European Commission signs COST partnership agreement under Horizon Europe

20 Dec 2021 | Network Updates | Update from COST Association
These updates are republished press releases and communications from members of the Science|Business Network

On 10 November 2021, COST and the European Commission signed a Framework Partnership Agreement, marking the start of a new period of seven years for the COST Programme to continue and expand its activities under Horizon Europe. 

The agreement was formalised in the same month that COST celebrated its 50th anniversary, a testimony to COST’s success in offering European researchers and innovators straightforward and flexible access to the best science and technology networks in Europe and beyond.  

The COST vision and concrete activities outlined in the agreement are primarily based on the COST Strategic Plan, which was approved by the COST Committee of Senior Officials, and defines the COST strategy and activities throughout Horizon Europe, based on three strategic priorities: 

  1. Promoting and spreading excellence;  
  1. Fostering interdisciplinary research for breakthrough science; and  
  1. Empowering and retaining young researchers and innovators. 

COST is included in the Horizon Europe Work Programme ‘Widening participation and strengthening the European Research Area’. In line with the objectives of the Work Programme, COST promotes a pan-European approach of collaboration and mutual knowledge sharing in the spirit of solidarity. 

Working towards its overall aim to strengthen science and innovation through research networking, COST strives to connect pockets of excellence. As such, COST responds to the need to bridge the R&I gap in Europe, and thereby paves the way for Inclusiveness Target Countries (ITCs) to upgrade their R&I systems, make them stronger and to help bridge the research and innovation divide.  

As outlined in the agreement, COST will focus on a number of new commitments under Horizon Europe: 

  • COST will strengthen its core business by expanding the reach and number of COST Actions. Over the next few years, COST will place increased emphasis on simplifying participation, monitoring and reporting procedures for COST Actions, thereby ensuring that access to and participation in COST Actions will become even more straightforward.  
  • A new approach stimulating interdisciplinarity in the Actions and in the COST framework at-large will be implemented under Horizon Europe. 
  • One of the major communication objectives is to increase the outreach to the Inclusiveness Target Countries, thereby stimulating involvement in COST activities and COST Action participation from these Members. 
  • With the view to maximise the impact of COST in widening countries and on career development of young researchers, COST will seek to better verify improvements in R&I culture and scientific capability in widening countries as well as participation of young researchers. 
  • With the aim to encourage the participation of widening countries in COST Actions, COST has defined two Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Firstly, COST is proud that during the Horizon 2020 period it achieved its commitment to spend 50% of its budget to the benefit of researchers from the widening countries and will continue to deliver on this commitment during Horizon Europe. In addition, COST has committed to devoting 80% of the budget to widening actions. 
  • With its activities, COST aims to contribute to tackling EU and global challenges as outlined in the Green Deal, the Horizon Europe Missions as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Research and innovation are key contributors to meeting the objectives set by these initiatives, and a coordinated approach across Europe will be needed in order to reach the desired results. Integrated in its approach for the future is the objective to initiate a digital transition of some COST (Action) activities. 
  • With a view to implementing its strategic priorities, over the course of Horizon 2020, COST has reinforced and introduced additional activities, including global networking, COST Connect stakeholder events and the COST Academy. These services strengthen the position of COST and its Actions in the European Research Area (ERA) and will continue to do so under Horizon Europe.  
  • Another ambition that COST will explore further in the next few years is how to best contribute expertise to science-informed policy advice, by building on the highly successful cooperation efforts with EU stakeholders, in particular the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), initiated under Horizon 2020. 
  • The current pilot for the COST Innovators Grant, aimed at exploring innovation potential, will be formally implemented as an activity to further bridge scientific research performed in COST Actions and marketable applications and/or follow-up funding. 
  • COST will strengthen and establish partnerships with other EU research and innovation stakeholders, creating a unique network and offering a wide range of opportunities for researchers and innovators across Europe, making COST a critical partner in the European R&I community.  
  • Along the same lines, COST will establish opportunities for collaboration (e.g. joint organization of events) with the other WIDERA projects in the Horizon Europe Work Programme. 
  • In a recent survey among COST participants, an overwhelming majority expressed a preference for virtual networking being formally incorporated into the COST Framework. While face-to-face meetings will remain the norm for most COST activities, COST will act upon the expressed preference for an integration of virtual networking tools in the COST Framework beyond the pandemic.; 
  • COST will establish a Gender Equality Plan (GEP), which will promote an inclusive culture at the level of both the Administration as well as the Actions. 
  • The possibility for COST Actions to submit their publications to the Open Research Europe (ORE), the EU’s open access platform. 

With these new commitments COST has defined a solid response to the December 2020 Council Conclusions calling on the Commission and its Member States to “reinforce COST’s role as a leading networking instrument in ERA”. As outlined in the Council Conclusions, COST is encouraged to strengthen its role as a “leading networking instrument in ERA through connecting, empowering and retaining in particular young researchers and to support the free circulation of scientists, including the development of research careers, in particular fostering the participation of European Neighbourhood countries, e.g., through COST training schools and short-term mobility mechanisms”. These objectives are fully embedded in the COST approach to Horizon Europe, as well as its strategic priorities and its Excellence and Inclusiveness policy. 

This article was first published on 14 December by COST.

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