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, Czechia, 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, The Republic of North Macedonia, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine.

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.

Synergies between Horizon 2020 and European Structural and Investment Funds

The highest impact of research and innovation investments can be made when Horizon 2020 and European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds) are compatible. This means that research and business communities will work together with national and regional policy makers and managing authorities to ensure the best quantity and quality of available funds.

Developing these synergies will increase efficiency and positively impact jobs, growth and competitiveness across Europe thanks to more regional and national investment in research. They will also push towards open innovation, create innovative ecosystems and bring companies and regions into the knowledge economy.

Synergies will assist the implementation of smart specialisation strategies which are essential for research and innovation investment under the European Regional Development Fund.  Smart specialisation gives priority to investments in research and innovation activities that play into the regions' strengths and therefore ensures a more effective use of public funds while stimulating private investment.

More information on synergies

More information on smart specialisation