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Framework Partnership Agreement (FPA) for Research and Education Networks

Building on the successful former partnership in this field and the achievements delivered under the Horizon 2020 framework programme, and considering the need for continuing the provision of critical services for the scientific and research community without disruption, the Commission calls for a new partnership with the National Research and Education Networks that would cover the whole duration of Horizon Europe, with the following general objectives:

  • Provide faster, resilient, agile and secure connectivity services for enabling scientists, researchers and students to access near real-time applications that support development of solutions and evidence-based decision-making for society and a worldwide effective collaboration of virtual research communities. The aim is to provide connectivity in the European Research Area (ERA) in multiples of 100 Gbps, paving the way for Terabit connectivity in certain areas where higher bandwidth is required for both disciplinary and interdisciplinary research collaboration amongst the researchers and scientists across Europe and beyond. Both the cross-European educational dimension and providing ERA scientists and researchers with optimal and secure access to research infrastructures (RI) and data resources worldwide are within the scope of the FPA.​

The scope of the partnership activities should be to deliver an action plan on basis of jointly agreed objectives, covering the next 7 years of work. The action plan should cover the following areas of activity:

1. High quality connectivity and collaboration services for excellence in Research and Education

  • Provide operational excellence by delivering and developing high quality, secure, trusted, interoperable and cost-effective services, connectivity and collaboration services for both Research and Education sectors and align service offering for supporting the policy agenda of ERA[[See COM(2020)628, ""A new ERA for Research and Innovation""]], EEA[[European Economic Area]] and EHEA[[European Higher Education Area]]: to enable borderless collaboration, and attract talent from anywhere in the world to cooperate and exchange data with their peers.
  • Provide core services on security and identity federation, in coordination with other e-infrastructure and heterogeneous identity providers to enable service interoperability and a trusted and seamless user experience. National and European regulation in electronic identity (e.g. such e-IDAS) should be considered in particular for the development of Trust & Identity service in order to maximise societal impact beyond the research and scientific community.
  • Innovation of the service portfolio, including possible activities at lower TRL levels, in order to support researchers working on new network and added-value services such as super high transfer speeds, quantum network testing, etc.
  • Stimulating the development of consortium partners’ human capital (including training, secondment and exchange schemes) will be an important pillar in fostering service innovation and assuring expertise in all Member States and Associated Countries.

2. State-of-the-art connectivity for the wider European Digital Infrastructure

  • Push the boundaries of the state-of-the-art of the communication commons by constant development of both innovative multi-domain services and their use, and by translating this innovation into a competitive European ICT sector. This can include interconnection with key European data spaces and data repositories, including the Common European data spaces[[A European strategy for data, COM(2020)66 final]] and with a wide spectrum of actors, e.g. industry and SMEs in collaboration with commercial operators.
  • Adapt to the changing environment by the continuous development of the service portfolio of the European communications commons while maintaining the high level of accountability, security, measurability, transparency and sustainability. Actions should align with and contribute to the regulatory, standardisation and policy framework in order to enable full exploitation of the communications commons.
  • Progressive upgrade from a Gigabit to a Terabit network as a critical part of the main public digital infrastructures in the EU.

3. International connectivity and collaboration

  • Services and network architecture shall enable European driven researchers and scientists unconstrained access to data and resources worldwide while attracting data and talent. Activities in the international realm shall clearly foster international cooperation among researchers, contribute to the objectives of other relevant EU programmes and policies, and leverage the existing resources to maximise impact. Capacity building activities will be a crosscutting element in international cooperation.

Wherever necessary in implementing the action plan, the partnership should make recourse to procurement as a fundamental tool for maximising the utility of available resources and broadening the offer of state-of-the-art digital services to scientific, research and education communities. The action plan should specify the main areas where procurement is expected to take place. Whenever the partnership makes recourse to procurement activities, it should explore broader scenarios and business models (including the participation in innovative procurement actions) for the benefit of the research and education community and potentially the wider user base.

The partnership should also develop close synergies with EU Policy and EU Programmes, wherever these are relevant for its activities, for instance with Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) or the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and its KICs, for activities related to human capital development, training, and international collaboration. It may also seek synergies with other programmes and funding lines of the EU that demonstrate greater impact potential and or better efficiency in the use of resources in the implementation of the action plan.

The long-term cooperation between the Commission and the selected partners will be formalised within a Framework Partnership Agreement (FPA) covering the entire duration of Horizon Europe. The extended duration of the partnership is justified by the need to provide a stable environment for the implementation of a European communications commons and uninterrupted provisioning of digital services.

Through the Framework Partnership Agreement (FPA), the Commission intends to award specific grants to implement the action plan agreed in the FPA, in accordance with the procedures laid down in the FPA (see also section on ""Other actions"").