General Information

Research and innovation partnerships have been introduced into the European R&I landscape following the Lisbon strategy with the aim to develop the European Research Area (ERA). Almost 20 years ago, these partnerships were originally designed and have been further developed to overcome the fragmentation in the R&I landscape, to avoid duplication of efforts, to address economic crisis, competitiveness and innovation.

On 7 June 2018 the Commission adopted its proposal for Horizon Europe, the 9th EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. The approach to partnerships has gone through a major reform based on the experience of Horizon 2020.

For the first time, Horizon Europe will develop an overall policy approach for all kinds of partnerships, from ERA-NETs to JTIs, FET Flagships and even the EIT/KICs and uniformly label them as ‘European Partnerships’. The European Commission wants to streamline the number of partnerships in order to increase their effectiveness and impact. In addition to aiming for more synergies with the Structural and Cohesion Funds, Horizon Europe will also promote effective and operational links with other future EU programmes such as the European Defence Fund, the Digital Europe Programme, and the Connecting Europe Facility, as well as with the international fusion energy project ITER.

Horizon Europe will support European Partnerships to deliver on global challenges and industrial modernisation through concerted R&I effort with the Member States, private sector, foundations and other stakeholders. Partnerships as a policy approach provide mechanisms to link R&I closely to policy needs, develop close synergies with national and regional programmes, bring together a broad range of innovation actors to work towards a common goal, and turn research into socio-economic results.

Horizon Europe introduces a more strategic and impact-driven approach to partnerships. It sets out common life-cycle criteria for all partnerships with the focus on the effectiveness in achieving agreed Union priorities like openness, coherence and synergies with other relevant Union initiatives (including missions). Also, it introduces a systemic process for selecting, implementing and monitoring for all partnerships, linking them with the Strategic Planning of Horizon Europe.

Partnerships can only be supported when there is evidence that they are more effectively achieving policy objectives than Horizon Europe alone. They represent a significant investment (approximately 25% of the Horizon Europe budget and up to half of the budget of Pillar II).

The Horizon Europe proposal distinguishes between 3 types of European Partnerships:

Infographic comparing European Partnerships under Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe

  1. Co-funded partnerships with a (more or less centralised) blending of EU and national public and/or other R&I funding sources (ERA-NETs, EJP, FET Flagships model in H2020)

    Co-funded Partnerships involve EU countries, with research funders and other public authorities at the core of the consortium. They elaborate joint research agendas and implement them with joint calls and joint additional activities.

  2. Co-programmed partnerships between the EU, Member States/ Associated Countries, and/or other stakeholders, based on Memoranda of Understanding or contractual arrangements with partners (cPPP model in H2020). Co-programmed partnerships elaborate joint research agendas which are realized by calls implemented in the Horizon Europe work programmes.

  3. Institutionalised partnerships (based on Art. 185 or 187 TFEU, and EIT regulation for KICs).

    Institutionalised Partnerships are implemented only when other parts of the Horizon Europe programme, including other forms of European Partnerships (Co-funded or Co-programmed), cannot achieve the objectives or generate the necessary expected impacts. The preparation of such Institutionalised Partnerships requires new EU legislation and the setting up of specific legal structures (funding bodies) based on Article 185 and 187 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU). As such all Institutionalised Partnerships must be justified with an impact assessment prior to the preparation of the legislative proposals.

    EIT Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) are also institutionalised partnerships. EIT KICs aim to address skills shortages and are already established under Horizon 2020. Key partners in EIT KICs are higher education institutions, research organisations, companies and other stakeholders.

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