European Research and Innovation Days 2020: Tägliche Kurzberichte "International Cooperation (Hub 7)"

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Hub 7: International Cooperation


The COVID-19 pandemic magnified the relevance of global challenges and global public goods and highlighted interdependences among ecosystems, countries and regions. International R&I cooperation has never been so urgently needed for the EU to face these global challenges and to commonly find solutions towards the best outcomes for Europe and its global partners. International cooperation in R&I is a driver for ensuring world class science and an enabler to broader socio-economic impacts. The upcoming Horizon Europe Framework Programme will further strengthen global cooperation in the areas health, green transition, innovation and digital. Horizon Europe’s approach to international cooperation will be based on multilateralism and purposeful openness, combined with targeted actions with key third-country partners. Association of third countries will be the strongest form of international cooperation and is expected to expand among the neighbourhood partners and beyond.

R&I GEOPOLITICAL OUTREACH through association

This session highlighted the importance and benefits to the R&I communities and the impact on the national R&I system through the association to (recent and past) EU Framework Programmes for R&I by case studies from Montenegro, Turkey and Georgia. Canada, which is sharing common values with Europe, is going to strengthening its international R&I collaboration through an intended association to Horizon Europe.

SCIENCE AND CLIMATE DIPLOMACY with associated countries in the Mediterranean region

This session highlighted the importance of R&I cooperation and science diplomacy in the European neighbourhood policy in general and the Mediterranean region countries in particular. Horizon 2020 funded projects coordinated by Israel, Turkey and Greece which are tackling climate change through nature based solutions were presented. Climate and health issues as common challenges should be used as opportunities to find better solutions through co-creation, international R&I collaboration and science diplomacy based on a quadruple helix approach (including academia, industry, government and the civil society), since the involvement of the civil society is becoming more and more important. The Mediterranean region should collaborate under a joint agenda, since air and water pollution or pandemics can only be jointly combated. Science diplomacy is seen as an important tool to overcome common and global challenges, such as health or climate issues. Associated Countries (as part of the Horizon 2020 community) are sharing and joining forces for mutual interests and benefits. Science and climate policy needs to be strengthened under Horizon Europe.


The two sessions on international cooperation reflect two of the most important issues that the European Commission has addressed recently: the shaping of future international R&I cooperation with China and the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

The main messages were, that Europe needs to plan long-term and align its framework conditions, strategies and cooperation areas with international partners. It is important to keep nurturing the EU-China dialogue and reassure reciprocity for a more robust relation and collaboration with China. Finally, stronger R&I cooperation and better solidarity on a global scale will be able to turn global challenges into opportunities.

How to shape the future of EU-CHINA RELATIONS in R&I cooperation?

Europe and China have remarkably benefited from cooperation in R&I although there are many areas which still remain unbalanced: The access to data and scientific papers. Current research remains open to the world in Europe, while there’s only limited access to these areas in China for Europe/the rest of the world.

Transparency needs to be fostered in research in and between Europe and China, and open access requirements to ongoing and/or published research are needed, while simultaneously working on data protection and international and Chinese IT standards.

The financial discrepancy in the funding of R&I from Europe and China must be eliminated in the future to improve cooperation (e.g. from 2016–2020 the overall budget for R&I represents 630 Mio. EUR of which Europe contributed 500 Mio. EUR and China 130 Mio. EUR).

A joint roadmap to drive and strengthen future R&I cooperation between Europe and China will include:

  1. fast decision making processes
  2. commitment – research must reflect topics that are important at the moment (e.g. climate crisis)
  3. open and unconditional access policy in China (open science cloud on publications, research, data)
  4. solid framework of common principles on how to engage (intellectual property rights, market access, ethical and implementable guidelines)
  5. open and easy entry into China and Chinese research as it is now for Chinese researchers to enter Europe 


The European Commission stated that most challenges are global and need global responses – a virus knows no borders. The EC is developing a renewed strategy for international cooperation in Horizon Europe. Science and technology, as well as global partnerships across the globe play a very important role. The NSF has for example funded 1,000 rapid response projects and is doing everything they can to collaborate with global partners to find common solutions.

The EDCTP launched an emergency call. The factors that made this call so successful were: 

  • Could build on existing collaborations and infrastructures
  • Has developed local scientific leadership
  • Research protocols for the country have been developed
  • Period of great innovation
  • Use of digital technologies, which have been extended to sub-Saharan Africa
  • Regional bodies have been very cooperative
  • Rapidly growing public trust
  • Speed that was necessary to respond quickly

We must think and plan for the long term. There is a strong connection between international and local investments. Development of local capacities that is relevant to address local solutions is key, but it needs to be aligned globally. Collaboration between private and public sector needs to be fostered. The interdisciplinary approach is important, this is not a single disease with a single solution. We need mechanisms to foster international collaboration.

