|ERA advisory structure
Reform of ERAC and the ERA-related governance
The Council resolution on the advisory work for the European Research Area, which was adopted by the Competitiveness Council on 30 May 20131, invited the ERA-related groups to consider together, in the interest of the timeliness, effectiveness and efficiency, how best to improve their cooperation, consultation and coordination. The Council also agreed that by the end of 2014, the statuses, the mandates and the reporting lines of those ERA-related groups that have been established by the Council should be reviewed.
The new ERA development strategy and the need to prepare ERA roadmap, as called for by the Council in its Conclusions of 21 February 20142, changed the environment for development and implementation of research and innovation policy in the European Union. It requires a new approach to setting adequate framework, including appropriate ERA advisory system. Therefore in December 2014 the Council invited ERAC to discuss and propose a reform of the ERA-related governance by 20153.
After a number of Council conclusions calling for improving ERA advisory system and ERAC’s discussions there was a common understanding of a need for a change of an overall structure of the system, including both ERAC and ERA-related groups.
An optimal new structure should allow to benefit from existing experience and build stronger, more effective, efficient, coherent and influential system.
2. Actions undertaken by ERAC and ERA-related groups
ERAC undertook relevant actions and held internal discussion on how ERA advisory system should be organised, how to make it efficient and effective, what groups are needed for the successful development of ERA and what role various bodies should play in the system.
Over recent months a few processes have been conducted in parallel:
1) responding to the need to review ERA-related groups,
2) ERA-related groups were invited to work together over strategic topics important for the development of ERA, in particular the ERA Roadmap
Ad. 1) ERA-related groups were invited to self-assess their mandate and activities. GPC, SFIC and WG KT did it and presented the result to ERAC. One of the conclusions of self-assessment of GPC was that its mandate should be modified.
Ad. 2) Member States were invited by the Council in its conclusions of 21 February 20144 to work “through ERAC, to develop by mid-2015 an ERA roadmap at European level - which should serve the purpose of facilitating and reinforcing the efforts undertaken by the Member States by providing: a shared understanding of the strategic objectives over the next few years and a set of tools and best practices to support the Member States in developing and implementing their national policies in ways which correspond with their respective specificities and priorities”.
The activities gave a good overview of the current state of play.
It became clear that there is a need for a forum for strategic debate, which would go beyond the traditional understanding of ERA and would be cross-cutting and break down the silos.
According to its mandate, ERAC "shall provide timely strategic input to the Council, the Commission and Member States on R&I issues that are relevant to the development of the ERA. It shall do this on its own initiative or at the request of the Council or the Commission. ERAC shall promote the peer review and mutual learning exercises” and “shall keep overview of the other ERA related groups, which it should cooperate with and consult, as necessary to attain its objectives"5.
ERAC seemed to be the most suitable forum for such a debate (see: Council Conclusions of 5 December 2014) – as a body advising both the Council, the Commission and Member States. It could and should play a more strategic role, representing coordination by cooperation approach. In order to do so it needs to be more committed, open and go beyond the current practice. There needs to be sufficient room for novel thinking and pro-active approach in identifying the most relevant R&I policy issues for ERAC to give timely strategic advice on. Realising the more and more urgent need for change, at its plenary meeting on 2-3 October 2014 ERAC decided to convene an extraordinary high-level meeting in order to discuss ERA advisory structure. The discussion was held on 7 November 2014. It was based on the option paper prepared by the Steering Board with the purpose to outline a model of the future ERA advisory structure.
ERAC was asked to express its view on the following issues:
1) the structure of the ERA-related groups,
2) the ERAC Steering Board,
3) options for the ERAC Chair.
Ad. 1) Most delegations were in favour of the option with permanent groups (called ERA Groups) covering all six ERA Priorities6 with stronger coordination among the Groups. However it was underlined that there will not be one size fits all approach.
It was also underlined that the mandates of the groups would need to be redefined to be forward looking and to have a limited time duration. A need for joint work programmes for the Groups to maximise the impact of activities was also underlined.
Ad. 2) There was a broad support from Member States that the composition of the future Steering Board should be made up of: Vice-Chair of ERAC (chairing the Board); the ERAC Chair; the Chairs of the Groups; two elected ERAC delegates; two Presidency representatives: one of the incumbent Presidency and one of incoming Presidency. It was understood that the Chairs of the Groups will be members of the Board with the aim of working together in partnership.
It was agreed that the Board will focus on coordinating the advisory work of the Groups and that it will have no controlling or top down role. It was expected that the Steering Board should ensure overall coherence of the work programmes of the Groups and their timetables for delivery. The general view was that the Steering Board should maintain its role of preparing the meetings of ERAC.
Ad. 3) A majority of Member States were in favour of the option where the Commission keeps the chairmanship of ERAC and the Vice-Chair is elected from the Member States’ delegates, emphasising at the same time the need for a Partnership approach.
On the request of several Member States another high-level extraordinary ERAC meeting was organised on 16 January 2015. It was a follow-up of the meeting of 7 November 2014, convened to discuss the role, the mandate, and ways to increase the impact of ERAC's work, as ERAC lacks sufficient impact and visibility.
The discussion was based on the paper prepared by FR who stated that ERAC did not play the strategic role it was supposed to, according to its mandate. According to FR, there was a need for the anticipation of policy topics, greater involvement of Member States at a higher-level and for more flexibility regarding priorities and the set-up of the Groups. Following the discussion ERAC agreed to the proposal, based on FR suggestion, to launch a pilot informal platform to allow free discussion on coordination of EU and national RDI strategies outside the context of ERAC. It was decided that there will be two informal meetings on DG’s level during a period of one year. After that ERAC delegations will take stock of progress made.
There was no decision made on any additional reforms of the ERA governance.
3. Issues to be concluded
Bearing in mind what has been achieved up till now in fulfilling the Council’s requests and the outcome of the ERAC extraordinary discussions it is still necessary to clarify views on the following issues:
Should ERAC be a platform for strategic debate going beyond ERA framework and to deal with ERA Roadmap implementation as well as ERA priority 1 implementation?
There is broad agreement that ERAC should be the committee for high-level discussions on the whole spectrum of R&I policy and the current mandate of ERAC provides for this.
Formula / ways of working to 'operationalize' this: e.g. setting the agendas with topical strategic / political issues that would be of interest and value for high-level representatives to participate; commitment and involvement of Member States, setting up ad-hoc working groups, too oriented to preparing formal opinions, is it acceptable that ERAC may discuss more challenging issues and not always reach consensus in its views and in some cases may be a forum for open dialogue, considering options, and constructive exchange of different views? Also include 'back-to-back idea so DGs can participate?
What steps need to be undertaken to make ERAC more strategic in its approach and performance?
In the light of ERAC’s debate on 16 January 2015 the question of the most appropriate ERA governance structure is still valid. Taking into account Presidency plans ERAC is invited to conclude the discussion on ERA governance structure at present meeting. Taking decision after this date ERAC will not be able to contribute with its opinion to May Competiveness Council.
Are there any other issues related to the Governance of ERA you would like to put forward?