EU, US Officials Tout S&T Collaborations as Final Horizon 2020 Phase Launches

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Publication date: 
3 November 2017

The European Commission is seeking U.S. research community engagement as it launches the final phase of the Horizon 2020 research funding program. At the kickoff event, EU and U.S. officials identified collaboration opportunities and said they intend to renew a long-standing agreement governing U.S.-European science and technology cooperation.

On Oct. 27, the European Commission (EC) launched the €30 billion ($35 billion) 2018–2020 Work Program for Horizon 2020 (H2020), the EU’s flagship research funding mechanism. At a Wilson Center event on the same day, EC Director General for Research and Innovation Jan Smits encouraged continued U.S. participation in H2020, saying that the U.S. is “the most natural and logical partner [for the EU] when it comes to working in the field of science innovation.”

The program launch follows the State Department’s announcement that the U.S. intends to reaffirm its 20-year partnership with the EU on science and technology by renewing the U.S.-EU S&T Agreement.

EU research head describes program priorities, partnership opportunities

The new work program is the final phase of H2020, a seven-year, €77 billion ($88 billion) Research & Innovation (R&I) funding program. H2020, which is the EU’s eighth Framework Program, funds research focused on basic science, industrial leadership, and societal challenges. In addition to supporting these areas, the final work program of H2020 aims to facilitate a smooth transition to any successor program.

U.S. researchers and institutions are eligible to participate in H2020, typically through grants, fellowships, or partnerships with EU-based institutions. According to a recently published guide for U.S. researchers interested in participating in H2020, 148 U.S. institutions have participated in H2020 projects to date, with a total EC contribution of €26 million ($30.2 million). Smits said that the U.S. has the most participants in H2020 out of all non-EU countries. 


U.S. participation in Horizon 2020

The U.S. comprises 14 percent of all non-EU country participation in Horizon 2020 to date. Click to enlarge.

(Image credit – Jan Smits, European Commission)

Smits said the theme of the new work program is “all about openness,” reflecting the larger EU R&I policy goals, “Open innovation, Open Science, and Open to the World.” The program aims to dedicate approximately 10 percent of funding toward supporting open science, through contributions to the European Open Science Cloud, open data-driven science, and projects that use and experiment with open science approaches.

The work program also identifies five priorities that seek to address common societal concerns, such as sustainable development and climate change, security threats and migration, digitization and innovation, and global research cooperation. It also dedicates €7 billion ($8.2 billion) to integrating common themes across the program priorities through a set of four focus areas that include building a low-carbon, climate resilient future, connecting economic and environmental gains, and digitizing and transforming European industry and services.

Smits identified several research areas where the work program specifically invites U.S. cooperation, including on marine and arctic research through the Transatlantic Ocean Research Alliance and on biomedical research through the existing EC-National Institutes of Health partnership. Other areas of cooperation that have previously been identified in the EU-US Roadmap for S&T Collaboration include scientific research infrastructure, transportation, and materials research.

Smits emphasized the importance of strengthening international R&I cooperation due to the increasing complexity of global challenges, particularly climate change. Pointing to the assistance EU provided in tracking the recent hurricanes through the Copernicus satellite program, he said that the EU and U.S. “need each other because these effects of climate change are here to stay.”

US, EU intend to reaffirm long-standing S&T agreement

Continuing U.S. participation in H2020 programs builds on a long history of research collaborations with the EU and its member states. At the event, State Department Office for S&T Cooperation Director Lisa Brodey said that as two of the largest scientific enterprises in the world, the EU and U.S. together spend nearly $800 billion annually on R&D.

Brodey continued, saying, “science and shared research has been the cornerstone of our collaboration since our country was founded,” and pointing out that the partnership has led to numerous high-impact discoveries over the last century.

The U.S. and the EU formally signed an umbrella agreement for S&T cooperation in 1997, which was most recently renewed in 2014 through October 2018. Brodey said the agreement “is a fantastic example of the extraordinary cooperation that we share with the EU” that enables scientists to collaborate on transboundary issues and “helps facilitate one of the most productive scientific exchanges in the world.” She noted that both the U.S. and the EU have recently announced that they intend to reaffirm the agreement in 2018 for an additional five years.

Through the agreement, the EU has established informal collaborations and formal partnerships with several federal science agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, NASA, and the Department of Energy to increase capabilities and advance knowledge sharing in the physical sciences. As an example of the impact of transatlantic cooperation, Brodey observed that the discovery of seven exoplanets by a team of Belgian scientists in 2016 was enabled by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

Looking toward the future, Brodey said that the U.S. is “hopeful” the successor to H2020 will build on previous research program successes and that the two parties will continue to look for ways to lower the barriers for transatlantic cooperation.

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