What are European Partnerships?

European Partnerships bring the European Commission and private and/or public partners together to address some of Europe’s most pressing challenges through concerted research and innovation initiatives. They are a key implementation tool of Horizon Europe, and contribute significantly to achieving the EU’s political priorities.

By bringing private and public partners together, European Partnerships help to avoid the duplication of investments and contribute to reducing the fragmentation of the research and innovation landscape in the EU.

Find out more about European Partnerships in our infographic.

Types of partnership

The aim of European Partnerships with EU and associated countries, the private sector, foundations and other stakeholders is to deliver on global challenges and modernise industry.

The Horizon Europe proposal lays down the conditions and principles for establishing European Partnerships. There are 3 types. 

Co-Programmed European Partnerships

These are partnerships between the Commission and mostly private (and sometimes public) partners.

A memorandum of understanding is the basis for the cooperation in these partnerships, as it specifies the partnership’s objectives, the commitments from both sides and the governance structure.

On 14 June 2021, the Commission adopted Commission Decision C(2021)4113 on the approval and signature of the memoranda of understanding for 11 Co-Programmed Partnerships. 

With over €8 billion from Horizon Europe, the partnerships will run from 2021 to 2030, allowing them to provide input into the last calls of Horizon Europe and wrap up their final activities afterwards.

The decision allows the Commission to work together with industry to boost investments in research and innovation and to overcome major climate and sustainability challenges, towards making Europe the first climate neutral economy and delivering on the European Green Deal.

The partnerships will also deliver on the EU's digital ambitions for the next decade, Europe's Digital Decade, in line with the goals of the ‘twin' green and digital transitions.

At the European Research and Innovation Days on 23 June 2021, the 11 partnerships will be presented and discussed during a dedicated launch session.

Implementing the partnerships

Implementation runs first and foremost through the Horizon Europe work programmes and their calls for proposals. Each partnership provides the Commission with input on relevant call topics to be included in the work programmes. The grants resulting from these calls are fully funded by Horizon Europe.

The private partners also develop additional activities, which are not funded through Horizon Europe, but which are included in the partnership's Strategic Research and Innovation Agendas.

These additional activities typically focus on issues such as market deployment, skills development or regulatory aspects.

Co-funded European Partnerships using a programme co-fund action

These are partnerships involving EU countries, with research funders and other public authorities at the core of the consortium. 

Institutionalised European Partnerships

These are partnerships in the field of research and innovation between the Union, EU member states and/or industry.

These partnerships require legislative proposals from the Commission and are based on a Council Regulation (Article 187) or a Decision by the European Parliament and Council (Article 185). They are implemented by dedicated structures created for that purpose.

Institutionalised partnerships will only be implemented where other parts of the Horizon Europe programme, including other types of partnership, would not achieve the desired objectives or expected impacts.

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

Identifying partnerships

Identifying European Partnerships is an integral part of Horizon Europe’s strategic planning process. This will ensure alignment with the programme’s priorities.

In line with the better regulation agenda, the Commission carried out impact assessments that helped identify the candidates for partnerships.

The portfolio of European Partnerships includes 49 candidates  which have now been taken into the next step of preparations.

For institutionalised partnerships, the Commission has published inception impact assessments  to inform citizens and stakeholders about the Commission's plans. Inception impact assessment are preliminary ones to see at an early stage if a partnership is feasible. These can be found on the Have your say website.

An open public consultation covering all institutionalised partnerships candidates based on Articles 185 and 187 was carried out between September and November. The full impact assessments will be published at the time that the Commission adopts the legislative proposals.

Partnership candidates and contact details

The current list of candidate European Partnerships is found in Annex 7 of the Orientations towards the first Strategic Plan for Horizon Europe.

Results from the structured consultation of EU countries are summarised in the report European Partnerships under Horizon Europe: results of the structured consultation of Member States

The partnership candidates are collected across 5 areas. 

Full details of candidates, draft proposal documents and contact details below.

Strategic coordinating process

As part of the strategic approach to European Partnerships, a new governance framework - the strategic coordinating process - is established.

The goal of the process is to support an evidence-based policy for EU research and innovation partnerships and a strategic vision of their landscape.

It will provide a consolidated view on the progress made by partnerships. By working together with EU countries, it aims to increase the visibility and impact of participation in European Partnerships at national level.

Concretely, the strategic coordinating process aims to

  • support community building and mutual learning across partnerships
  • raise visibility and strengthen stakeholder communication and consultation
  • provide policy makers and partnerships with the Evidence Base
  • prepare strategic discussions on key policy issues
  • ensure a feedback loop from EU countries and partnerships on the portfolio evolution implementation, monitoring and evaluation

How is it implemented?

The strategic coordinating process will consist of a number of well-coordinated elements to ensure it delivers on its objectives.

At the core is a Partnership Knowledge Hub that allows working-level interactions and meetings between the Commission, EU countries and associated countries of Horizon Europe, as well as partnership representatives and that drives the work along all the objectives of the strategic coordinating process.

A Partnership Stakeholder Forum, an annual event bringing together the whole community, provides a venue for networking, broadening engagement, sharing of experiences and discussing policy and practical dimensions related to partnerships.

Strategic discussion will take place on the future governance of the European Research Area, prepared by the Partnership Knowledge Hub.

Monitoring report and expert group

A monitoring report of EU research and innovation partnerships, published every other year, will be the most visible output of the strategic coordinating process, providing an evidence-based and transparent overview of the partnership landscape.

The first baseline report is foreseen by the end of 2021.

An independent Commission Expert Group has been set up for the duration of January 2021 until June 20 to support the development of the monitoring and reporting framework for partnerships under Horizon Europe, including supporting the drafting of the first monitoring (baseline) report.

The group has published its first interim report, A robust and harmonised framework for reporting and monitoring European Partnerships in Horizon Europe. You can also download the data mapping exercise outlined in appendix 7 of the report in excel format.

In the second interim report (planned for early 2022), the group will focus on the biennial monitoring report of partnerships. The final report with policy recommendations is planned for mid-2022.

Background documents

Coherence and synergies of partnership candidates

Under Horizon Europe partnerships are expected to establish formal and regular collaboration with other relevant research and innovation initiatives. This must be reflected in their governance models and joint actions.

The following documents guide the work on coherence and synergies by laying down the overall framework and building on the lessons learned from the analysis of the draft proposals from partners.

They also provide an overview of the current status of potential synergies among European Partnerships and other EU programmes.

These texts reflect the situation as of October 2020 and will be used as a basis for further development of collaboration among partnerships. They do not reflect the final position of the Commission.

Frequently asked questions

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