERA-NET is like a springboard helping projects like ours increase research co-operation across Europe."