New Strategy for International Cooperation in R&I

he European Commission has published its new Strategy for International Cooperation in Research & Innovation, which will underpin the international dimension of Horizon Europe. 

With this new strategy, the EU plans to take a leading role in supporting international research and innovation partnerships and in delivering innovative solutions to green, digital, health and innovation challenges. These areas reflect the four main priorities of the European Commission that Horizon Europe will contribute to – European Green Deal, post-COVID recovery, Digitization and Innovation.

The strategy includes key objectives that aim to enhance the EU's leading role on research and innovation in the world, notably through modulating cooperation with key international partners based on EU commitment to international openness and fundamental values. It also includes a series of specific key actions, to develop in synergies with Member States, such as working with international partners to develop common principles on research and innovation and strengthening the partnership with Africa, that aim to contribute in reaching its objectives.

What are the main novelties in the new strategy?

The global approach to research and innovation supersedes the previous EU strategy that dates back to 2012 in order to respond to today's significantly different global context and to align the EU's international cooperation with its current political priorities.

In particular, it raises the need for Europe to scale up its partnerships at multilateral level to tackle today's urgent global challenges, such as climate change and health crises and to deliver on the green and digital transitions. It also calls for the EU to rebalance its cooperation with other countries with more reciprocity and ensuring a level playing field at international level.

The new strategy sets out a series of concrete actions, which include:

  • Promoting principles for international cooperation in research and innovation with international partners in areas such as academic freedom, research ethics, Open Science and gender equality.
  • Developing guidelines dealing with foreign interference that targets European universities and research organisations.
  • Jointly developing roadmaps with key non-EU country partners with a strong research and innovation base, to reach a level playing field and reciprocity in research and innovation cooperation.
  • Scaling up cooperation with key partner countries (e.g. USA, China, India and Russia) and regions such as Africa, Latin America and South-East Asia to accelerate sustainable and inclusive development and the transition to knowledge-based societies and economies.

How will the new strategy impact Horizon Europe?

  • General openness of the calls

The global approach to research and innovation will underpin the international dimension of Horizon Europe. Reaffirming the EU's commitment to global openness, Horizon Europe, in continuity with Horizon 2020, will in principle, remain open to any country in the world, including through a significant number of calls for proposals relevant for international cooperation (where the participation of entities from non-EU countries will be strongly encouraged or even mandatory).

In exceptional and duly justified cases, where necessary to safeguard the EU's strategic assets, interests, autonomy or security, Horizon Europe may limit participation of non-EU countries in certain actions.

  • Association to Horizon Europe

The association of non-EU countries to Horizon Europe will offer additional opportunities to participate in the programme with generally the same conditions as those of the EU Member States. As a key novelty in Horizon Europe, association will be offered also to countries located anywhere in the world that share European values and have a strong science, technology and innovation profile. 

  • Dedicated calls for proposals targeting specific countries or regions

In addition to the general openness of the calls, the Commission will develop selective and targeted international cooperation actions in areas of mutual interest under Horizon Europe, making it clear which calls for proposals require the participation of organisations from the target countries and regions (identified in the new strategy). In particular, a comprehensive and ambitious transversal ‘Africa Initiative’ will be implemented under the first Work Programme of Horizon Europe. 

The main Horizon Europe Work Programme for 2021-2022 is currently expected to be published by early June.