The aim of this article is to analyse the evolution of the ideational framework of the most ambitious initiative in supranational research governance so far – the European Research Area (ERA), launched by the European Commission in 2000. In order to do so, the ERA initiative is analysed against the background of the long-term development of the science, technology and innovation policy ideas. The analysis reveals that over the course of 14 years, the policy aims of, and support for, the ERA initiative have considerably broadened. While economic competitiveness goals initially dominated the Commission’s initiative to launch the ERA, the initiative has gradually expanded towards social and scientific aims as well as stronger involvement of member states and stakeholders. Recent “big ideas” of excellent science and Grand Challenges help increase support for the ERA initiative among the research community and society. In the broadened ERA ideational frame, diverse aims of scientific freedom, societal relevance and economic competitiveness co-exist but attention to the relationships between them has been limited. Further exploration and conceptualization of the relationships between diverse policy ideas is an important challenge for future research policy studies and practice.
European Research Area, Science, technology and innovation policy, Economic competitiveness, Grand Challenges, Scientific excellence
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