We also need transformation when it comes to education. 24 Mio. children are still at risk not going back to school due to closure of institutions. 

In summary: We need new partnerships, stronger cooperation and better solidarity. We have to turn challenges into opportunities.


HORIZON AND MOONSHOT around the same orbit

This session focused on the potential cooperation areas and modalities between Horizon Europe Missions and the Moonshot R&I programme of Japan. The Moonshot R&D programme was launched in 2018 with the aim to create disruptive innovation in the following identified mission fields: Overcoming limitations of body, brain, space and time, early disease prediction and intervention, AI and robots, quantum computing, sustainable resource circulation, sustainable global food supply, and sustainable care system (active aging).

Japan has already identified the project managers and concrete implementation plans for all the areas and is currently working on finalizing the research portfolios. There are long term (2050) and mid-term (2030) targets where Japan is very much interested in collaboration with the EU, as well as with the rest of the world to reach the programme targets. Soil, climate, and cities are mentioned as one of the cooperation areas between Horizon Europe Missions and the Moonshot programme. Data sharing is of common interest, other joint interests in the area of soil and climate are remote sensing, soil biodiversity and waste. Proposed schemes are joint R&I projects, joint workshops between research groups, staff exchange, and twinning schemes. Areas such as cities, big data, charging operations, zero energy buildings, waste management and circular economy are underlined as areas of common interest. Cooperation modalities could include testing and demonstration at the city level via pilot projects and initiatives, as well as co-creation mechanisms and involvement of citizens in the technology. Furthermore, co-founding for research and innovation actions and establishing regular communication between mission boards are suggested. More specifically, the soil and agriculture international consortium to be launched by the European Commission in 2021 will provide international collaboration opportunities in these fields. Japan's Moonshot programme priorities will be considered in the preparation of the EU Roadmap for cooperation with Japan.

Towards an innovation agenda for the WESTERN BALKANS

The Western Balkans are a strategic priority for the EU and Commissioner Gabriel strongly supports the R&I initiatives towards and within the region. She emphasised the fact that improvements in the R&I sector have already been made; for example comparing the FP7 with the Horizon 2020 performance statistics. This can be considered as a good start, but now is the time to expand the scope of the activities and to provide new opportunities for the region in education, vocational training and to help researchers to establish close links with businesses and entrepreneurs. There is a room for improvement for public and private investments in R&I and education, but at the same time actions are needed in the field of Higher Education in order to better link education and skills with labour market demands. 

The relevance of cooperation between governments and businesses, academia and civil society was strongly emphasised. The European Commission has announced an economic and investment plan for the region including different tools and the pre-accession instrument with the focus on the regional long-term recovery. Another relevant topic was how to attract investment, improve human capital, support start-ups and create conditions for talented people to develop their ideas in the region.

The Western Balkans agenda on Innovation, Research, Culture, Education, Youth and Sport aims to strengthen the innovation capacity of the region, to raise the quality of its education and training systems, including the readiness for digital transformation while creating the conditions to fully exploit the human potential in the region. This agenda can be implemented through three main axes: political, regional and thematical and it is the basis for creating new opportunities for students, researchers, innovators and cultural operators (also with a huge potential in the area of cultural heritage). 

The issue is how to help them gain access to new markets, to become more competitive and to build sustainable prosperity. This shows the continuation of the Digital Agenda for the Western Balkans. This is important because the regional transition to the digital economy will bring jobs, better services and faster economic growth. Commissioner Gabriel expressed her expectations to the regional policy stakeholders related to new ideas, creativity and determination and willingness to advance to common goals - the European Green Deal and digital agenda. She encouraged regional stakeholders to share their ideas with her and her team. 

The Western Balkans‘ economies are presently in the process of preparing and implementing their smart specialisation strategies and policies with Montenegro and Serbia at forefront, which are in line with the EU priorities for green, digital and a social cohesive Europe. The association of the Western Balkans to the EU Framework Programme is considered a strong instrument for systemic changes in their countries. Discussion with panellist focused on the achievements from the association up to day, expectations for the next Framework Programme but also how to overcome the challenges like the large innovation gap that still exists between the Eastern and Western Europe. 

From the EIT agenda, the support is foreseen i.a. for the regional capacity building. A new Innovation Community is envisaged for creativity and culture. In the future, it is necessary for the Western Balkans‘ universities, research institutions, businesses and start ups to participate in the existing innovation communities of the EIT and the creation of the hubs on the ground to help to strengthen the capacities in the region. Concrete benefits will be created for the region when research results could be brought to market, when ideas are turned into products and services - the EIT offers the opportunity to accelerate this process and prevent the brain drain.

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Dipl.-Phys. Ralf König
Dipl.-Phys. Ralf König
Nationale Kontaktstelle "Verbreitung von Exzellenz und Ausweitung der Beteiligung" und "Internationale FTI Kooperation"
T +43 5 7755 4601