A strong scientific knowledge base is one of Europe’s traditional key assets and has allowed us to become world class in several research fields. In spite of these merits, the global position of European research is currently being challenged by a rapidly changing research landscape. Simultaneously, European research is faced with the implications of globalisation of markets and industries, digitalisation and new technologies, as well as a need to address societal issues such as an ageing population or climate change. In its broad-based innovation strategy for the EU, the importance of improving knowledge transfer between public research institutions and third parties, including industry and civil society organisations was identified by the Commission as one of ten key areas for action. This Communication responds to this need and it presents a number of orientations for Member States. It sets out ideas on how Member States and the Community can act together, in a mutually reinforcing way, to overcome some of the existing obstacles, in particular in terms of promoting the trans-national dimension of knowledge transfer. It is accompanied by a Commission Staff Working Document on “voluntary guidelines for universities and other research institutions to improve their links with industry across Europe” which are based on good practices identified by a number of national public authorities and the work of various European stakeholder associations.