Overheads is dedicated to current issues in research funding and policies from the perspective of research support.
European Partnerships are initiatives in which the EU Commission and private and/or public partners commit themselves to jointly support the development and implementation of a research and innovation programme. The aim of the partnerships is simple: they leverage funding and enhance strategic thematic collaboration. The role of partnerships has grown in the Horizon Europe programme. Almost 40% of the Pillar II budget is allocated to the current 49 thematic partnerships which will be complemented with the new proposals in 2025.
Platforms for collaboration, influencing and funding
Participation in the Horizon Europe partnerships opens pathways for researchers to find partners, influence EU research and innovation funding priorities and regulation, and apply for funding. Currently, the University of Oulu is involved in 15 European Partnerships through the following bodies:
Why invest your time and effort in European networks?
University Trainee Saimi Lappalainen interviewed two of our professors to hear their views on the European Partnerships. Professor Juha Röning has long experience of EU-level collaboration in the field of robotics research. For over 20 years, he has been active in various roles in the euRobotics, an association which brings together the top robotics experts from all over Europe and currently represents the robotics research and industry community in the European Partnership on Artificial Intelligence, Data and Robotics. Professor Röning sees many benefits in being a part of EU wide networks. The best reward of the work is the possibility to advance the scientific frontiers of the field. Robotics research has advanced very fast, and euRobotics has an important role in the development and funding of the field in Europe. Earlier fundamental research on the domain of robotics now enables the development of robotics technologies and applying them in industrial settings which benefits not only companies but also the competitiveness of Europe. Professor Röning encourages everyone who is even slightly interested to get involved. To make the most of the network, one must have a drive for one’s research and willingness to commit time and resources to network activities. Especially for young researchers the international networks are essential.
The University of Oulu has been a member of Batteries European Partnership Association (BEPA) since it was established in 2020. Professor Ulla Lassi, who is the university’s representative in BEPA, sees the association as the most effective channel to influence European batteries research and its funding. The membership has also gained visibility for her group’s research and opened collaboration possibilities in several funding calls. BEPA gathers the European battery community and represents the private side of the BATT4EU Partnership. Membership allows the University of Oulu researchers to participate in the thematic working groups which publish technology reviews and roadmaps, update the strategic research and innovation agenda (SRIA), and identify, prioritise and draft the key battery R&I topics for the Horizon Europe Work Programmes. Professor Lassi shares Professor Röning’s view that the added value of the networks depends on the researchers’ own expertise and engagement. Currently, there are some 10-15 University of Oulu researchers active in the different BEPA working groups, but all researchers who are interested and have technical expertise in the working group areas are warmly welcome to register.
Support for active participation
Both Professors Lassi and Röning agree that the culture and attitudes at the home organization matter. Senior research community members can act as enablers and mentors allocating resources and introducing researchers to the networks and their activities. In addition, the University of Oulu provides support services to encourage researchers’ participation in EU partnerships and networks.
I think it is essential that the interest and commitment for the membership comes from the researchers engaged in the topics. At the university level, we can facilitate participation by providing expert services to help navigate the EU R&I policy and funding landscape and some financial incentives, e.g., to cover the initial membership fee. University of Oulu has a good representation and active “ambassadors” in the Horizon Europe Partnerships. Nevertheless, we are always looking for ways to better support these activities as well as develop the internal organization and flow of information between researchers as the networks benefit from multidisciplinary expertise. We also need to be future oriented and not only consider our contribution to the existing partnerships, but also which of the 10 new candidate partnerships we should engage in.
Interviews of Professors Lassi and Röning: Saimi Lappalainen, University Trainee, Research and Projects Services
Janika Luukinen is an EU Specialist at the Research and Project Services. She is an EU enthusiast with extensive expertise in R&I policy and funding. Her role is to support University of Oulu researchers to navigate the EU landscape and find opportunities to contribute and collaborate.