EC Announces New Strategy for International Research & Innovation
A Changing Geopolitical Landscape
On May 18, 2021, the European Commission published a communication entitled “A Global Approach to Research and Innovation – EU’s Strategy for International Cooperation in a Changing World”.
The last time that the European Commission, the European Parliament, and EU Governments put in place an agreed international policy covering the research and science sectors was 2012. The world is now a very different place than it was nine years ago. The geopolitical situation is changing and governments are prioritising policies such as sustainable development and the use of innovative technologies.
Core Elements of the New Approach
This new communication is not a dramatic shift in the nature and focus of EU policies covering the research, innovation, and science sectors. But there is a shift of emphasis nonetheless. The key building blocks of this new legislative proposal include the following principles and measures:
- EU research programmes such as Horizon Europe 2021-2027 will remain open to the world. The best way to pursue excellence in science is by cooperating globally with a broad range of public, private, research, and educational bodies.
- There must be a level playing field for Europe within the global research ecosystem. What this means in practice is that EU scientists must be able to participate in the wide array of research initiatives operated by different third countries around the world. The European Union will become insistent that reciprocal and open access are central elements of these programmes. In this context, global systems to support the fair treatment for Intellectual Property (IP) rights must also be advanced. This is very much in line with the open strategic autonomy policy goals of the EU.
- The EU will strengthen its international partnerships covering the health, education and climate change policy areas. In essence, this new EU strategy is going to be a key tool in assisting the European Union in fully implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Support for the twin-track approach of bringing to fruition both new innovative technologies and best practices within the field of sustainability will be promoted.
Combatting Global Challenges Together
The European Commission will work very closely with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and European Bank for Re-Construction and Development (EBRD) to deliver the key priorities of this new strategy. The rollout of the European Research Area (ERA) action plan will be incorporated into this broader policy framework. In other words, there will be a closer alignment in how the European Union and the 27 member states of the EU address international research policy-making.
The EU wants to strengthen the process of multilateral engagement so as to develop stronger and more innovative digital economies. A clear focus will be to support energy-efficient technologies that will construct and re-design energy-efficient buildings across the world. This is line with what is known as the EU Bauhaus Initiative, which entails building more sustainable, creative, inclusive, and affordable buildings. This is fully in accordance with the policy objectives of the EU Green Deal.
Other key priorities contained within this strategy include the following:-
- To promote a leadership role for Europe within the field of 6G research.
- Establish a knowledge based management platform that will disseminate best practices within the international policy field of research and science.
- Build joint research clusters covering the industrial sector.
- Deliver upon the political objectives of the EU Digital Compass Plan 2030.
Association of 3rd Countries Under Horizon Europe
Countries from anywhere around the world can apply to the EU to associate to Horizon Europe 2021-2027. Such third countries must operate free market economies and have strong systems in place to protect intellectual property rights. Association to EU research initiatives give countries an input into the direction and nature of different Horizon Europe call for proposals. Countries that are associated with Horizon Europe get a seat at the decision-making table – as so to speak – with regard to agreeing the content for different proposed Horizon Europe actions.
The following nations have recently been associated under the EU Horizon 2020 research and science instrument.
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
- Faroe Islands
- North Montenegro
The British government will join, too.
EU and China
The European Union will seek to strike more bilateral science and technology (S&T) agreements with different countries from around the world. At the moment, the EU has S&T agreements with:
- New Zealand
The EU intends to renew its science and technology agreement with China, but ensuring that European scientists have access to Chinese research programmes is a key element of such an agreement. The European Union and China have worked closely together for many years on a variety of different research projects covering ICT, health, education, agriculture and smart cities.
In fact, the first Science and Technology agreement that was signed between the EU and China dates back to 1998.
The European Union will continue to promote more inclusive dialogues covering research and science policy issues with a variety of different regions and continents. This includes Africa, the Black Sea, Central Asia, the Eastern Partnership, the Gulf, Latin America and the Mediterranean region.
The European Union fully recognises that science diplomacy can both support its foreign policy objectives and promote new business opportunities in both existing and in emerging markets. International cooperation in the fields of research and science will ensure that the most innovative products and services reach the global marketplace. Such international collaborative engagement will help deliver more innovative best practices for society. This will ensure that the targets of the UN SDGs will be successfully reached by 2030.
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