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European Research & Innovation Partnerships

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European research and innovation (R&I) partnerships

Funding of partnerships through EU framework programmes for research was introduced in 2000 in conjunction with the adoption of the Lisbon Strategy and the decision to launch the European Research Area (ERA).

In this context, the very first partnerships were principally aimed at addressing the fragmentation of R&I landscape in Europe and preventing overlaps. Later, mostly since 2008, new types of partnerships were launched and/or existing instruments were adapted to serve purposes including dealing with the financial crisis, promoting innovation and improving EU competitiveness.

Horizon 2020, the current EU Framework Programme for R&I supports two broad categories of partnerships:

a) Public-private partnerships (PPP)

These are partnerships under which private-sector partners, the Commission representing the EU, and, possibly, other partners including public bodies, commit to jointly support development and implementation of a programme or activities in the field of research and innovation;

b) Public-public partnerships (P2P)

These partnerships are addressed to public-sector bodies or bodies with a public-service mission at the local, regional, national or international levels which commit to jointly support development and implementation of a programme or activities in the field of research and innovation.

Partnerships between public-sector bodies are for the most part implemented through the following instruments:

a) ERA-NET Cofund

b) European Joint Programme Cofund (EJP)

c) Initiatives under Article 185 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU).

Public-public partnerships also comprise Joint Programming Initiatives which are approved by the EU Competitiveness Council on proposal of interested countries; they are implemented on voluntary basis according to the principle of variable geometry. Up to date, 10 joint programming initiatives have been launched and are currently under implementation[1].

Joint Programming Initiatives are funded mainly by member states and their activities are focused on issues addressing societal challenges.

As regards the European Commission, JPIs were funded by the previous (7th) framework programme through coordination and support actions; for the 2014-2020 period (“Horizon 2020”) support has been broadened to include co-financing of research projects through ERANET Co-fund.

Private-public partnerships are implemented principally through the following instruments:

a) Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs) / Joint Undertakings (JUs)

JTIs are public-private partnerships (PPP) in R&I implemented through special structures (Joint Undertakings) set up by Council regulation pursuant to Article 187 TFEU. They support research activities in sectors of special interest for enhancing competitiveness of the European industry and society in general.

Joint undertakings are co-funded by Horizon 2020 and their areas of activity are described in detail at:


b) Contractual Public Private Partnerships (cPPPs)

These partnerships are implemented on the basis of dedicated arrangements between the Commission and representatives of the respective industry which define the goals, expected outcomes, indicative budget and indicators for monitoring implementation.

Research priorities are determined in collaboration with the industry (Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda) and are subsequently implemented through standard open calls under the Horizon 2020 Work Programme.

cPPPs co-funded under Horizon 2020 are described in detail at:


Other partnerships, platforms and networks

a) Knowledge and Innovation Communities - European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT-KICs)

The ΕΙΤ was established in 2008 by a European Parliament and Council Regulation as an independent organization based in Budapest. It is supervised by the European Commission (Directorate General for Education, Sport, Youth and Culture) and funded under Horizon 2020. Member states participate in the Member State Configuration, which is the EIT annual dialogue meeting.

EIT activities are focused on promoting synergies and collaborations between higher education bodies, research centres and enterprises (the so-called “knowledge triangle”) through cross-border partnerships, the Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs).

KICs are established as independent legal entities provided for in the EIT strategic agenda in order to promote entrepreneurship and transformation of innovative ideas into products and services.

There are currently 6 Knowledge Innovation Communities (KICs) in the following fields:

  • Climate
  • Digital
  • Food
  • Health
  • Sustainable Energy (InnoEnergy)
  • Raw Materials

Two new KICs were designated in 2018 in the fields of Added Value Manufacturing and Urban Mobility.

Regional Innovation Scheme (ΕΙΤ RIS) and innovation hubs

The Regional Innovation Scheme (ΕΙΤ RIS) was integrated in the EIT Strategic Innovation Agenda in 2014 with the aim of bridging the innovation divide in Europe.

It is principally aimed at disseminating knowledge and know-how from KIC actions to countries (EU member states and countries with an association agreement to Horizon 2020) with limited or zero participation in KICs, therefore supporting their involvement in EIT actions and, by extension, improvement of their respective national and regional innovation ecosystems.

EIT RIS concerns countries and regions characterized as “modest” or “moderate” innovators based on the European Innovation Scoreboard and comprises two categories of actions:

(a) promoting participation of natural persons (students, researchers) and bodies (start-ups, universities, NGOs, municipalities, regions) from those countries in EIT activities, and

(b) enhancing motivation, networking and the international character of national/regional bodies through establishment of Innovation Hubs serving as focal points for interaction and exchange of experience and good practices between KICs and stakeholders involved, as well as for promoting synergies with smart specialization strategies and their respective implementation mechanisms.

Greek Innovation hubs

The bodies serving as EIT Hubs in Greece are as follows:

  • EIT InnoEnergy: ΚiΝΝΟ Consultants Ltd.
  • EIT Raw Materials: National Technical University of Athens
  • EIT Health: National Documentation Centre
  • EIT Digital: Found.ation
  • EIT Climate: Athena Research and Innovation Center (ATHENA RC)
  • EIT Food: Industry Disruptors-Game Changers (ID-GC).

b) Future and Emerging Technologies Flagships – FET Flagships

FET Flagships are ambitious large-scale, science-driven, partnerships which aim to tackle important scientific and technological challenges requiring interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary cooperation and a forward-looking vision that cannot be addressed by individual countries.

They are funded under Horizon 2020 Pillar 1 - Excellent Science covering the following fields: Graphene, Human Brain Project/HBP and Quantum Technologies.

To facilitate links with respective national programmes and initiatives, the Commission (under Horizon 2020), member states and countries with an association agreement to Horizon 2020 co-finance respective networks of national and regional funding bodies (ERA-NETs): FLAG-ERA (for “GRAPHENE” and “Human Brain Project”) and QUANT-ERA (for QT FET Flagship.

The Board of Funders, one of the Flagships (FF) governance bodies, is a dialogue platform between the Commission, member states and countries associated to Horizon 2020 with the purpose of programming activities in support of the FFs and fostering synergies with national activities.

c) European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs)

EIPs are platforms encouraging cooperation between public and private bodies in specific policy sectors to address challenges such as lack of investments, obsolete legal provisions, lack of standards and market fragmentation. They were created in the context of the “Innovation Union” Europe 2020 Flagship Initiative.

There are currently 5 EIPs: Active and Health Aging (AHA), Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability, Raw Materials, Water, Smart Cities and Communities.

d) European Technology Platforms (ETPs)

European Technology Platforms (ETPs) are industry-led stakeholder fora with a mission to develop research and innovation agendas and roadmaps to be taken into consideration in defining research priorities at the EU and national levels. They are independent and self-funded entities, where the Commission (Directorate-General for Research and Innovation) has a mainly coordinating role.


[1] During the 2009-2011 period, the Competitiveness Council launched the following JPIs: “Joint Programming on Neurodegenerative Diseases”, “Agriculture, Food Security, and Climate Change”, “Cultural Heritage and Global Change”, “A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life”, “Urban Europe”, “Connecting Climate Knowledge for Europe”, “More Years, Better Lives”, “The microbial challenge-An emerging threat to human health”, “Water Challenges for a changing World” and “Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans”.


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