Non-EU Partners: International Cooperation in Horizon 2020

Companies and research entities from non-EU countries can participate in Horizon 2020. After all, the EU Research and Innovation Programme is “open to the world”.

International research and innovation players are seen as invaluable partners in Horizon 2020. International cooperation enables the EU to access new knowledge and markets, and helps European research and innovation tackle global challenges. The chief objectives of the EU’s strategy for worldwide partnerships are to promote European excellence and attractiveness in science and innovation, as well as support Europe’s external policies.

Three different eligibility categories

Non-EU countries have been classified differently according to their level of research capacity, socio-economic development and whether they have an association agreement with the EU. The first essential distinction is between Associated Countries and Third Countries. Another criterion is eligibility for funding – which can be automatic or not automatic.

Associated Countries

They participate in Horizon 2020 under the same conditions as EU Member States. In other words, they can apply to all programmes and instruments, individually or in consortia, automatically obtain funding if their proposal is successful, and must follow the Horizon 2020 Rules of Participation.

The ten countries associated to Horizon 2020, as of January 2017, are:

  • Iceland
  • Montenegro
  • Norway
  • Serbia
  • Albania
  • Turkey
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Israel
  • Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
  • Moldova
  • Faroe Islands
  • Switzerland
  • Ukraine
  • Tunisia
  • Georgia
  • Armenia

Third Countries: three categories
Third countries are also welcome partners. However, they are not all automatically eligible for funding. Following the EU’s international cooperation for research and innovation strategy, Third countries have been divided in three categories.

  • Automatically eligible: Enlargement and Neighbourhood countries

Legal entities from these countries are automatically eligible for funding if they participate in a project, to the same extent as their fellow consortium members.

Their participation in Horizon 2020 is looked upon favourably, insofar as it facilitates alignment with the European Research Area, supports enlargement policies and the establishment of a common Knowledge and Innovation Space.

  • Automatically eligible: Developing countries

Candidates from developing countries are also automatically eligible for funding.

Their participation is sought after in order to support the EU’s development policy in building partnerships for sustainable growth and address relevant global challenges based on the Millennium Development Goals (environment actions, tackling poverty-based health issues, etc…)

The publication Horizon 2020 Open to the World provides a full list of automatically eligible countries.

  • Not automatically eligible: Industrialised countries and emerging economies

This pool of countries is the only one not eligible for funding under Horizon 2020. Candidates from these countries will have to cover their own participation costs with own funds or through funding from a national and/or regional agency. However, an industrialised country or emerging economy can receive European funding if one of these conditions apply:

  • A provision in the call specifically stating that such Third countries will be eligible for funding.
  • A bilateral agreement exists between the EU and a Third Country on a specific science and innovation topic which provides funding for projects under that topic.
  • The EU Commission exceptionally deems as essential the participation of such partners within a given project.

The participation of industrialised countries and emerging economies is valued as a way to create business opportunities, access new markets, increase European competitiveness, and fight global challenges.

Important changes since FP7: BRIC, Mexico, and Switzerland

Since the last EU research programme, five countries have greatly enhanced their research capacities and have been given the status of “industrialised country or emerging economy”. They are: Brazil, Russia, China, India and Mexico.

Contrary to FP7, Switzerland's status has been downgraded to that of partial association until 31 December 2016. This means that Switzerland is now regarded as a Third Country under "Industrial Leadership" and "Societal Challenges", but retains its status of associated country for all projects under "Excellent Science" and "Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation". Therefore Switzerland is not automatically eligible for EU funding under Pillars 2 and 3. However, if Swiss participants submit a successful proposal and aren't eligible for EU funding, they can potentially receive national funding from the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation.

International Participation in calls or "Targeted Actions”

There are different channels through which Third Country applicants can be part of Horizon 2020. They can either apply to calls or to Targeted Actions.

Targeted Actions are Calls for Proposals for Societal Challenges and Industrial Leadership which directly seek the participation of a country or region, in areas of cooperation clearly identified under the EU policy agenda.

There are several types of Targeted Actions:

  • Joint calls. Calls for proposals that are evaluated and managed jointly by the EU and the Third Country.
  • Coordinated calls: Calls that the EU and the Third Country evaluate and manage separately.
  • Multilateral programmes: the EU can provide funding for European entities participating in a project in the Third Country.

Other opportunities

A host of other initiatives also welcome Third Country participation.

  • Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowships: researchers from around the world can apply and obtain funding.
  • ERC grants are also open to Third Country researchers, including eligibility for funding.
  • ERA Chairs positions are also available for researchers of any nationality.

International Organisations are automatically eligible

International Organisations defined as “European interest organisations” have a majority of members from EU and Associated Countries. They promote science and technology cooperation in Europe. International European Interest Organisations are automatically eligible for funding in Horizon 2020.

Other International Organisations from any Third Country can participate but will only receive EU funding if (1) there is a bilateral agreement between the EU and the organisation to fund certain projects, or if (2) the Commission deems the organisation’s participation in a given project as essential.

For more information

Horizon 2020 Open to the World:

Funding of non-EU countries and international organisations.pdf

602.22 kB

Communication from the EU Commission International Cooperation for Research and Innovation Strategy:

EC International Cooperation in R&I.pdf

104.33 kB

List of countries eligible for funding:

H2020 WP 2014-15 Annex A.pdf

313.57 kB

FAQ Russia Participation (applicable to all other industrialised country and emerging economy):

Horizon 2020 - FAQ for Russia.pdf

295.44 kB

Swiss Participation in Horizon 2020 – FAQ and recent updates

Bilateral Agreements

The European Union has concluded bi-lateral S&T agreements with a number of individual countries. These agreements constitute a framework and a privileged forum to identify common interests, priorities, policy dialogue, and the necessary tools for S&T collaboration.

Bilateral Agreements with Third Countries - Site