09.11.2012 [News]

New EU International Strategy for Research and Innovation

The European Commission has set out a new strategy for developing international cooperation in research and innovation (see related document (ca.100 KB)). It was adopted on 14 September 2012 and has a particular focus on global challenges such as climate change, food security and fighting diseases. The new strategy will be mainly implemented through Horizon 2020, the new funding program for research and innovation starting in 2014.

Why a new strategy?

Research and innovation are increasingly globalised activities: the number of internationally co-authored scientific publications and the international mobility of researchers are increasing. Many of today's challenges, such as combatting climate change or securing a sustainable supply of clean energy, are of a global nature. Furthermore, emerging economies account for an increasing share of expenditure on research and innovation, and are challenging the leadership of the classic triad of the EU, Japan and the USA. The European Union is still strong: with 7% of the world population, the EU is responsible for 24% of world expenditure on research, 32% of high impact publications, and 32% of patent applications. However, we need also to be able to access the growing share of knowledge being produced outside the EU.

Objectives of the new strategy:

  • strengthening the Union’s excellence and attractiveness in research and innovation and thus its economic and industrial competitiveness;
  • tackling global societal challenges, such as food and energy security and climate change; and,
  • supporting the Union’s external policies by improving access to knowledge, people and markets and contributing to the socio-economic development of poorer countries

How will the funding mechanisms for international cooperation change under Horizon 2020?

While international cooperation is broader than the framework programmes – encompassing Science & Technology Agreements and external policies, for example – most funding will continue to be delivered via Horizon 2020. Building on the experience of previous programmes, Horizon 2020 will be the most open publicly-funded programme for research and innovation in the world. This general openness will be complemented by targeted actions in specific areas and with specific partner countries and/or regions, based on the principle of common interest and mutual benefit. Horizon 2020 funding mechanisms can set additional criteria to require participation of entities from a third country where this is considered necessary.

How will access to EU funding be regulated?

Under FP7, automatic funding has been restricted to those countries that are not high-income (as defined by the World Bank). Entities from high-income countries are only funded in exceptional circumstances (for example where there is a reciprocal agreement in place, such as with the NIH in the United States, or where it is clear that the contribution of the third country partner would be essential for the project to go ahead successfully). The same policy will follow through into Horizon 2020 with the exception that automatic funding will be limited where GDP is exceptionally large, even where the country is not classified as high-income. In addition, further restrictions are possible if a country fails, for example, to respect intellectual property rights. Such issues are typically considered as part of the Science & Technology Agreements and would be discussed with the countries concerned. The countries which can expect automatic funding, and any potential restrictions, will be identified in the work programmes.

What will change for the growth economies, such as Russia?

As the Communication points out, countries such as China, Brazil, Russia, India and other economies that have grown strongly over the past years will continue to be important partners for the EU. This is reflected in the fact that all of these countries will still be able to participate in all parts of Horizon 2020, allowing their researchers to cooperate with their counterparts in the EU on topics of their choice.

Some of these countries, and in particular those where GDP is exceptionally large, will, however, no longer enjoy automatic access to EU funding, even if the country in question is classified as middle-income by the World Bank. This reflects the fact that these countries have over the past years made considerable efforts to invest in their research and innovation system and strengthen its quality. These countries are therefore now capable to cooperate with the EU on the basis of a partnership among equals.

Will the strategy affect third country scientists' access to the EU?

The EU needs to be an attractive location for the world's best brains. The EURAXESS Researchers in Motion Portal has been providing comprehensive and improved information on mobility within and towards Europe ranging from fellowship and career opportunities to practical information on moving and settling-in as a researcher in Europe. There is also legislation in force to facilitate the provision of visas to third country researchers. The ‘Scientific Visa Package3’ is a familiar term bringing together a Directive and a Recommendation that address researchers' permission to enter, stay and work in the EU for the purpose of carrying out scientific research. Both instruments aim at accelerating national admission and visa procedures for non-EU researchers entering the European Union.. The Directive adopted by the Council in 2005 covers long-term stays (more than 3 months), while the Recommendation is for short-term stays. All the twenty-five concerned Member States (those countries that have opted out of Schengen are not bound by the Directive) have notified measures to transpose the Directive. Ireland has decided to opt-in and is therefore also using the the Directive.

Source and further information: European Commission