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Specific challenge: Despite its strengths, the European Research and Innovation landscape presents a lot of structural disparities, with research and innovation excellence concentrated in a few geographical zones. These disparities are due to, among other reasons, the insufficient critical mass of science and centres having sufficient competence to engage countries and regions strategically in a path of innovative growth, building on newly developed capabilities. This could help countries and regions that are lagging behind in terms of research and innovation performance reclaim their competitive position in the global value chains. Teaming will address this challenge by creating or upgrading such centres of excellence, building on partnerships between leading scientific institutions and low performing partners that display the willingness to engage together on this purpose.

Scope: Teaming, will involve in principle, two (2) parties: an institution of research and innovation excellence (public or private) or a consortium of such institutions and the participant organisation from a low performing Member State (for example a national or regional authority, or a research agency at national or regional level; the presence of a local partner research institution is encouraged as it could provide additional relevance to the teaming process). Both parties will be required to sign the grant agreement. The coordinator of the project should be the participant organisation from the low performing Member State. Teaming actions will be selected for funding through the following process:

Stage 1: Partner organisations will have to explain clearly their vision for the establishment of a new Centre of Excellence (or the upgrading of an existing one) that would be hosted in the low performing Member State or region involved. This will include details on the long-term science and innovation strategy of the future Centre, in particular, the detailed provisions for the good management of the project between the partners. Furthermore, proposers should include a clear analysis of how this strategy would fit with the relevant Smart Specialisation Strategy of the participating low performing Member State or region.    In the case of an upgrade of an existing centre of excellence (or a consortium of centres of excellence established in the same region), additional information concerning organisation profile, activities and strategy of the centre should be provided. Successful applicants will receive a grant to produce an extensive, detailed and robust Business Plan for the setting-up / upgrading of a Centre of Excellence.

The Business Plan should demonstrate the potential of the future Centre to develop new (or connect effectively with existing) regional cluster formation and the prospects of the hosting country/region to provide an innovation friendly environment. It has to include commitments from the interested national or regional authorities to commit financial resources (e.g. resources coming from the European Structural and Investment Funds) as appropriate, for implementing the future Centre, in particular regarding investment in infrastructure and equipment. A properly functioning service-oriented administration as well as an education and training system that is able to provide the human resources needed to absorb the innovation potential of the new research centre should be demonstrated. The duration of a typical first stage of a Teaming project will be 12 months.

Stage 2: All funded proposals of the first stage will automatically enter into the second stage of the competition that will involve an in-depth evaluation (by an international expert panel) of all submitted Business Plans. These will be evaluated in terms of content (scientific excellence), impact on innovation and quality of the proposed implementation plan. 

Following this evaluation and depending on available budget, the Commission will enter into a Grant agreement with the highest ranked proposals to provide further substantial support (administrative costs, salaries etc.) for the start-up and implementation phase of the future Centre. It is to be noted however, that Horizon 2020 will not support infrastructure or large equipment costs associated with the new or upgraded centre (as reflected above, such costs are expected to be supported by other types of funding, including where relevant by the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF)).[1] The duration of a typical second stage of a Teaming project will be 5-7 years.

The long-term cooperation between the Commission and the selected partner organisations that have been successful in Stage 1 will be formalised with a Framework Partnership Agreement (FPA). This agreement shall specify the common objectives, the nature of the specific actions planned and the general rights and obligations of each party. It is noted however, that the FPA will continue in Stage 2 only with those organisations that have received the highest ranking (through an evaluation by an international high-level expert panel) for their submitted Business Plans from Stage 1.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 0.2 and 0.5 million for Stage 1 and between EUR 15 and 20 million for Stage 2 would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected impact: Actions will lead to the creation of new (or significant upgrades of existing) Centres of Excellence in Member States and regions currently identified as low performers in terms of research and innovation, increasing on the one hand their scientific capabilities and on the other, enabling them to engage in a strategic growth path in terms of economic development. It is also expected that improved scientific capabilities will allow them to improve their chances to seek competitive funding in international fora (including the EU Framework Programmes). Over the medium to long term there will be a measurable and significant improvement in the research and innovation culture (as shown through indicators such as research intensity, innovation performance, enhanced strategy, values and attitudes towards research and innovation) within Member States currently with low R&I performance. These will be fostered through constructive and sustainable partnerships achieved between research and innovation-intensive institutions of excellence and the partnering organisation in the low performing Member State or region.  Benefits will also accrue to the institutions from the more intensive research and innovation performers, in terms of issues such as access to new research avenues, creativity and the development of new approaches, as well as a source for increased mobility (inwards and outwards) of qualified scientists.

Type of action: Framework Partnership Agreement and Coordination and Support Action funded by a specific grant awarded under the Framework Partnership Agreement.

The conditions related to this topic are provided in the general conditions for this call and in the General Annexes.

[1] Following an initial (minimum) three years' operating period, the Commission may consider to award “labels of excellence” to those newly established Centres that have met strict international standards through an independent international evaluation process (to be further organised by the Commission). There would however, be no additional EU funding involved. It should also be noted that this operation is not part of this Work Programme and Call.