ERA-NET (European Research Area Networks) is the policy instrument of the European Commission for the coordination of national research programmes in Europe. ERA-NET encourages cooperation among researchers from different countries in Europe and even outside Europe. To this end, research funding organisations organise joint calls around specific disciplines and themes in all participating countries. Consortia of researchers from the participating countries can respond to the calls with a joint research application.
The FWO uses this instrument to enable and encourage researchers in Flanders to cooperate with their colleagues in other countries.
The European Commission periodically issues calls for new ERA-NETs in specific scientific domains and themes. The list of accepted proposals, which are submitted by a group of interested national and regional research financiers, is published approximately one year later. The ERA-NET can then be launched. The initiative normally runs for five years. In addition to calls, an ERA-NET can organise networking activities in preparation of the joint call.
FWO selects the networks in which it wants to participate from the lists of EC accepted ERA-NETs. In principle, it participates only in joint calls, because this is its core activity. As from the 1st of January 2017 the board of trustees will perform the selection, taking into account the advice from:
- an ad hoc panel, if specific experts need to be consulted;
- the Flemish members of the Expert Panels to which the theme of the ERA-NET belongs;
- the Flemish members of the Panel for International Cooperation (CIS);
- the research coordination services of the main host institutions for FWO projects and Strategic Research Centres (SOC).
The board of trustees adopts the following criteria for participation:
- relevance of the call for Flemish scientific research;
- extent to which fundamental research is covered;
- extent to which the European dimension is a suitable and necessary way to reach the objectives;
- available expertise in Flanders to stand a chance within a European call;
- extent of FWO participation in and success rate after calls of an ERA-NET in the past, if one of the new initiatives is a continuation thereof (to be determined by means of the name, the mention thereof in the description of the actual new network, the scope of the ERA-NET, and so forth).
If the FWO supports joint calls, it does so up to circa € 350,000 (overhead included) for one or two three-year research projects. Except for specific provisions imposed by the ERA-NET (or EJP), Flemish researchers are subject to the rules for regular research projects (projects fundamental research) (unless provided otherwise; e.g. they don’t need to take into account the budget allocation rules in this respect) or for SBO research projects, which, in this context, involve a less severe procedure.
Applicants submit their application directly to the ERA-NET in question, i.e. not via the FWO. For SBO ERA-NET projects, however, a brief valorisation plan has to be submitted beforehand. The FWO's decision as to which Flemish project it will support is based only on the ranking of the consortium applications by a transnational evaluation panel. The applicant of that project will then sign an agreement both with its consortium partners and with the FWO.