Widening - Excellence Hubs

Ecosystems collaboration within low R&I performing countries to strengthen regional innovation excellence

What is the Excellence Hubs action?

The Excellence Hubs action supports partnerships of place-based innovation ecosystems in low R&I performing countries ("Widening Countries"), involving larger communities of actors in a regional context, based on the quadruple helix principle.

Type of Action: Coordination and Support Action (CSA), funding networking, coordination or support services, policy dialogues, and mutual learning exercises and studies.

Who can apply?

  • Consortia must include at least two different place-based R&I ecosystems in at least two different Widening Countries.
  • Each ecosystem needs to include four different categories of actors:
    1. 1. Academic institutions: Universities and/or non-university research centers or labs.
    2. 2. Business entities: Active established firms with relevant revenues.
    3. 3. Public authorities or authorised agencies.
    4. 4. Societal actors: Civil society organisations, associations, citizens, end-users, media, cultural actors, etc.
    5.  Consultants and start-ups may participate if duly justified.
  • To a limited extent, participants from other EU member states, associated countries (e.g. Israel), and international co-operation partners may join in duly justified cases, for example, given by specific expertise needed or the involvement in a relevant value-adding chain or as long as they prove added value by facilitating access to excellence for the Widening Countries.
  • Each ecosystem needs to be represented by one or more umbrella organisations or individual entities. For large ecosystems, preferably two representatives - one research partner and one business partner. 

Expected Outcomes:

  • Excellent and sustainable place-based innovation ecosystems in Widening Countries, in relevant domains of cutting-edge science and innovation.
  • Long-term joint R&I strategies underpinned by concrete action plans of European relevance.
  • Common investment plans for R&I include infrastructures leveraging national, regional, and European funds as well as private capital in a synergetic manner.
  • R&I pilot projects alongside a joint strategy and in line with regional and national strategies notably regional innovation strategies for smart specialisation (RIS3).
  • New competencies and skills for researchers, entrepreneurs, and professionals in R&I intensive domains.
  • Strengthened linkages between science and business.
  • Poles of attraction for talents in catching up regions.
  • Improved knowledge transfer and development of entrepreneurial skills. 
  • Uptake of innovative technologies.
  • New business opportunities especially for SMEs and new employment.

Scope Highlights: 

  • Focus on innovation and better linkage between ecosystems in Widening Countries and different players from additional ecosystems.
  • Special focus on supporting R&I policies aiming at boosting the resilience and competitiveness of the EU economies and societies.
  • The proposal should demonstrate the improved access to excellence for R&I actors in Widening Countries and elaborate joint R&I strategies that are aligned with national, regional (notably RIS3) and/or European strategies or policy priorities (e.g. Green Deal, Digital transition). These strategies should reach out beyond the project’s lifetime and leverage national, regional and European funds as well as private (venture) capital.
  • The description of R&I content should include a long-term vision beyond the state of the art of the chosen R&I domain.
  • Proposals should convincingly demonstrate the relevance of the chosen scientific domain by its alignment with regional (in particular RIS3), national and/or European R&I strategies and policy priorities. 
  • Applicants may choose a regional or global approach towards European policy priorities such as the green or digital transition.
  • The proposal needs to demonstrate the win-win effects of the partnership established by the consortium and the benefits for employment and post crisis recovery.


  • Expected EU Contribution per Project: EUR 3-5M
  • Project Duration: Up to four years.
  • Eligible Costs:
    • Research and Innovation costs: The research component should be developed by joint pilot research projects in a domain covered by the joint strategy that will facilitate long-term cross border and inter-sectoral collaborative links between partners, notably academia and business, and advancement in science and technology development with market potential. The realisation of such pilots and demonstrators must be financed by other sources, in particular programmes co-financed by the ERDF. The approach how to access such co-funding at a later stage should be sketched out in the proposal. Total Research and innovation would be up to 30% of the total requested budget.
    • Complementary activities: The activities will promote knowledge and technology transfer, mutual learning, and skills development, especially in research and innovation management and entrepreneurship as well as citizen engagement. In addition, mutual secondments and staff exchange are also supported to build long-term collaborations.


  • The call closed on March 15, 2022. The next call is yet to be scheduled

For more information please refer to the full Excellence Hubs - Widening 2021-2022 Work Programme.

Call Information


Further Information:


Contact Us

For questions regarding the call and its submission requirements please contact the Widening team at ISERD.