The ERA-NET scheme was launched in 2002 as part of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). It was designed “to step up the cooperation and coordination of research activities carried out at national and regional level in the Member States and Associated States, through the networking of research activities, including their mutual opening and the development of joint activities”. As such it constituted one element in the drive towards the creation of the European Research Area (ERA), helping in particular to restructure the fabric of research in Europe via the improved coordination of national and regional research activities and policies.
The scheme invited programme owners (generally ministries) and programme managers (generally agencies and research councils), to submit proposals for individual ERA-NETs in self-nominated topic areas. Each of these was expected to establish variable geometry networks comprised of the programme owners and managers of RTD programmes in the participating countries or regions. In turn, each of these networks pursued some or all of the elements of a four-step process. These involved:
• The systematic exchange of information and good practices on existing programmes and activities
• The identification and analysis of common strategic issues
• The planning and development of joint activities between national and regional programmes
• The implementation of joint trans-national activities, including joint calls and programmes.

More information on ERA-NET at http://cordis.europa.eu/coordination/