Horizon 2020 – International Cooperation

The 3 pillars of the Horizon 2020 programme provide a range of opportunities to collaborate with non-EU countries (third countries) in research, technology and innovation (RTI). A shared interest and mutual benefit are the basis of successful international cooperation. Targeted measures promote international collaboration and emphasise the general openness of Horizon 2020 to researchers and organisations from third countries. Horizon 2020 sets out to enhance the strategic orientation and focus of international cooperation. It is a cross-cutting issue and is therefore integrated into various areas of the Horizon 2020 Programme. Multi-annual roadmaps for cooperation with partners from key countries and regions are designed to support this strategic approach. This strategy also seeks to strengthen the political dialogue with international RTI partner countries.


EU international cooperation in research and innovation has three objectives:

  • strengthening the Union's excellence and attractiveness in research and innovation as well as its industrial and economic competitiveness
  • tackling global societal challenges
  • supporting the Union's external policies


The general openness of Horizon 2020 to partners from third countries (organisations or individuals based in countries that are not EU Member States, Candidate Countries or Associated Countries) will be further enhanced by targeted measures promoting international cooperation.
International RTI cooperation will generally be possible in all areas of the Horizon 2020 Programme. Partners from third countries can participate in projects together with researchers from the 28 EU Member States and Associated Countries.
Partners (researchers and organisations) from third countries may also be eligible to receive funding.
Horizon 2020 has defined the following country groups for this purpose:

  • Enlargement and neighbourhood countries, EFTA countries,Mediterranean Partner Countries, Western Balkan Countries,Eastern European and Central Asian Countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, etc.
  • Industrialised countries and emerging economies
    e.g. USA, Japan, Korea, Australia, etc. and the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and Mexico
  • Developing countries
    Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Countries, Latin America and Asia.


Partners from developing countries and enlargement and neighbourhood countries are eligible to receive funding.
Researchers from industrialised countries and emerging economies may participate in Horizon 2020, but will not automatically receive funding. Participants from industrialised countries and emerging economies will only receive funding in exceptional cases, if:

  •  the participation is foreseen in the relevant Work Programme or Call,
  • the participation is decisive or essential for carrying out the project and for ensuring project success,
  • the funding is provided for under a bilateral scientific and technological agreement between the EU and the relevant country.

Horizon 2020 also promotes the conclusion of “reciprocal agreements” with industrialised countries and emerging economies encouraging these countries to open their national RTI funding programmes to EU researchers as part of Horizon 2020 collaborations.


Various instruments have been put in place to foster international RTI cooperation:

  • targeted calls for collaborative research and innovation projects with recommended or obligatory participation of third countries,
  • joint initiatives involving the European Union and international partners (third countries)
  • coordinated/joint calls
  • ERA-NETs, JPIs, JTIs, etc.
  • Article 185 measures
  • specific horizontal activities promoting international cooperation and identification of joint priorities (policy dialogues, networking activities) in Societal Challenge 6 "inclusive, innovative and reflective societies”.

Project consortia must include three independent partners from three different EU Member States and/or Associated Countries. Additional partners (universities, research institutions, enterprises, researchers) from third countries may also be involved in the consortium.

A key element of the strategic approach of international cooperation in Horizon 2020 is to strengthen the partnership between the European Commission and the EU Member States and in particular to ensure coherence between the measures initiated by the European Commission and the EU Member States. The Forum for International Science and Technology Cooperation will play a major role in this context in the future.


Dipl.Ing. Ralf KÖNIG
T 0043577554601

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