The global research landscape is evolving rapidly. The share of BRIC countries in worldwide R&D expenditure doubled between 2000 and 2009. Internationally co-authored publications and patents and researcher mobility are on the rise. Issues such as climate change, food security or fighting infectious diseases increasingly require a concerted international research effort.
This changing landscape poses Europe both challenges and opportunities. Europe must be able to access foreign sources of knowledge to enhance the excellence of its science base and the innovativeness and competitiveness of its industries. Europe needs to be open and attractive to international cooperation and to the best brains in the world and present itself as an attractive partner and location for carrying out research and innovation. Europe must also build partnerships and join forces with its partners to tackle global challenges.
In September 2012, the European Commission set out a new strategy for developing international cooperation in research and innovation, ‘Enhancing and focusing EU international cooperation in research and innovation: A strategic approach’ COM(2012)497.
The strategy proposes to focus cooperation on EU strategic priorities while maintaining the tradition of openness to third country participation in EU research. This includes addressing global challenges, but also making Europe more attractive as a location for research and innovation, and boosting industrial competitiveness. The strategy also aims at having research and innovation contribute in a stronger way to the Union's external policies, including by contributing to the socio-economic development of the world's poorest countries.
The new strategy will be mainly implemented through Horizon 2020, accompanied by joint initiatives between the EU and its Member States.
A central element is to make the selection of targeted international cooperation activities more strategic and coherent across Horizon 2020. This will be achieved through the development of a multi-annual perspective on international cooperation for each of Horizon 2020's societal challenges and enabling and industrial technologies. The multi-annual perspective will lead to the development of roadmaps with key third country partners. These roadmaps will connect to the work of the Strategic Forum for International Science and Technology Cooperation (SFIC) to ensure consistency and complementarity of international research and innovation actions undertaken by the EU and the Member States. EU/Member States common guidelines for research and innovation agreements with third countries will also be developed. This will further strengthen the partnership between the Commission and the Member States which SFIC has set out to implement.
The strategy also sets out the objective of strengthening the innovation dimension of international cooperation and to step up the EU's engagement in international organisations. Specific attention will be given to developing a set of common principles for engaging in international cooperation targeting issues such as peer review, research integrity, women in science, the development of research careers, fair and equitable treatment of IPR and open access. This will help in establishing a level playing field for engaging in research and innovation world-wide, making researchers and innovators from across the globe confident to interact and engage with each other.
The new ERA Framework lays the ground for the intra-European approach to some of these values. An enhanced EU/Member States partnership for international R&I cooperation will help to promote the above mentioned objectives with a coordinated European voice. More emphasis will also be put on the involvement of stakeholders from academia, industry and research organisations and a better alignment with their priorities for international cooperation.
The coordination of the EU's and the Member States' international research and innovation activities towards third countries is supported by the Capacities programme of the EU Seventh Framework Programme for Research & Technological Development.
H2020 will continue to support the Union's international cooperation actions.
Indo-European partnership for research and innovation
Following the joint declaration on research and innovation signed at the EU-India Summit of 10 February 2012 the SFIC India pilot initiative has evolved into the Indo-European Partnership for Research and Innovation. The strategic research and innovation agenda developed by SFIC laid the ground for a large-scale event bringing together Indian and European stakeholders on 31 May and 1 June to discuss the areas for collaboration. The Brussels Communiqué issued at the ministerial meeting on 31 May 2012 reconfirmed the commitment to carry forward the Indo-European Partnership and to establish a governance structure. This governance structure implies the setting up of a Group of Senior Officials, currently under establishment, to adopt and implement the strategic research and innovation agenda.
Strategic Forum for International Science & Technology (S&T) Cooperation
SFIC is a strategic forum and an advisory body to the Council and the Commission tasked to implement a European Partnership in the field of international scientific and technological cooperation (S&T cooperation).
Member States and the Commission are members of the Forum while countries associated to the 7th Framework Programme are observers. SFIC's objective is to facilitate the further development, implementation and monitoring of the international dimension of ERA. This objective is to be achieved by sharing and structuring information on S&T cooperation activities and objectives and knowledge about S&T resources and capacities of third countries. SFIC should identify common priorities for cooperation with third countries, propose joint initiatives to be implemented and coordinate activities and positions vis-à-vis third countries and within international fora. SFIC also supports the networking of Member States and the EU's research and innovation counsellors in key third countries. The rationale for such framework is provided by the Council conclusions concerning a European partnership for international scientific and technological cooperation of 2 December 2008 (16763/08).
SFIC is currently working on:
1. The China Initiative
Since 2010 SFIC has been developing a China initiative. The first step was to collect information about Chinese research and innovation systems, policies and strategies. In 2011 two workshops were organised to improve knowledge of the EU/Member States activities on research and innovation with China, identify policy priorities and understand the possibilities for cooperation with China. The EU delegation, in collaboration with the network of science counsellors, has issued an overview of the EU's, Member States' and Associated Countries' research and innovation activities with China. In 2012 SFIC adopted a roadmap for the China initiative and agreed on the first set of thematic areas — energy, urbanisation, health, ICT — for which to develop a strategic research and innovation agenda for EU/Member States cooperation with China. The work is on-going. During the EU-China Summit on 20 September a joint declaration for an innovation cooperation dialogue was signed. A workshop on mobility between Europe and the BRIC countries was organised in June 2012 in collaboration with the Steering Group on Human Resources and Mobility.
2. The USA initiative
In 2010 the SFIC selected the USA for a pilot initiative on an industrialised country. An overview report about EU, Member States and Associated Countries activities with the USA was issued. A first SFIC workshop on EU/Member States-USA cooperation was held on 18-19 October 2011 in Brussels, hosted by Germany. In December 2011 a conference on enhancing EU/Member States-USA collaboration took place in Washington under the auspices of the Polish Presidency. In April 2012 a workshop was organised jointly by the BILAT-USA project and SFIC on how to remove legal obstacles and barriers for S&T cooperation between Europe and USA. In 2012 SFIC adopted a roadmap for the USA initiative with 5 main headlines: 1) Enhance the scale of cooperation building on existing large scale initiatives at national and EU level; 2) Develop the innovation dimension; 3) Improve the framework conditions for cooperation, 4) Share information and 5) The Destination Europe Initiative.
The 'Destination Europe' initiative (see Commitment 30) aims to raise awareness about the attractiveness of the European R&I landscape amongst American and European researchers currently working in the USA. The first ‘Destination Europe’ conference took place in Boston in January 2012 and the second event is planned for 6-7 December 2012 in San Francisco.
3. The Brazil initiative
In the plenary meeting of October 2012 SFIC agreed to launch a Brazil initiative. Three first steps are set-out to start this initiative: 1) produce an overview of EU/Member States/Associated Countries R&I activities with Brazil in collaboration with the network of science counsellors in Brazil; 2) organise a workshop on good practices of cooperation models; 3) analyse the existing successful cooperation activities at EU/Member States/Associated Countries level, identify where overlaps exist and recommend areas where there is potential for a more coordinated European approach.
FP7 Capacities projects contributing to enhanced coordination
The FP7 Capacities programme has funded actions to support international S&T cooperation policies and reinforce scientific relations with third countries.
Amongst the different instruments for international cooperation some specifically target the reinforcement of EU and Member States collaborations: INCO-NETs to support bi-regional coordination; the ERA-NET and ERA-NET+ supporting the coordination of international research programmes and activities of the Member States and Associated Countries towards third countries; and the INCO-LAB projects supporting the development of European research facilities located in third countries.