During the 6th Framework Programme (FP6), the European Commission introduced the ERA-NET scheme with the goal of promoting cooperation and coordination of research activities carried out at the national and regional levels in the Member States and Associated States. For more than a decade, this funding scheme has supported the networking of research funding activities conducted at national or regional levels and the mutual opening of research programmes, thereby contributing to the development of the European Research Area (ERA).
The ERA-NET scheme has over the years enabled national systems to take on tasks collectively that they would not have been able to tackle independently. Both networking and mutual opening require a progressive approach. The ERA-NET scheme therefore had a long-term perspective that must also allow for the different ways how research is organised in different Member States and Associated States.
A growing network
In this spirit, Era-net Transport (ENT) was jointly founded in 2004 by a group of European national transportation research programmes. Between this milestone event and the conclusion of the third incarnation of Era-net Transport (ENT III) in March of 2016, the network had grown to include 24 partners from 18 countries and regions in Europe and beyond.
In the period 2004-2016, ENT enjoyed financial support by the European Commission for its networking activities within the framework of three successively funded projects, so-called Coordination and Support Actions (CSA).
Era-net Transport can look back on a long legacy of successful cooperation and a formidable list of achievements. In addition to the establishment of a regular and trustful exchange of information between programmes, ENT has spawned a significant number of transnational funding initiatives, where national and regional funding programmes have pooled resources for the joint funding of projects.
Over 25 ENT action groups have worked on various relevant transport research topics. Action groups are small and medium sized transnational research and innovation funding initiatives based on common national/regional innovation needs and running programmes. A selection of these action groups and transnational initiatives:
ENT2b: Intelligent Logistics, Freight transport
ENT5: Maritime Safety - SURSHIP
ENT12: Tracking and tracing of dangerous goods
ENT13: Safety and Security across modes
ENT14: Demographic Changes – Keep Moving
ENT15: Sleepiness at the wheel
ENT16: Intermodal Freight Transport
ENT18: Climate-friendly Freight Network
ENT19: Electric mobility
ENT22: Stepping Stones
The Flagship Call
The last phase of ENT introduced a new instrument, the ENT Flagship Call, a call for proposals with a substantial amount of call budget. This allowed for even larger sized transnational research and innovation funding initiatives.
During the first eight years of the initiative (2004-2012), ENT launched transnational calls with a total funding volume of round €50 million. During the subsequent four years, ENT succeeded in pooling yet another €50 million for the funding of transnational R&D projects. A large portion of the joint funding of projects in that period was carried out within the framework of so-called Flagship Calls, a particularly successful model of cooperation.
In addition to the joint funding initiatives organised and carried out within ENT itself, the network also provided the foundation for the development of the ERA-NET Plus Electromobility+ (launched in 2011, involving €20 million), the ERA-NET Plus Infravation (launched in 2014, involving €9.5 million) and the ERA-NET Cofund Electric Mobility Europe (to be launched at the end of 2016, involving €30 million).
A new phase
With the expiry of ENTIII in March 2016, the network entered into a new phase of collaboration: cooperation without the institutionalised support of an EU-funded project.
Underlining the clear value of continuing cooperation, the ENT partners unanimously agreed to pursue a self-sustaining form of collaboration and to maintain the existing network. The ENT network continues to serve owners and managers of transport research programmes by facilitating cooperation between their national/regional funding programmes in order to reduce fragmentation of the ERA for Transport.