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Capacity building to strengthen networks of higher education institutions and cooperation with surrounding ecosystems

The capacity building towards the European Excellence Initiative aims to significantly strengthening cooperation between at least two organisations from higher education sector in a Widening country (or different Widening countries), by linking it with at least two internationally-leading institutions from two different Member States or Associated Countries.

  1. Enhance the scientific and technological capacity of the linked institutions with a principal focus on the entities from the Widening Country/-ies;
  2. Help raise the excellence profile of the HEI from the Widening country as well as the excellence profile of its staff;
  3. Strengthen considerably the networks towards realising integrated cooperation between the participating entities in the research and innovation dimension, in synergy with the entities’ education and training dimensions.

Proposals are expected to clearly outline the cooperation and strategy for stepping up and stimulating scientific excellence and innovation capacity in defined areas of research and innovation as well as the scientific quality of the partners involved in the exercise. This strategy should include arrangements for institutional transformation according to a shared agenda that could include (a) developing shared research & innovation strategies and roadmaps to create directional and interdisciplinary critical mass, in order to more effectively create impact for society; (b) sharing capacity and resources, through collaborative settings preparing the network towards the establishment of a European Universities alliance or similar long-term network, (c) strengthening attractiveness of researchers’ careers, towards a pipeline of talents crucial for an effective European Research Area, including reform in career assessment; (d) co-operation with surrounding ecosystem actors for the transmission of knowledge and talents, e.g. through creation or reinforcing of technology transfer offices and cooperation platforms; (e) transition to knowledge- and digitally-driven universities, conducting Open Science; (f) creating proximity to and engaging citizens for solving societal challenges; (g) supporting institutional change through inclusive gender equality plans. Where relevant, any links with sustainable development objectives are to be outlined.

The way forward with and within the different priority areas for transformation of universities remains the choice of the beneficiaries. For all areas listed above, where appropriate, legal, regulatory, and financial barriers hampering cooperation among HEI in research and innovation as well as recommendations on the way forward should be identified. More detailed information, including examples of activities that can be supported within these different priority areas can be found in the accompanying information document [[https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/docs/2021-2027/horizon/wp-call/2021/information_horizon-widera-2021-access-05-01_en.pdf]], which is published together with this work programme.

The common strategy should include a comprehensive set of activities to be supported. These should include at least a number of the following: short term staff exchanges; expert visits and short-term on-site or virtual training; workshops; conference attendance; organisation of joint summer school type activities; dissemination and outreach activities; research management and administration; capacity building for research management and technology transfer; explorative research projects (led by widening partners) to develop new research strands etc.; capacity building for the application of open science practices.

Proposals should target the higher education sector; this may include any type of university, research organisations, academies of science, polytechnic universities, universities of applied science, and specialised public laboratories. HEI partners in surrounding ecosystems, such as businesses, societal actors or other non-academic entities are encouraged to be involved as partner organisations.