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International Cooperation

It has long been recognised that scientific and technological advances cannot and should not be confined within political borders. Research and Innovation can offer global benefits and take place most effectively in a setting that is conducive to global cooperation.

Horizon 2020 (2014-2020)

Role of Associated States

A 17 September 2012 press release reveals that 1 in 5 EU research projects include at least one international partner, which is in addition to the participation of Member and Associated States. Enhanced international cooperation relies on improved funding frameworks for research and innovation activities with international partners. The European Commission suggests that international cooperation will not only be developed through existing joint initiatives with EU Member States but also through Horizon 2020, the EU's funding programme for research and innovation (2014-2020).

Unlike under previous funding frameworks, calls for proposals under Horizon 2020 will be completely open to third country participants, in accordance with the general principles and terms and conditions for the participation of such countries in Union programmes. Under this open framework, scientists and researchers will be free to interact with their third party counterparts.

These eligible participants are divided into three categories, including:

• Industrialised and emerging economies (only receive funding under specific conditions);
• Enlargement and neighborhood countries (eligible for automatic funding);
• Developing countries (also eligible for automatic funding).

A 5 February 2013 Horizon 2020 factsheet reveals the instruments available for enhancing international collaboration under Horizon 2020:

• Promoting joint initiatives and activities involving the Union with international partners in different Horizon 2020 initiatives (e.g. joint or coordinated calls);
• Targeted actions with key partners and regions will focus on societal challenges and enabling and industrial technologies;
• Encouraging research and innovation projects, where participation of third country entities is required or preferred;
• Achieving critical mass at programme and project level by reducing levels of administrative burden and increased accessibility (e.g. the inclusion of stakeholders and individual scientists in programme topics).

In addition to the above instruments, the Commission will implement multi-annual programme roadmaps for cooperating with key partner countries and regions over the long-term.

Cooperation and Innovation

In an increasingly multipolar and globalised world, international cooperation will be a major objective for European policy, specifically in the areas of science and technological development. The implementation of Horizon 2020 can, therefore, be contextualised within the the EU International Strategy for Research and Innovation , which articulates the following objectives applying to international cooperation activities:

• To strengthen the Union’s excellence and attractiveness in research and innovation as well as in its economic and industrial competitiveness;
• To tackle global societal challenges;
• To support the Union’s external policies.

In the Commission’s 14 September 2012 Communication entitled, "Enhancing and focusing EU international cooperation in research and innovation: a strategic approach," Horizon 2020 is expected to be the main funding vehicle for implementing the Union’s international cooperation actions in international research and innovation. Horizon 2020’s central aim of “simplification” in design and funding rules, the extent of participation extended to third party participants, financial management and implementation is expected to stimulate the Union's international research and innovation activities to promote global innovation and technologies.

The continued support of Europe’s new strategy for international cooperation under Horizon 2020 will result in a broadened knowledge triangle and broader policy coordination between governments, individuals, SMEs concerning research and innovation finance across the globe.

Science and Technology

International scientific and technological cooperation has been a major part of EU research policy since 1983, when the Commission launched a dedicated programme called the Science and Technology for Development Programme. It was integrated in 1992 into the 4th Research Framework Programme as the International Cooperation Programme (INCO). The 6th Framework Programme saw a general opening to all third countries, including the industrialised ones. Between the period of 2007 to 2013, the 7th Framework Programme's 50 521 million euro budget emphasises trans-national cooperation in consolidating leadership in key scientific and technology areas between universities and research centres, industry and public authorities of the Union.

Strategic Framework for International Science and Technology Cooperation

In 2008, the European Commission proposed the Strategic Framework for International Science and Technology Cooperation to strengthen science and technology cooperation with non-EU countries. The proposal called for Member States and the European Commission to define priority research and technology areas where a coherent EU effort would generate more added value than bilateral activities.

Arguing that the absence of a common European strategy for international science and technology cooperation had led to duplication, the proposal identified general principles and actions to:

  • reinforce the international dimension of the European Research Area (ERA) by strengthening cooperation with Europe's neighbours through the FP and fostering strategic cooperation with key third countries through geographic and thematic targeting;
  • improve the framework conditions for international cooperation in science and technology and for the promotion of European technologies worldwide.

The point of creating such a European Partnership was to identify common priorities which could give rise to coordinated or joint initiatives and positions vis-à-vis non-European countries and within international fora.


In addition to welcoming this proposal, the Competitiveness Council Conclusions of 2 December 2008 invited Member States to establish a Strategic Forum for International Science and Technology Cooperation (SFIC) to drive forward a European Partnership for International S&T cooperation.

Since its first meeting in February 2009, the SFIC has developed a step-by-step approach for identifying areas where cooperation could provide added-value. This began with a geographic and a thematic pilot initiative on EU S&T cooperation with India and on "Energy Research" (in close coordination with the SET-PLAN). In addition to this pilot initiative, SFIC is currently developing three other initiatives: the China Initiative, the USA Initiative and the Brazil Initiative.


The EU has concluded bi-lateral S&T agreements with a large number of individual countries, ranging from the USA to South Africa. These agreements constitute a framework and a privileged forum for identifying common interests, priorities, policy dialogue, and the necessary tools for S&T collaboration. 


