Newly established EU countries in Central Europe, such as Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, have benefited significantly from EU projects that brought them closer to the ERA. One of these was the EU-funded project 'Creating ERA in Central Europe' (CERA), which encouraged collaboration among the best research centres and organisations in the region. CERA created mechanisms for virtual networking and reinforcing the ERA through well established links and twinning initiatives between New Member States and older ones like Austria and Germany. It fostered exchange of best practices and assisted in preparation of proposals for new networks of excellence in target countries, particularly in the fields of environment, energy, life sciences and nanotechnology. In more specific terms, the project focused on life sciences on genomics and biotechnology for health. With respect to nanotechnology and nanoscience, the focus was on knowledge-based multifunctional materials and new production processes and devices. In parallel, the environmental component covered global change, ecosystems and sustainable development. Project aims were achieved through training workshops, expert visits and many different types of meetings. CERA successfully raised awareness of EU-funded projects, particularly guidelines for participation and proposal development. It mapped excellence, developed skills and increased international cooperation for institutes in Central Europe. These institutes were able to distribute their research results, transfer technology from their laboratories to industry and identify partners for future research, strengthening the ERA in numerous ways.