National Action Plan for the European Research Area

In November 2023, the Federal Government adopted a National Action Plan for the European Research Area (ERA). This lays the foundation for the strategic direction of German EU research and innovation policy until 2027.

Flags of the European Union and the Federal Republic of Germany are blowing in the wind.

Adobe Stock / Jarama

The European Research Area was created in 2000 with the aim of establishing a single market for research and innovation and ensuring the free movement of researchers throughout Europe. The Member States have been contributing to the achievement of commonly defined European objectives through their national commitment and in close co-operation with their European partners. In 2021, the EU Member States agreed on ambitious goals with the Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe, as part of the relaunch of the European Research Area.

In this Action Plan, the Federal Government presents its national guidelines and fields of action for the years 2024 to 2027. The Action Plan outlines how the Federal Government further advances and fulfils the objectives of the European Research Area by taking national action. In this context, it is important to join forces and pool national efforts with European partners in order to ensure that Europe...

  • maintains and boosts its competitiveness, including through the translation of research results into applications; contributes to overcoming the major challenges of our time with basic and applied research and innovation; and generates European added value;
  • remains one of the most attractive locations for science in the world, and preserves and enhances its ability to attract talent from around the world;
  • further facilitates mobility within the European Research Area;
  • shapes and participates in global knowledge flows and innovation processes, through close European and international ties; and
  • protects academic freedom and research security in European and international cooperation.

The Federal Government has laid the programmatic foundations with the Future Research and Innovation Strategy for Germany to play a decisive role in the major research and innovation policy issues of the coming years. This National Action Plan builds directly on this strategy, which defines the intensification of European and international cooperation as a key objective and states: Against the backdrop of the current geopolitical watershed (Zeitenwende), the relevance of the European Research Area is also growing. We must strengthen it further and actively shape it in future to secure technological sovereignty, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and further strengthen and actively shape Germany's and Europe's resilience to crises in the future.

In recognition of the scientific community’s shared responsibility for the success of the European Research Area, this Action Plan was preceded by a comprehensive consultation. From November 2022 to February 2023, around 1,500 researchers participated in an online survey and shared their ideas and priorities with regard to the goals and initiatives currently agreed at European level. The prioritisation of issues based on the survey was complemented by a more in-depth discussion in the course of several workshops. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research discussed the national implementation of the European goals with around 60 research and innovation organisations. The consultation’s outcomes are the foundation of this Action Plan and inform the design of the national measures.

Strengthening innovative, excellent and free research in Europe – guidelines for the further development of the European Research Area

Three guidelines provide direction for Germany’s contribution to the national development of the European Research Area. These guidelines link the European priorities established in the Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe with the national objectives and measures set out in the Future Research and Innovation Strategy.

Mode of operation of the National Action Plan

In order to achieve the goals set out in the guidelines, the National Action Plan for the European Research Area follows a clear structure, from goal to instrument. Along similar lines to the Future Research and Innovation Strategy, the success of the Action Plan’s implementation will be quantified.

The guidelines point the way forward and provide orientation for the actions of the large number of actors in Germany who are responsible for the European Research Area. Each of the guidelines leads to one or more fields of action, which operationalise the goal established by the guideline. The fields of action are also closely based on the needs of the German research and innovation landscape. The Future Research and Innovation Strategy highlights potential which must be leveraged further so that Germany remains a driving force for innovation in the European Research Area in future. The National Action Plan is based on the analysis of strengths and weaknesses set out in the Future Research and Innovation Strategy, and specifies the goals for the European dimension.

Each field of action is underpinned by a range of measures. The measures specifically do not intend to provide an all-encompassing picture of the Federal Government’s ongoing activities relating to the European Research Area. Instead, the selection of measures sets new priorities and focal points based on the consultation on the European Research Area conducted from November 2022 to February 2023.

Guidelines and fields of action of the National Action Plan for the European Research Area

Guidelines and fields of action of the National Action Plan for the European Research Area


image description

The further development of a strong European Research Area can only be achieved through concerted action at national and European level. The key instrument for the implementation of the European Research Area is the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. The European Research Area’s goals and implementation should therefore be closely interlinked with the Framework Programme. The Action Plan thus establishes an advisory structure to promote the successful interlocking of these levels. The aim is also to ensure the optimal involvement of the Länder (federal states) and the scientific community in Germany.

German engagement for the European Research Area is efficiently and transparently evaluated by means of the monitoring at EU level and indicators. Alongside the indicators already contained in the European Research Area monitoring at EU level, we also draw on selected indicators from the Future Research and Innovation Strategy. When evaluating Germany’s contribution to the implementation of the European Research Area, the following indicators are particularly relevant and should be increased over the period from 2024 to 2027.

Guideline 1: Strengthening an innovative Europe

  • Share of national public R&D expenditure committed to joint programmes and initiatives, research infrastructures and European Partnerships (establishment of baseline data)
  • Environmentally related government R&D budget, percentage of total government R&D budget (latest available figure: 2.7% in 2020)
  • Proportion of innovating firms collaborating with Higher Education Institutions or Research Performing Organisations out of all innovating firms (latest available figure: n/a)
  • Business start-up rate (new start-ups in relation to the total number of businesses) in the high-tech sector (latest available figure: 3.58% in 2019)
  • Number of EU co-patents registered from within Germany (latest available figure: n/a)

Guideline 2: Enabling research excellence in Europe

  • Germany’s share of the grants received by the EU Member States in the current EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon Europe, by comparison with the previous programme, Horizon 2020 (latest available figure for Horizon 2020: 16.3%)
  • Share of publications available in open access (green, gold and diamond) (latest available figure: 39.9% in 2019)
  • Share of researchers receiving transferable skills training (latest available figure: 35.1% in 2019)
  • Movement from an employee to a job from another, from one year to the next in the field of science and technology (latest available figure: 8.8% in 2020)
  • Absolute number of employees in research and development (latest available figure: 733,831 in 2020)
  • Share of professorships held by women (latest available figure: 27% in 2021)

Guideline 3: Promoting a free Europe

  • Score for international co-publications in the European Innovation Scoreboard (latest score: 134.17 in 2023)
  • Academic Freedom Index score for Germany (latest score: fifth place with a score of 0.96 in 2022)

These overarching, quantitative indicators measure Germany’s total engagement in support of the European Research Area, to which the measures set out in the Action Plan make an important contribution. They are exemplary for the extensive activities in Germany relating to the policy goals set at national and European level. At the same time, there is no direct causal link between the measures and the indicator results. The quantitative indicators are contextualised by qualitative reports and complemented by an advisory structure at national level.

Implementation of the National Action Plan

With "Forum.EU", the Federal Government is setting up a new advisory structure to better integrate the relevant stakeholders from research and innovation and is establishing a transparent measurement of success through a monitoring system.

Further information on implementation