Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation

The interim evaluation of FP7 (November 2010) identified that some Member States, mainly those that joined the EU after 2004, had low participation rates in FP7 projects. Widening actions under the Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation part of Horizon 2020 address the causes of low participation by fully exploiting the potential of Europe's talent pool. It ensures that the benefits of an innovation-led economy are both maximised and widely distributed across the European Union. Synergies with European Structural and Investment funds are an important component.

What are the core Widening actions?

Widening consists of three main actions, i.e. Teaming, Twinning and ERA Chairs, for which specific eligibility conditions apply. This ensures a targeted approach towards Widening Member States and Associated Countries. The Member States currently eligible for Widening support are: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.


EU map with Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia,  Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Faroe Islands, Former Yugoslav Republic highlighted

The Associated Countries currently eligible for Widening support are (subject to valid association agreements of third countries with Horizon 2020): Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Faroe Islands, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine.


Teaming means institution building. Teaming projects create new or update existing centres of excellence in Widening countries through a coupling process with a leading scientific institution. The programme has two phases: in Phase 1, funding is provided to develop a business plan for the future centre in line with the host region's smart specialisation strategy. In Phase 2, selected Phase 1 proposals receive financial support to start implementing the future centre.

"The funding provided to our PlantaSYST Consortium during Teaming Phase 1 enabled us to consolidate our vision for a state-of-the-art centre of plant systems biology and biotechnology, taking the best from our German and Bulgarian partners. In preparing the business plan for the new Centre of Excellence we strengthened cooperation between consortium partners and created new links with research entities in Europe and overseas."
Tsanko Gechev, Coordinator of PlantaSYST in Bulgaria


"Thanks to the Teaming Phase 1 project the University of Primorska was able to build strong relationships with both the Slovenian project partners as well as with the Fraunhofer Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut, our advanced partner. Our project partners and industry stakeholders helped us develop our second stage proposal, our business plan, and raised the profile of our research areas within Slovenia’s Smart Specialisation Strategies. Throughout this project we were also able to attract interest and support from research institutions, industrial partners, and policy makers across the globe. All of our project partners were excited to participate in this project and feel proud of what we produced."
Andreja Kutnar, Coordinator of InnoRenew CoE in Slovenia


Twinning stands for institutional networking. A twinning project strengthens a specific field of research in an emerging institution in a Widening country. It links the institution with at least two internationally leading counterparts in Europe. Activities like short-term staff exchanges, expert visits, on-site or virtual trainings, workshops, conference attendance, dissemination and outreach are supported.

"The Twinning Project allows us to build stronger collaborations not only with our supporting countries, but also with their partner institutions. Our partner countries have a longer experience, a higher scientific impact and they teach us how to boost our scientific performance. From them, we learn how to be more efficient in our scientific work, how to address problems in different ways and how to deliver better results."
Claudia Marques-dos-Santos, Coordinator of NitroPortugal in Portugal


"The Twinning call is an unprecedented instrument to accelerate the development of research capabilities of academic institutions in areas important for Europe. Our institute clearly benefits from the project and the effects of Twinning are likely to be global."
Mart Susi, Coordinator of HURMUR in Estonia

Era Chairs

ERA Chairs stands for excellence to institution. ERA Chairs projects bring outstanding academics, with proven research excellence and management skills, to universities and research institutions in Widening countries with potential for research excellence. They aim to attract and maintain high quality human resources under the direction of an outstanding researcher (the 'ERA Chair holder') while at the same time implementing structural changes necessary to achieve excellence on a sustainable basis.

"Thanks to the ERA Chairs project we were able to create a group with excellent international specialists. Both young and advanced researchers from Europe, India and Syria are now part of the team working in Poland. Our project integrates different cultural and ethnical backgrounds as well as diverse research approaches. We are now truly an integrative science department and this diversity is our main strength in our journey to success."
Robert Malinowski, ERA Chair of BIO-TALENT in Poland


"Thanks to the ERA Chair project, researchers from Masaryk University have been able to attend seminars given by world-renowned scientists, present their work and have it peer reviewed. It has giving the university international visibility and assisted in grants support development."
Mary O'Connell, ERA Chair of CEITEC in Czech Republic

Other widening actions

  • The Policy Support Facility offers expert advice to public authorities. It helps to improve the design, implementation and evaluation of national or regional research and innovation policies. The PSF was launched in March 2015. More information can be found here.

PSF Peer Review Bulgaria
PSF Peer Review Hungary
PSF Peer Review Ukraine

  • The European Cooperation in Science & Technology  (COST) provides cross-border scientific networking. COST helps excellent researchers and innovators get access to European and international networks.
  • The Widening Network of National Contact Points is a transnational network of National Contact Points (NCPs) for Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation under Horizon 2020. It aims to share good practices among NCPs and provide better support to potential programme applicants.
  • The Joint Programming Initiative Urban Europe stimulates research which supports research in urban innovation and technologies. It supports European cities in their transition towards a sustainable, resilient and liveable future.

Looking towards 2018-2020

The research & innovation divide in Europe remains a pressing challenge. In the last three years of Horizon 2020 efforts will be intensified to spread excellence and broaden participation across Europe. This will be achieved by encouraging organisations in Widening countries to further develop and take better advantage of their research and innovation potential through a number of specific measures involving investing, mentoring, networking, communication and thematic activities.