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Support for R&I policy making in the Western Balkans

The COVID-19 pandemic has stressed the important role of research and innovation to tackle the immediate crises but also to ensure a sustainable and inclusive recovery while boosting the resilience of production sectors, the competitiveness of economies, and the transformation of the socio-economic systems across Europe. The Western Balkans are trying to catch up on Research, Development and Innovation (RDI). Closer links between research and innovation and institutional cooperation to produce high-quality knowledge, underpinning economic and societal solutions are paramount to help bridging the R&I gap between the EU Member States and (potential) Candidate Countries. Actions stemming from this Call will foster the capacity building in the Western Balkans to allow successful participation in the R&I process, improve the Technology Transfer Process, promote networking of and access to excellence, thus optimising the participation in and impact of Horizon Europe across the region. Activities from this Call will strengthen and foster the development of the human capital base in the region, they will promote the establishment of open, inclusive and responsible national research and innovation systems, support an institutional change through the development of inclusive gender equality plans in line with Horizon Europe and the ERA objectives, as well as support evidence based policy making.

The expected duration of the project is up to four years.

Underpinning the Western Balkans Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, this action will foster a comprehensive policy approach, while seeking synergies across the entire Horizon Europe and other EU funding programmes. An action funded under this call will support the coordination and synchronised interaction among a multitude of instruments and programmes targeting the Western Balkans region. This should not only facilitate an increased participation of Western Balkan entities in relevant European funding programmes but also create economies of scale, complementarity, synergies, and avoid overlapping of actions.

An action stemming from this topic will support a platform for the various services addressing education, culture, youth, sport, research and innovation in the Western Balkans in their programming and implementation. All these areas are key for finding new solutions to the challenges we are facing across South East Europe. The actions should also aim to support the implementation of people-to-people cooperation projects with and within the Western Balkans, supporting partnerships between higher education institutions as well as creative professionals and industries and European incubation networks for creativity-driven innovation.

This action aligns with ERA and Widening objectives in that it aims to strengthen links with EU partners and opens up to EU networks, contributes to improving research and innovation management capacities in the Western Balkans, and it supports national policy reforms through targeted actions. A key element in this is the support to the development and implementation of Smart Specialisation Strategies and macro-regional strategies in cooperation with the JRC and the Policy Support Facility.

Initiatives in the fields of research, innovation, education, culture, youth and sport create new opportunities, reduce the skills mismatch, help to tackle climate change, support sustainable economic growth, the competitiveness of businesses and industries and the intercultural dialogue, enables digital transformation and provides better public services for all Europeans. The challenges of today require international efforts, addressing them jointly is in of broader and direct interest.

Proposals are invited to demonstrate engagement from relevant programmes and initiatives to pool resources and to ensure complementarity between activities and policies with those of the Framework Programme and relevant initiatives.

Proposals should seek parallel synergies with national (or regional) research programmes and initiatives as well, where appropriate, facilitate access to resources from national agencies, pertinent foundations, charities and transnational initiatives.

The proposal should also demonstrate potential impact on national, regional and transnational research and innovation.

Participation of key legal entities from associated third countries, particularly from the Western Balkans, is encouraged.