Research structure and policy

The European Union supports research, science and technology by means of political measures in order to encourage science cooperation and to make advantage of the European Union’s potential in the areas of industry and innovation. Sharing technological knowledge and forward-looking ideas will strengthen Europe’s competitiveness. But the EU support schemes are also open to so called 'third countries'.

 International CooperationHorizon 2020 | 7th Framework Programme | European Research Area

International Cooperation

The European Union is a world leader in research and innovation, responsible for 24% of world expenditure on research, 32% of high impact publications and 32% of patent applications, while representing only 7% of the world's population.

EU research programmes are open to participation from across the globe. Currently, 6% of participants in the Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7) come from third countries. The Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, that fund mobility and training for researchers, support participants from 80 different countries. The European Research Council (ERC), which funds researchers from anywhere in the world to do cutting-edge research in Europe, has begun a campaign to attract more participants from third countries. The Commission's in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), also maintains close research links to organisations around the world.

On 14 September 2012, the Commission adopted a Communication entitled 'Enhancing and focusing EU international cooperation in research and innovation'. The Communication sets out a new strategy for international cooperation in research and innovation, in particular with a view to implementing Horizon 2020.

Learn more about the EU's new strategy for International Cooperation.

Frequently Asked Questions on International Cooperation in Science, Technology and Innovation between the EU and other regions/ countries ('third countries').

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Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 is the current EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. It will run from 2014 to 2020 with an €80 billion budget. Horizon 2020 provides major simplification through a single set of rules. It will combine all research and innovation funding currently provided through the Framework Programmes for Research and Technical Development, the innovation related activities of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

Learn more about Horizon 2020

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7th Framework Programme for Research and Development

The 7th Framework Programme started in 2007 and will run until the end of 2013. Its total budget of €54 billion is approximately 60% higher than that of the 6th Framework Programme.

The EU’s Framework Programme for Research and Development is subdivided into seven Specific Programmes, according to which European research activities are structured:

The first five of these Specific Programmes make up the European Community's Framework Programme; the final two form the Euratom Framework Programme, which has a duration of five years (2007-2011).

The Research Framework Programme is to contribute to the creation of a European Research Area, which will be an important step towards the establishment of a dynamic and knowledge-based economy. Improving the coordination of research activities at EU level has the aim of increasing growth and international competitiveness.

For more information visit: FP7 2013 Work programmes

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The European Research Area

In the EU, 80% of public research activities take place at a national level. Owing to this lack of integration, the potential of European research is not being used as effectively as possible.

In order to tackle this issue, the initiative of creating a European Research Area (ERA) was launched under former EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. It was proposed in January 2000 by the European Commission in its communication ‘Towards a European Research Area’. The Lisbon European Council reiterated this goal in March 2000.

The European Research Area includes three concepts:

  • The creation of an 'internal market' for research; in other words, an area of free movement of knowledge, researchers and technology, with the aim of increasing cooperation, stimulating competition and achieving a better allocation of resources;
  • A restructuring of the European 'research fabric', in particular by means of improved coordination of national research activities and policies;
  • The development of a European research policy that not only addresses the funding of research activities, but also takes account of all relevant aspects of other EU and national policies.

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Design Element


SICAs (specific international cooperation actions) are FP7 instruments to strengthen international cooperation. To learn more:

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Design Element
Design Element