International Cooperation in Horizon Europe

This infosheet on international cooperation in Horizon Europe will provide you an overview of the different forms and ways on how you can involve partners from non-EU countries in a Horizon Europe project.

Programmes Horizon Europe   HorizonEU L+F  

Published on | 2 months ago

Last updated on | 2 months ago

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Man Hei To


Horizon Europe will continue to encourage and stimulate cooperation with non-EU countries and is also one of the key instruments to implement Europe’s strategy for international cooperation: the global approach to research and innovation.

Most Horizon Europe calls are open to participants from non-EU countries. However in some calls participation from non-EU countries can be limited in order to safeguard the EU’s strategic assets, interests, autonomy or security. Limitations or conditions may also be applicable to the participation of legal entities established in an eligible country but which are controlled directly or indirectly by an ineligible country [Horizon Europe regulation article 22(5)].

Collaboration with non-EU countries is possible through different ways and forms. This info sheet will provide you an overview of the main categories to collaborate with partners from non-EU Countries in Horizon Europe projects.

Please note that this information sheet will be updated regularly and the list of countries divided into the different categories can always change over the period of Horizon Europe. If you are involving a partner from a non-EU country in your consortium please always check the status of this country in Horizon Europe at the moment of submission in the Horizon Europe Programme Guide. Depending on the status of this country, entities may or may not be eligible to be funded by the Horizon Europe Programme. In some call topics, participation from non-EU Countries are also explicitly excluded so always read the call text carefully.


Third Countries associated to Horizon Europe

Association to Horizon Europe is the closest form of international cooperation in Horizon Europe. Entities of associated countries can participate in the Horizon Europe calls under the same conditions as entities from the EU Member States and are therefore eligible for funding.

Not only EU neighbouring countries can apply for association, any country in the world with a strong research and innovation capacity that share common values with Europe can apply for association to Horizon Europe.

There are 4 categories of countries eligible for association with Horizon Europe:

  • European Free Trade Association (EFTA) members which are members of the European Economic Area (EEA)
  • accession countries, candidate countries and potential candidates
  • European neighborhood policy countries
  • non-EU countries  and territories that fulfil a set of criteria related to their economic, political and research and innovation systems

So far the following countries have expressed a formal interest in association to Horizon Europe (as of June 2021): Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Faroe Islands, Georgia, Iceland, Israel, Kosovo, Montenegro, Morocco, North Macedonia, Norway, Republic of Moldova, Republic of Serbia, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom.

For the most updated list of countries under this category, please always check the Horizon Europe Programme Guide.

Until association agreements are legally binding, the transitional arrangements set out in the General Annexes to the Horizon Europe Work Programme 2021-2022 are applicable for legal entities from countries who have expressed a formal interest in association to Horizon Europe and for which association negotiations are being processed or where association is imminent. These transitional arrangements will allow entities from countries for which an association agreement is planned in the near future to participate in proposals under the status of an associated country. If the association agreement with a particular country is concluded before the signature of the grant agreement entities from this particular country will be funded by Horizon Europe.

Switzerland has expressed their interest to be associated to Horizon Europe but legal entities established in Switzerland are currently not covered by these transitional arrangements. For the latest updated information regarding the association of Switzerland please consult the website of the Swiss State Secretariat For Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). In this FAQ of the Swiss Government and FAQ of the European Commission you may find an answer to your most pressing questions regarding the participation of Swiss entities in Horizon Europe.

Canada has also expressed their interest to become associated to Horizon Europe. Exploratory talks will start very soon but it is expected that Canada will not be associated to Horizon Europe before 2022. Until an association agreement is set in place, Canadian participants can of course participate in Horizon Europe but they will have to participate as a third country and will have to bring their own funding. The same counts for other countries who are interested in association to Horizon Europe and for which the transitional arrangements are not applicable.

Updates on the association talks can also be found on the website of the European Commission.


Third Countries automatically eligible for funding in Horizon Europe

Participants from low and middle income countries (following the World Bank classification of 2020) are automatically eligible for funding.

A full list of the low and middle income countries can be found on page 13 and 14 in the Horizon Europe Programme Guide. Be aware that the following countries were eligible for funding in Horizon 2020 but not anymore in Horizon Europe: American Samoa, Chile, Mauritius, Palau, Panama, Seychelles, St. Kitts and Nevis and Uruguay.

Horizon Europe will also target some particular regions in their international cooperation strategy. With the Africa initiative the European Commission will seek to strengthen the cooperation with Africa to promote actions targeted to finding locally adapted solutions to challenges that are global in nature, but which often hit Africa hardest. This initiative will include call for proposals that require or encourage participation of African entities. Topics range from climate change, rural innovation, sustainable food systems and sustainable energy to bringing European highly innovative SMEs to the forefront of African markets.

Though be aware that a non-EU country can still be excluded from specific call topics.


Third Countries NOT automatically eligible for funding in Horizon Europe

Other third countries (e.g. USA, Japan, Australia, China, etc.) that are not associated to Horizon Europe or not listed as a third country eligible for funding can also participate in the Horizon Europe calls but participants from these countries will have to bring their own funding. They will not be funded directly by Horizon Europe. Participants from these countries will also need to explain in the proposal how their funding will be secured.

However, in some exceptional cases participants from third countries that are not automatically eligible for funding can be funded by Horizon Europe if one of the following conditions are met:

  • they are identified in the relevant Horizon Europe work programme as being eligible for funding or
  • they are deemed essential for implementing the action in your proposal and approved by the granting authority , for example in view of their:
    • outstanding competence/expertise
    • access to particular research infrastructures
    • access to particular geographical environments
    • access to particular data.

Some third countries had co-funding mechanisms created in Horizon 2020 (predecessor of Horizon Europe) which provided funding for the participants from their country in a successful submitted Horizon 2020 proposal. It is expected that for Horizon Europe some third countries will create co-funding mechanisms again to fund the Horizon Europe participants from their countries. As soon as we have more information on these co-funding mechanism this will be added to this info sheet but it is expected that these co-funding mechanisms will only be introduced at a later stage in Horizon Europe.


Status of entities from non-EU countries in Horizon Europe proposals

If the entity will be possibly eligible for funding (on the list of associated countries or automatically eligible), then this entity can be included as a beneficiary in the proposal (if it is not stated otherwise in the specific call topic you apply to).

But an entity from a country in view of association (as listed in the HE Programme Guide)  can solely be a beneficiary when the association agreement is signed for that country before the grant agreement signature. If this is not the case, then the status of this entity cannot be beneficiary but will have to be changed to associated partner and this entity can consequently:

  • not receive funding and
  • not be a coordinator of the consortium.

Switzerland is currently not on the list of associated countries and should according to the Programme Guide be included as an associated partner in the proposals, thus not able to receive funding and not able to act as a coordinator. Though the Commission has uttered that things can evolve depending on the discussions between the Commission and the Swiss government and that the Horizon Europe Programme Guide should regularly be consulted. It might still become possible to take Swiss partners in your consortium as partners from associated countries, thus including a budget for this partner in the proposal and being able to act as a coordinator. In any case the Swiss government has declared that they foresee funding for all Swiss entities that are part of a successful proposal in case that the association agreement will not be signed (in time).

Associated partners – some characteristics:

  • do not sign the grant agreement, thus cannot be a coordinator
  • must be registered in the participant register but will not be validated
  • not clear yet if they have to indicate personmonths of their researchers (still to be clarified)
  • can be a subcontractor but cannot be a way to circumvent the general rules for participation
  • the L&F helpdesk of the European Commission has indicated that associated partners can act as work package leader in a Horizon Europe project



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