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Stairway to Excellence (S2E)

The Commission launched in 2014 the "Cohesion Policy and the synergies with the research and development funds: the Stairway to Excellence (S2E)" project, managed by the Joint Research Centre within the Smart Specialisation Platform.

The Stairway to Excellence (S2E) project aims to support post 2004 EU regions and countries in developing and exploiting the synergies between Horizon 2020 (H2020) and European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) and to:

  • Assist them to close the innovation gap in order to promote excellence in all regions and EU countries,
  • Stimulate the early and effective implementation of national and regional Smart Specialisation strategies.


More on S2E:  Background for the project, RIS3 and support of S3P


Main activities

The Stairway to Excellence (S2E) project includes the analysis and implementation of two types of activities:

(1) Upstream preparatory actions aim to prepare (R&I) actors to use European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) resources to participate better in Horizon 2020 calls (i.e. sequential funding) and/or amplify the innovation potential of these two funding sources (i.e. via their simultaneous and/or parallel use).


Capacity Mapping

The project carries out analyses and research activities to:

- define the methodological aspects which could lead regional/national actors to successfully adopt and finance support structures and R&D&I instruments via synergies between funds;

- assess past performance of post 2004 countries and regions in previous Framework Programmes, their strengths and weaknesses in terms of R&I capacity, institutional features, and alignment between public R&I and business innovation needs.

Capacity Building

Based on the results obtained above, the project further aims to:

- prepare R&I actors to use ESIF resources to become more competitive in H2020 calls (i.e. sequential funding), and

- amplify the innovation impact of these two funding sources (i.e. simultaneous and/or parallel use).


(2) Downstream preparatory actions focus on the exploitation and diffusion of results from earlier Framework Programmes and H2020 to post 2004 EU countries /regions.


Graphic explaining the S2E project
S2E in a nutshell
© EU, 2014

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