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What role does the EU play in supporting researchers to collaborate and partner with other countries?

Collaborations are vital for science, and scientists want to work with the best in their field irrespective of their geographical location and institutional affiliation. 

Researchers often seek to collaborate. Institutional frameworks can enable, facilitate and promote these. For example, researchers in different countries might operate on different funding cycles, which makes collaborations difficult. By pooling resources together and distributing them centrally, EU funding can overcome these challenges, lowering the cost of collaborations and simplifying them. Most EU funded research is intrinsically collaborative, bringing together expertise from different sectors and countries to share knowledge and  expand networks.

A number of specific EU initiatives seek to promote and support such collaborations:

Joint Programming Initiatives

Joint Programming Initiatives (JPIs) aim to pool national research efforts to make better use of Europe’s limited public research and development resources and tackle common European challenges more effectively in a few key areas.

JPIs are public-public research partnerships between participating countries within the European Research Area (ERA). Participating countries agree, on a voluntary basis and in a partnership approach, on common strategic research agendas, to be implemented jointly. The ERA-NET Cofund financially supports the preparation, establishment, design and implementation of these partnerships but the operating costs of the partnership come from participating member states. 

Currently, ten JPIs are operational and the UK takes part in all of them. These are:

  • Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND)
  • Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (FACCE)
  • A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life 
  • Cultural Heritage and Global Change: A Challenge for Europe
  • Urban Europe
  • Connecting Climate Knowledge for Europe (CliK’EU)
  • More Years, Better Lives – The Potential and Challenges of Demographic Change
  • Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)
  • Water Challenges for a Changing World
  • Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans (OCEANS)

Four joint programmes have been initially proposed under Horizon 2020:

  • European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership 2 (EDCTP2)
  • The European Metrology Programme for Research and Innovation (EMPIR)
  • Eurostars 2 (support for high-tech SMEs)
  • Active and Assisted Living Research and Development Programme

Joint Technology Initiatives

The European Commission promotes research collaborations between public and private partners across Europe through its Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs).
JTIs support large-scale multinational research activities in areas of major interest to European industrial competitiveness and issues of high societal relevance. They are run as Joint Undertakings that organise their own research agenda and award funding for projects on the basis of open calls. 

Current JTIs operate in a number of areas of strategic importance for the EU:

  • Innovative Medicines 2 (IMI2): to develop next generation vaccines, medicines and treatments, such as new antibiotics.
  • Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 (FCH2): to accelerate market introduction of clean and efficient technologies in energy and transport.
  • Clean Sky 2 (CS2): to develop cleaner, quieter aircraft with significantly less CO2 emissions.
  • Bio-based Industries (BBI): to use renewable natural resources and innovative technologies for greener everyday products.
  • Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership (ECSEL): to boost Europe’s electronics manufacturing capabilities.
  • Shift2Rail: to develop better trains and railway infrastructure that will drastically reduce costs and improve capacity, reliability and punctuality.
  • Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) 2020: to develop the new generation of European Air Traffic Management system that will enhance the performance of air transport

Intergovernmental frameworks for research collaborations 

A number of European intergovernmental agreements and frameworks exist to foster research collaborations. These are not EU initiatives but the EU and its Member States play an important role in them. These include:

  • European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research (COST)
  • European Energy Research Alliance (EERA)
  • Pan-European network for market-oriented, industrial R&D (EUREKA)

The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI)

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