The European Union needs to strengthen its dialogues with international partners to build critical mass for tackling key challenges of today’s world, says Commission’s Communication «Enhancing and focusing EU international cooperation in research and innovation: A strategic approach» published on 17 September.
The Communication proposes a concept for EU strategy in research and innovation cooperation with third countries in the near future. The document also stresses the role of the neighbouring countries in the EU’s research cooperation. The union “has a clear interest in its neighbouring countries developing their research and innovation capacity”, it says.
“To remain a major global player, the Union must promote itself as an attractive location for carrying out research and innovation and be successful in the global competition for talent, while at the same time preserving its economic interests, for instance as regards the protection of intellectual property”, the Communication says.
“The EFTA countries, EU enlargement countries and countries covered by the European Neighbourhood policy, where the focus will be on fostering integration into – or alignment with – the European Research Area, including through their possible association to Horizon 2020”, the document underlines. “For the Neighbourhood, this will contribute to developing a ‘Common Knowledge and Innovation Space’, including improving the research and innovation competences of these countries. Cooperation will be in close coordination with the instruments of the enlargement and neighbourhood policies”, it adds.
The document also says that Horizon 2020, the EU’s major research support programme, “will be fully open to participation from all over the world”. Besides, “the European Research Council and Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions will operate on a fully researcher-driven basis, open to researchers from third countries”.
However, not all third country participants will be automatically eligible for funding, the Communication says. “The list of countries eligible for automatic funding will be restricted, by complementing the current selection criterion, based solely on GNI per capita, with an additional criterion based on total GDP, excluding countries above a defined threshold”. According to the Commission, “this will address the fact that some countries have established the critical mass needed to cooperate on a reciprocal basis with the Union”. Besides, the Union “will continue to encourage reciprocal access to third countries’ programmes”.
The European Union is a world leader in research and innovation, responsible for 24% of world expenditure on research, 32% of high impact publications and 32% of patent applications, while representing only 7% of the population. Today, however, the global research landscape is evolving rapidly, with the share of BRIC countries in worldwide R&D expenditure doubling between 2000 and 2009. This creates the need for the EU to enhance its cooperation with third countries and to promote itself as an attractive location for research and innovation.