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Twinning aims at significantly strengthening a defined field of research in a university or research organisation from a Widening country by linking it with at least two internationally-leading research institutions from two different Member States or Associated Countries. Twinning will:

1. Enhance the scientific and technological capacity of the linked institutions with a principal focus on the university or research organisation from the Widening Country;

2. Help raise the research profile of the institution from the Widening country as well as the research profile of its staff.

Successful Twinning proposals will 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: 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.

A dedicated focus towards promoting the involvement of early stage researchers (as per the MSCA definition[[Early stage researchers shall, at the time of recruitment by the host organisation, be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research careers and have not been awarded a doctoral degree. Full-time equivalent research experience is measured from the date when the researcher obtained the degree entitling him or her to embark on a doctorate, (either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the researcher is recruited) even if a doctorate was never started or envisaged. Part-time research experience will be counted pro-rata.]]) in the coordinating institution from the Widening country is expected. This should take the form of a dedicated work package or task in the proposal describing activities dedicated to early stage researchers from the coordinating institution that could include training, mentoring and networking measures within the Twinning exercise, with a special focus on the promotion of gender equality among early stage researchers.

One of the lessons learned from previous calls and from the interim evaluation of Horizon 2020, is the lack of experience with regard to research management and administration in widening countries. That is why proposals should also focus on strengthening the research management and administration skills of the coordinating institution from the Widening country. This should take the form of a dedicated work package or task, placing emphasis to specific activities, in view of helping 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.

In general, costs relating to administration, networking, coordination, training, management, travel costs are acceptable under a Twinning project. While the action does not focus on equipment and research costs, these could be accepted if they constitute only a minor part (up to 10%) of the total Horizon 2020 funding requested and are deemed necessary to fulfil the action's specific scope and objective.

Therefore, for grants awarded under this topic and type of action the following cost categories will be ineligible costs:

- infrastructure costs;

The respective option of Article 6.5.C of the Model Grant Agreement will be applied.

The duration of a Twinning project can be up to 3 years.

If the coordinating entity has already been funded (as a coordinator) under other Horizon 2020 Twinning calls, these projects need to be described in the proposal. In particular, proposers need to clearly demonstrate the added value and impact of the proposal in achieving the Twinning programme objectives, in comparison to the already funded Twinning project within the coordinating entity.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of EUR 0.9 million, would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting lower amounts.

The specific challenge is to enhance networking activities between the research institutions of the Widening countries and internationally-leading counterparts at EU level. Driven by the quest for excellence, research intensive institutions tend to collaborate increasingly in closed groups, producing a crowding-out effect for a large number of promising institutions. This is the challenge that a specific Twinning action will try to address.

- Increased research excellence of the coordinating institution in the particular field of research as a result of the twinning exercise.

- Enhancing the reputation, attractiveness and networking channels of the coordinating institution.

- Improved capability to compete successfully for national, EU and internationally competitive research funding.

- 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 like expected future publications in peer reviewed journals, collaboration agreements with businesses, intellectual property, new innovative products or services.

- 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 for increased mobility (inwards and outwards) of qualified scientists.

- The benefits for the internationally leading scientific institutions and the way they would materialise through the partnership should be substantiated.