10 February, 2014

International Cooperation opportunities

1st January 2014 was more than just a new year for many in the European research community as it marked the beginning of the European Commission’s new research funding programme: Horizon 2020.

This €79 billion programme, is the newest incarnation of what had previously been known as ‘Framework Programmes’, and with it has come some new features that potential applicants should be aware of. While one of the cornerstones of this programme is to enhance trans-European research and working, one of the key messages the Commission is keen to disseminate is that this research programme is open to the world.

What this means in practice is that for all calls, if you have a collaboration outside of Europe which would bring an expertise or access to resources or facilities, then they can be included in a research proposal. The subtlety in this, however, depends on where your collaborator is based.

The European Commission has just published its guidance on third country participation, which details how researchers from non-EU countries are able to be involved.  Within this document, there is a list of countries, for which the European Commission will cover the research costs of a participant . However, with this comes the need to make explicitly clear what unique attributes your collaborator is able to bring to the table.

One notable change from the FP7 list of countries is that Brazil, Russia, China, India and Mexico are no longer on this list for Horizon 2020 due to their enhanced research capacities. These five countries now join those nations which would be expected to fund their own researchers if they are participating in Horizon 2020 calls. For those who might see this as bad news, in many cases it’s worth finding out if there are any bilateral agreements that could help ease participation for researchers in these countries.

In addition to this general provision, there are several calls which actively seek international participation. The Marie Skłodowska-Curie calls are focussed on mobility: whether this is at an institutional level with the RISE programme or an individual level with the Individual Fellowships (IF), with the 2014 IF call closing in September. The IF call funds researchers to spend time in a different sector, or another country in the world, in order to develop their skills and networks to then bring back to their host institution.

The ‘Societal Challenges’ subset of the Horizon 2020 programme  also has a number of calls where international collaboration is actively sought, and to make it easier to navigate through the vast number of calls on offer, we’ve consolidated the calls that have this feature into a helpful spread sheet. In this spread sheet each Societal Challenge has its own tab at the bottom, but it’s worth scrolling through all seven due to the way that the challenges have been set out.

The Commission has tried to be less prescriptive than in previous years in terms of the topic, and has now set headline challenges to encourage researchers to  think ‘How could my research contribute to a solution?’ In this way, the calls have been organised not by classical subject divisions, but instead they look for interdisciplinary approaches to tackling some of Europe, and the world’s biggest questions.

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