The European Research Area has developed not just since the idea for it was proposed by the EU Commission at the beginning of 2000; scientists, scientific organisations and universities have been preparing the ground for this major political goal for many years.
The basis for the European Research Area is intensive bilateral and multilateral relations between national research facilities. The Max Planck Society now has an extensive network in Europe: from a total of over 6,000 post docs, international guest and junior scientists in 2010, around 2,200 - a good third - came from countries in the European Union. Two thirds of the international cooperation partners of the Max Planck institutes are based in Europe, including Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain and The Netherlands.
In 2012 within the European Union, the majority of junior and guest scientists came from:
Of the total of approximately 6,000 international research partners of the Max Planck institutes, about two-thirds are located within the European Union. The main partners are located in the following countries:
Because of its similar work and structure, the Max Planck Society traditionally maintains close institutional relations with both the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and the Spanish Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC). There is a cooperation contract with both organisations to promote collaboration in the form of cooperation projects and joint research programmes.
The Laboratoires Européens Associés (LEA; currently 6) and the Groupements de Recherche Européen (GDRE; currently 8) have been very successful in work undertaken with the CNRS. Max Planck institutes, together with the CNRS and the CSIC, also maintain large research facilities, including the
European Research Area programmes, which not only increasingly provide funding but also research policy guidelines for member countries of the European Union that have not developed independent national funding systems, are increasingly gaining in importance. The currently running 7th Research Framework Programme is the largest third-party funding programme in the world, with a funding level of over 50 billion euros. The aim of the framework programmes is primarily to reinforce the competitiveness of European industry. Application-oriented research is therefore at the core of virtually all funding strategies.
At the same time, programmes that are in principle more suitable for basic research are gradually adapting to the needs of the economy. Nevertheless, the Max Planck institutes have always taken an active role in EU projects and had above-average success in terms of results. The funds provided overall in the 7th Framework Programme have totalled almost 380 million euros to date (end of 2012).
In the future, too, scientists from the Max Planck Society will be collaborating on EU programmes to, as before, profit from new ways and qualities of cooperation. Max Planck institutes will continue to be involved in EU funding programmes wherever possible when they are advantageous and in line with their own scientific goals. They will always coordinate EU projects responsibly when this can be done in keeping with their scientific goals.
The Max Planck Society is particularly committed to these issues at European level and, as in the past, will also put forward proposals to adapt funding procedures and tools to international standards.
Even though the funding of the long-term goal of future knowledge acquisition seems, more than previously, to be a national task, the Max Planck Society has been actively involved in the development of the European Research Council (ERC). By so doing, its goal has remained as ever to support the establishment of scientific and quality-oriented principles in European research funding. The European Research Council (ERC), which is a model for many member states, can demonstrate how evaluation and promotion of basic research should be successfully developed.