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Research and Innovation play a key role in economic and social development and in solving major global societal challenges.

The European Union is one of the world's leading regions in research and innovation. With 7% of the world's population, it accounts for 24% of the world expenditure on research, 32% of the high impact publications and 32% of the patent applications. However, as more and more knowledge is created in third countries, the Union must be in a position to access this knowledge, and the people creating it, in order to remain an attractive location for carrying out research and innovation and a partner of choice for engaging in international cooperation.

This international dimension is an important component of the development of the European Research Area (ERA) together with the EU Member States.

In September 2012, the Commission adopted the Communication 'Enhancing and focusing EU international cooperation in research and innovation: a strategic approach' The Communication sets out a new strategy for international cooperation in research and innovation, in particular with a view to implementing Horizon 2020. This followed the 2008 Strategic European Framework (  PDF icon 373 KB ) for international cooperation in science and technology.

The EC has always encouraged, and will continue to encourage, international cooperation through its Framework Programmes. EC bilateral S&T agreements and bi-regional S&T agreements are important tools to promote the policy dialogue with partner third countries.