Country Reports

This page hosts the ERA-LEARN Country Reports. The Country reports analyse the participation of countries in European R&I partnerships. This draws upon the data available in the ERA-LEARN database and a number of interviews with key stakeholders in the country including individual researchers that have benefited from partnership-supported projects.

The country reports provide an analysis of participation and try to explain the ‘performance’ of a country in European R&I Partnerships within the context of their own national and regional research and innovation systems. Thus, additional sources of information and data are combined in the analysis including, for instance, the RIO (Research Innovation Observatory) country reports; EU Semester national reports; ERA Progress Reports; the European Innovation Scoreboard and Regional Innovation Scoreboard; Regional Innovation Monitor Plus; H2020 Country Reviews; OECD country reviews; OECD, RIO and EUROSTAT statistics; special reports by the Policy Support facility; and MLE (Mutual Learning Exercise) special reports.

The goal of the country reports is to provide an overall picture of a country’s performance in terms of partnership participation, comparing this not only to EU14, EU13 and EU27 averages but also to the performance of a group of comparator countries with similar research and innovation profiles. The hope is that these reports are useful not only for organisations within the country of interest, which may only have a fragmented picture of the situation, but also for organisations in other countries that wish to learn the reasons underpinning the ‘position’ of a particular country and/or learn from the exemplary performance of other countries.

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Until now seven country reports have been published covering Poland, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Finland, Norway and Germany. The selection of these countries was based on a combination of variables: interest expressed by the country, number of partnership participations and partnership coordination, and national investments made to date, based on the data provided by the partnerships to the ERA-LEARN database.

Summarising the situation in each of the countries, Poland shows a dynamic performance and the participation in European/international research collaboration is high in the policy agenda. Yet, the partnerships still enjoy rather low visibility, which calls for increased attention in raising awareness in the research community that seem to prefer simpler national and other collaboration schemes such as bilateral agreements. Providing incentives for international collaboration to the national research community would also be another area of improvement while streamlining the partnership landscape and simplifying participation. Unsurprisingly, the overpopulated partnership landscape and the lack of harmonised rules for participation across the different partnerships was noted in all country reports. To this end, the new EU strategy for partnerships under Horizon Europe has been welcomed and in several cases is inspiring a more coordinated national approach.

Austria has presented one of the best records in public R&I partnerships as in H2020. International collaboration in research and innovation is very high in the national agenda and is backed up by a dedicated strategy. Significant investments are made in public as well as public-private R&I partnerships and programmes allowing collaboration with various countries beyond Europe. It is not uncommon that participation in partnership – supported projects, that are generally smaller in terms of size of consortium, is seen as a preparatory step for researchers before they try to apply to larger and more competitive programmes like the H2020. This belief was shared across all countries studied.

The Spanish report showed the leading position of Spain in participating in public R&I partnerships, investing significantly but also benefiting relatively more than other countries. Spain is determined to retain a strong engagement, although certain rigidities at national level and complexities from the diverse administration of partnerships make it difficult to fully exploit their potential.

The same stands for Belgium, that is among the most engaged countries, investing significantly and benefiting considerably in comparison with other peer countries. Albeit the differences in the local R&I systems across the different Belgian regions, overall, Belgium retains a solid position that European R&I Partnerships are beneficial to the local research communities. European public R&I Partnerships are also much appreciated by Finnish Ministries, funding agencies as well as local researchers. However, Finland exploits these initiatives to a rather moderate extent, albeit to different degrees from one partnership to another. The efforts of the EC in streamlining the implementation processes and clearing up the landscape are expected to help an increased Finnish engagement in the future.

Norway performs well in terms of its active involvement in European R&I Partnerships, with the funds committed per researcher by far exceeding the levels committed by its peers. Moreover, Norwegian researchers highly appreciate the opportunity to participate in and benefit from European and international collaboration. Although some challenges going forward are envisaged, including those associated with navigating a relatively complicated landscape and coping with large variations in the way partnerships are run, the new approach to partnerships under Horizon Europe is nevertheless considered to be a step in the right direction.

Germany is the leader in terms of engagement and performance in public R&I partnerships. This is due to a well-funded national R&I system with world- famous research actors whose expertise covers a wide range of research areas. Although the funds committed per researcher are not that large, Germany makes the largest investment in comparison to the other countries, even though the funds made available are considered limited in some cases. German researchers appreciate the opportunities offered by partnerships for international collaboration and clearly see the added value in relation to national programmes or Horizon 2020. The new approach to partnerships is a clear improvement in relation to the past, although certain challenges going forward are envisaged.

Some overall conclusions: the performance of a country does not necessarily reflect the level of the country’s leadership in research and innovation. Although, strong support in international collaboration may be evidenced in the policy discourse, this may not be reflected in the budgets made available. In some cases, there is need to raise awareness and provide incentives to collaborate internationally. However, it is also true that the rate of return (i.e. number of proposals approved with national participation divided by the number of proposals submitted) can also be affected by other than scientific merit criteria such as the small budget made available by certain countries which may jeopardise approval of proposals although of high - quality. This is rather discouraging for the affected countries. At the same time, national rigidities and incompatibilities may hinder full exploitation of the potential that partnerships offer. Notwithstanding, partnerships are indeed acknowledged as useful vehicles for internationalising the profile of the national research communities and benefiting from increased collaboration in research and innovation within Europe and beyond. There is abundance of anecdotal evidence justifying the added value of partnerships and the new, strategic and long-term approach in Horizon Europe is clearly a step in the right direction in view of fully exploiting partnerships both as a funding instrument and a policy approach.

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Next country reports in the pipeline: Estonia