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Twinning Western Balkans Special

The purpose of the special Twinning call is to raise the bar for excellence of all R&I actors in these countries. It will be implemented as one special call for Western Balkan countries with a limited eligibility for hosting the co-ordinator for the following countries Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia in 2021.

This special Twinning aims to enhance networking activities between the research institutions of the Western Balkan countries and leading counterparts at EU level. It links the coordinator located in a Western Balkan country with at least two leading research institutions from two different Member States or Associated Countries in the role of the advanced partners. Therefore, it builds on the huge potential of networking for excellence through knowledge transfer and exchange of best practice between research institutions and partners.

Twinning proposals should have to clearly outline the scientific strategy for stepping up and stimulating scientific excellence and innovation capacity in a defined area of research as well as the scientific quality of the partners involved in the twinning exercise. This scientific strategy should include arrangements for formulating new (or ongoing) joint research project(s) in the scientific area of choice and describe how Twinning will take this research to a new stage, by enlarging its scope and/or the research partnership. If relevant, any links with sustainable development objectives are to be outlined.

Such a strategy should include a comprehensive set of activities to be supported. These should include at least a number of the following: a) short-term staff exchanges; b) expert visits and short term on-site or virtual training; c) workshops; d) conference attendance; e) organisation of joint summer school type activities; f) dissemination and outreach activities. As far as appropriate these activities should take into account the gender equality plans of the participants.

Proposals should also focus on strengthening the research management and administration skills of the coordinating institution from the Western Balkan country. A dedicated work package or task should emphasise specific activities, which will help the staff of the coordinating institution to improve their proposal preparation and project management/administration skills. If not yet in place, setting up/upgrading a research management/administration unit within the coordinating institution would be beneficial. This will be achieved by fully utilising the experience and best practices of the internationally leading partners and is expected to be a concrete deliverable of the Twinning exercise.

A research component not exceeding 30% of the total Horizon Europe grant may include an exploratory research project. This will open opportunities for integrating smaller research projects and by this strengthening the commitment and the engagement of the twinning partners.

The Twinning proposals should illustrate quantitatively and qualitatively the expected potential impact of the twinning exercise within the coordinating institution (and possibly at regional/national level) based on indicators, such as expected future publications in peer reviewed journals, collaboration agreements with businesses, intellectual property, new innovative products or services, number of international students and of local students’ national and international mobility, number of women scientists and their roles in the institutions.

It should be explained how the leading scientific institutions in the partnership will contribute in terms of provision of access to new research avenues, creativity and the development of new approaches, as well as acting as a source of increased mobility (inwards and outwards) of qualified scientists. The benefits for the leading scientific institutions and the way they would materialise through the partnership should be substantiated.

Specific attention should be paid to gender equality objectives, in line with the organisations’ commitments through their adopted gender equality plans, and in line with ERA objectives, as far as appropriate.

The research part of the project should be presented through a dedicated work package and plan including the scientific objectives, tasks and roles of the partners.

The duration of the Twinning project should be up to 3 years.