Brussels, 30 March 2012
Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in research and innovation – frequently asked questions
Why is cooperation in research and innovation with the Mediterranean region important?
The European Union and the southern Mediterranean region face common challenges such as climate change, food security and the pollution of the Mediterranean Sea, which can only be addressed through cooperation at an international level. Investment in research and innovation can help us find answers to these challenges and is also a key driver for future jobs growth, essential at a time when many countries in both Europe and the Mediterranean region have high levels of youth unemployment. That is why creating an Innovation Union is a key element of Europe's growth strategy. Cooperation with international partners is an integral part of this strategy and associated programmes, including the proposed Horizon 2020 funding programme for research and innovation.
Why is there need for a renewed partnership?
Scientific, technological and innovation capacities of most southern Mediterranean countries (with the exceptions of Israel and Turkey) remain modest and need to increase in order to address the major societal challenges facing the region and, thus, contribute to the development of sustainable and inclusive economic growth. The activities of the EU and its Member States in terms of cooperation in research and innovation with Mediterranean countries are still fragmented and lack the strategic focus, scale and scope necessary to maximise their potential impact.
What is the EU policy framework for cooperation in research and innovation?
In May 2011, the European Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy presented a new approach to European Neighbourhood Policy entitled "A new response to a changing neighbourhood" (COM (2011) 303). In terms of Research and Innovation the focus is on working towards the development of a Common Knowledge and Innovation Space, which would pull together the policy dialogue, national and regional capacity-building, cooperation in research and innovation and increased mobility of researchers.
The new policy builds on a number of existing achievements. The EU has concluded bilateral Science & Technology cooperation agreements with Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. These agreements focus on strengthening the bilateral policy dialogues and promoting cooperation in science and technology. Albania, Croatia, Israel and Turkey are all associated to the seventh EU research Framework Programme, which means that legal entities established in these countries can participate in the Framework Programme on the same basis as entities from EU Member States.
The ‘Union for the Mediterranean' (UfM), launched in 2008 as the successor to the EU's Barcelona process, has the political objective of upgrading relations and focuses on six main axes, one of which is research. This was preceded by the Cairo Declaration (2007), ‘Towards a Euro-Mediterranean Higher Education and Research Area', highlighting key objectives and actions to be pursued in the areas of higher education and research.
How is cooperation organised?
The bilateral Science and Technology cooperation agreements each have their own governance structures. At the multilateral level, the Monitoring Committee on Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in research and innovation plays a key role as a bi-regional forum that brings together EU Member States and all Mediterranean countries. This committee plays a central role in stimulating Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in research and innovation and was assigned by the European Council the task of making recommendations for the joint implementation of RTD policy priorities.
Are European funding mechanisms open to countries of the Southern Mediterranean?
The European Commission has supported scientific collaboration, policy dialogue, networking and twinning activities in the Mediterranean countries through their participation in the Research Framework Programmes. Since the beginning of the seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013), the European Commission has allocated €360 million euros to the participation of third countries, of which €40 million euros have gone to the Mediterranean Partner Countries. Entities from non-European Mediterranean countries that are associated to the seventh Framework Programme benefit from the same conditions as those in EU Member States. Capacity-building in research and innovation has also been funded by external policy instruments such as MEDA and the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI).
What have been some of the achievements of past cooperation?
Collaboration has enabled the identification and development of scientific potential, permitting researchers, research institutions and businesses to circulate, compete and co-operate across borders. Mediterranean institutions, such as the National Research Centre in Egypt, the Royal Scientific Society in Jordan, the American University of Beirut, Agronomy and Veterinary Institute Hassan II in Morocco and the Pasteur Institute of Tunis, are now considered centres of excellence and cooperate intensively in research and innovation projects with their European partners.
What will change under Horizon 2020?
Horizon 2020, the future research and innovation framework programme of the EU, will continue to promote science and technology cooperation with Mediterranean countries based on common interest and mutual benefit. The focus will be on tackling common challenges such as climate change and food security. Cooperation will also support EU external policies and seek to bring partner countries closer to the European Research Area (ERA).
FP7 Project examples from the Euro Euro-Mediterranean
MEDSEA project (EUR 4.8 million, where EC contribution accounts for EUR 3.5 million) looks at the threat to the Mediterranean See from acidification of water due to climate change/higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Also involves institutes in Morocco, France, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Italy, Tunisia, and other countries. The project is coordinated: Autonomous University of Barcelona (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona).
Autonomous University of Barcelona (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona).is also a co-ordinator for the PEGASO project (EUR 8.9 million, where EC contribution accounts for 7 million) looks to develop an Integrated Coastal Zone Management plan for the Mediterranean and Black Sea. The consortium includes institutes in Morocco, Algeria, Turkey and Egypt.
This EUR 2.4 million project looks at the position of women scientists in Mediterranean countries and how the gender dimension can be integrated in research policy. Mediterranean countries involved include: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestinian-administered areas, Syrian Arab Republic and Tunisia. The project is co-ordinated by CIREM Foundation (Centre for European Initiatives and Research in the Mediterranean).
This project (EUR 7.1 million, where EC contribution accounts for EUR 4.4 million) looks at how to improve concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) panel (solar power) technology and new applications e.g. a plant in Egypt for powering a water pumping and irrigation system. Partners include: Egyptian National Water Research Centre and Moroccan electricity producer ONE + Spanish/German companies. The project is coordinator by Madrid Polytechnic University.
This project, which is supported by a EUR 250,000 grant from the European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument aims to electric cars for the Egyptian passenger and light transport market. The eco-friendly machine converts sunlight into energy with photovoltaic cells on the roof, which means there are no-fuel costs and zero greenhouse gas dioxide emissions.
Researchers from Tel Aviv University are taking part in NATIOMEM project (EUR 4.1 million, where EC contribution accounts for EUR 3 million), which aims to develop technologically advanced membranes that can be used to filter and treat contaminated water supplies in poor countries. The aim is to develop photocatalytic membranes for testing in the Middle East and Africa.
This project consortium, which is led by Morocco (other participating countries include: Germany, France and Spain), seeks to identify natural pharmaceutical compounds in plants that grow in Morocco, leading to commercialise the results. Morocco has an estimated 800 unique plants. The EU is supporting the project with EUR 440,000.
The Centre of Water Research and Technologies (CERTE) in Tunisia is benefitting from an EU-funded project (EUR 550,000, EU contribution EUR 490,000), which aims to reinforce its R&D capacities.
FIRESENSE - Turkish and Greek researchers are working together in the FIRESENSE project consortium (EUR 3.6 million project, where EC contribution accounts for EUR 2.7 million) to find ways to better detect forest fires.