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International cooperation in research is more important now than ever - Prof. Manfred Horvat

Research and innovation will help Europe play a leading role in globalisation, says Prof. Horvat. Image credit: www.fotostudio-staudigl.at
Research and innovation will help Europe play a leading role in globalisation, says Prof. Horvat. Image credit: www.fotostudio-staudigl.at

Europe needs to cooperate with increasingly innovative countries such as China and Brazil if it is to become more competitive, according to Professor Manfred Horvat, an adviser to the EU who has been involved in international cooperation since the early 1990s.

How important is the international cooperation aspect of research and technological development to the European Union?

‘I think it has always been an important asset of the Framework Programmes and nowadays even more so, since science and technology and innovation has become ever more global. The Framework Programme is the largest competitive collaborative programme worldwide, and the only one that is totally open to collaboration with countries all over the world.

‘Europe has to play a leading role in all the aspects of globalisation, and research and innovation are important elements of that process.’

How did international cooperation become such an integral part of the Framework Programmes?

‘International cooperation started in the First and Second Framework Programmes as development aid. Later it became a broader activity, with a very big role in the integration of countries that subsequently became new Member States.

‘Towards the end of the 1990s and in the following years, the integration of researchers and research institutions from the Western Balkan countries in the Framework Programme was a first step for them, just a short time after they had been at war.

‘In the new millennium, the Framework Programmes played a key role in strengthening the links to the newly emerging BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), while also being instrumental in strengthening cooperation with the US.’

How is international cooperation in the Framework Programmes helping to improve EU competitiveness? 

‘Europe has to play a leading role in all the aspects of globalisation, and research and innovation are important elements of that process.’

Professor Manfred Horvat, advisor to the EU

‘It is even more important than before. There are many aspects where we have to be aware of the new landscape of knowledge production and innovation in the world. An example is China, which is progressing so fast in many aspects. For example, it is in a strong position in information and communication technology and even in industrial processes it has been very innovative. The same is also probably true for countries like Brazil.

‘Research and innovation cooperation with developing countries, such as in Africa, will in the long run ensure a strong position of the EU in these countries in scientific, economic and social terms.

‘The new emphasis on innovation opens new opportunities but will need also in-depth dialogues and clear agreements with partner countries to define the rules of the game, especially on issues such as intellectual property rights.’

How do you see the development of international cooperation in future Framework Programmes?

‘The new strategic approach for EU international cooperation requires an appropriate supporting framework. First, the implementation of the approach calls for a master plan for integrating the international dimension across the Framework Programme with consistent plans also for the programme’s specific elements. Secondly, defining a coordination and monitoring function in the Commission should ensure overall coherence when facilitating the strategy development with partner countries and regions.

‘Finally, we need to use more strategic intelligence, more in-depth knowledge and insight as well as foresight into what is going on all over the world, to identify the trends and emerging areas that are interesting for European collaboration.’