As a regional actor, the EU also pays particular attention to cooperation with other regions in the world. Regional scientific and technological cooperation seeks synergies with other Community policies and activities, as well as complementarities with EU Member States bilateral actions. Frameworks have been drawn up to facilitate collaboration with other world regions.

Many networking possibilities for mutually beneficial collaboration between the African and EU scientific community have been initiated, including the November 2012 FP7 ERANET project “ERA-Net for Africa” (ERAfrica). Signed by fifteen countries consisting of Member and Associated States, this project is a joint funding scheme that is expected to serve as a model for future Africa-EU cooperation in S&T and R&D under Horizon 2020 and beyond. The first call for proposals was published in January 2013. Other important examples of collaboration include the  European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) that includes 14 EU Member States, Switzerland, Norway and 47 sub-Saharan countries and the Promoting African-European Research Infrastructure Partnerships (PAERIP) project. The PAERIP project, funded under the FP7 (Theme INFRA-2010-3.2), aimed at informing the organisation of policy dialogue and promoting African R08;European cooperation opportunities related to existing and new research infrastructures.

Over the past two years PAERIP undertook an extensive analysis of Africa-EU research infrastructure partnerships, including best practices which could be identified from current cooperation and the formulation of recommendations to enhance collaboration.  In this context PAERIP considered cooperation activities such as how to enhance transnational access to research infrastructures for African and European researchers, and the promotion of networks integrating African and European research infrastructures.

The outcomes of the project were presented at PAERIP’s final conference, organised during "EU Science: Global Challenges, Global Collaboration" (ES:GC2), which took place in Brussels on March 4-8, 2013, and include among others:

  • An inventory of African and European Research Infrastructures;
  • Clear recommendations on how to improve mutual access to RI;
  • Analysis of socio-economic impact of RI;
  • Creation and strengthening of EU-Africa Partnerships and networks.

EU Research Institutions

Horizon 2020 is expected to spur international cooperation in innovation on the level of research institutions. An important pillar of the Horizon 2020 funding framework is developing the European Research Area by 2014.This area encompasses a large and diverse number of European and international institutions and initiatives for research in every field, all of which could be candidates for Horizon 2020 funding.

Increased Visibility of the ERC

The European Research Council (ERC) and the Marie Skodowska-Curie Actions (MCAs) will play key roles in supporting scientific excellence on an international and interdisciplinary research and innovation activities under Horizon 2020.

Similar to its status under FP7, the ERC will continue to play a major role under Horizon 2020 in fostering research exchange and scientific excellence. The ERC is already set up to fund projects across the globe. Under Horizon 2020, the ERC will receive a 77% increase in funding to further broaden and enrich the research and innovation knowledge triangle amongst Member States, scientists, policymakers, members of industry and the relevant organisations worldwide.

A major initiative of Horizon 2020 is to increase the visibility of ERC abroad in order to attract more overseas applicants. The ERC is already involved in the Global Research Council and launched an awareness-raising campaign, "ERC Goes Global," in 2012.

This campaign included strategic visits to North and South America, Africa, Asia and Russia and a call for the following implementation measures:

  • Extra funding for researchers moving from a non-EU or Associated country (varying from €500,000 - €1 million depending on the grant);
  • Allowing some team members to be based overseas;
  • The 2012 agreement with the US National Science Foundation (NSF) allowing NSF researchers to join ERC grantee teams in Europe.

By broadening its scope of applicants and participating teams, the ERC will be able to recognize and cultivate the best ideas supporting Horizon 2020 research and innovation activities.


Similar to the role of the ERC, the Marie Skodowska-Curie Actions, which were created in 1996, have already successfully trained 65 000 fellow of more than 130 nationalities, 30% of which came from outside Europe. Under Horizon 2020, both the ERC and MCA's will operate on a completely researcher-driven basis to open up and stimulate the exchange of research, funds, tools, training, mobility and skills development and facilities.

Completing the European Research Area 

The implementation of Horizon 2020's single funding framework is expected to generate a "genuine single market for knowledge, research and innovation" to be shared amongst all actors in the European chain of research. The European Research Area (ERA) will be supported in order to eliminate current overlaps and wasteful spending on research and innovation activities throughout the Union.

The ERA-NET scheme, which is a key funding tool for the Horizon 2020 framework,will provide a simplified funding scheme that aims to pool and leverage other sources of funding and coordination between various national programmes.By supporting ERA-NET in addition to Joint Programme Initiatives, Horizon 2020 will provide substantial support during the calls for proposals process.

Global Challenges & Collaboration

Our conference European Science Global Challenges Global Collaboration (ES:GC2) brought international scientists and policy-makers together in the plenary session International Collaboration for Global Capacity Building to share their perspectives on the importance of international collaboration in science as a necessary tool for more efficient scientific advancement and to better respond to global challenges. The discussion revealed a strong consensus on the benefits of international scientific collaboration, namely minimised costs, maximised impact of scientific research, the prevention of the duplication of efforts and resources, and enhanced responses to global challenges.

Our workshop Science for Global Development – Astronomy presented an example of successful scientific collaboration between more developed and less developed countries, demonstrating its positive contributions to global technological and human capacity development.