BILAT-USA and LINK2US: a New Approach to Transatlantic EU-US S&T Cooperation

bridges vol. 23, October 2009 / Feature Articles

By Sabine Herlitschka

Becoming "the most dynamic and competitive, knowledge-based economy" is a goal shared by both the Lisbon Agenda of the EU and the American Competitiveness Initiative of the US - two global powers in terms of R&D expenditures.

This common goal offers great potential for improving bilateral relations and building greater S&T capacity in the world. Establishing strong partnerships in S&T will enable a joining of forces; not only to address global grand challenges such as the environment, energy, and health, but also to advance the knowledge base by benefiting from each others' experiences and know-how.

Scientific cooperation between the United States and Europe has been underpinned by longstanding historical ties and extensive relationships between European and American scientists and research organizations. However, to continue advancing science and to better address the global challenges we all face, greater cooperation and coordination will be required. In order to facilitate such intensified cooperation, the European Union and the United States already signed an S&T cooperation agreement that took force in 1998. Six years later, in 2004, the agreement was renewed for an additional five years (click here for Manfred Horvat's 2009 bridges article on the EU-US S&T Agreement).

In the past, funding for cooperative research between the US and Europe was determined primarily by where each participating research institution was based.  Now, the United States and the European Commission (EC) are opening funding opportunities to scientists and research organizations based on foreign soil, in order to further enhance cooperation.

For example, through its Framework Program the EC has provided limited funding on a case-by-case basis for cooperative projects with industrialized countries such as the United States. In 2008 Dr. Elias Zerhouni , then director of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), signed an agreement with EC Commissioner for Research, Dr. Janez Potocnik , reaffirming that biomedical research funding from NIH and the Framework Program is open to scientists based in the European Union or in the United States.

Without question, the EU-US Science and Technology Agreement has proven to be a significant tool for further developing the dialogue on S&T cooperation. Moreover, the EC Framework Program - as a key instrument in the implementation of the S&T Agreements - provides the necessary platform to foster cooperation in areas of mutual interest.

The current EC's 7th Framework Program (FP7) fosters international cooperation through supporting joint research projects involving research teams from Europe working with international partners. Over the years, the Framework Programs have invested substantial amounts to strengthen Europes international cooperation. Furthermore, FP7 develops and strengthens dialogues and information exchange activities with Third Countries and regions including the US, and offers the chance to create greater awareness on both sides of the numerous opportunities for S&T cooperation.

The objective of these activities is to enable the EU, Third Countries, and other regions to discuss current and future research priorities and to facilitate debate between the various stakeholders, thus resulting in developing joint solutions for challenges that are relevant to all of us. The outcome of these dialogues will provide intelligence for developing research policies, provide input to the specific FP7 programs, and inspire research topics for international cooperation. One tool used to achieve this goal is the so-called BILAT projects, 13 of which currently exist with countries like Russia, China, India, and Brazil, etc. (click here for a full list of all BILAT projects).


BILAT: Networking with different stakeholders in order to strengthen research capacity

The BILAT projects of the European Union support coordination for the enhancement and development of S&T Partnerships, and focus on:

- Improving the process of providing information on programs and funding designed to promote cooperation of Third Countries in the Framework Program

- Better identifying and demonstrating mutual interests and benefits in S&T cooperation between the EU and specific Third Countries

- Sharing best practices via joint meetings, such as workshops, and presenting the state of the art and the prospects for cooperation in particular fields.

These actions could comprise, for example, information and awareness activities; the establishment and reinforcement of information services such as a liaison/promotion structure; a comprehensive web site and a mailing database; specialized thematic workshops or special high-level events at the scientific level in specific Third Countries and Europe, as well as at the political and policy-making level. The activity is restricted to Third Countries that have signed an S&T cooperation agreement with the EC or are in the process of signing such an agreement.
Fact Box: The BILAT-USA Project

Category: Capacities
Project Type: Support Action
Funding: €713.063 (of which    €499.903 are EU funded)
Duration: October 1, 2009 - September 30, 2012
Coordinator: FFG - Austrian Research Promotion/Division European and International Programmes

The newest member of the BILAT family is the BILAT-USA project, which started  October 1 of this year and will be launched officially in Brussels at the Austrian Representation on October 22, 2009. Coordinated by FFG, the Austrian Research Promotion Agency and its Division of European and International Programmes, BILAT-USA brings together  five project partners: FFG,  the American Association for the Advancement of Science; the Agenzia per la Promozione della Ricerca Europea from Italy; the Hungarian Science and Technology Foundation; and INTRASOFT International S.A.

Once fully up and running, the BILAT-USA project will be:
The Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), the national funding institution for applied industrial research in Austria, coordinates the BILAT-USA Project. As project coordinator FFGs Division of European and International Programs will organize the transatlantic dialogue platform including a survey of existing thematic task forces and ERA-Nets. Furthermore, the FFG will communicate with EU agencies, key actors, stakeholders, and other European networks and coordinate all.   
-    The supporter of the Transatlantic Dialogue Platform, addressing global issues by bringing together all relevant stakeholders from both sides of the Atlantic

-    The driving force for providing and disseminating information on S&T cooperation between the EU and the US, and for facilitating the establishment of new partnerships towards the Framework Program through various activities
-   The promoter of excellence in research, through the organization of science meetings at the policy level, symposia on cross-cutting multidisciplinary issues at the horizontal level, and workshops and linked brokerage events at the thematic level
-    The facilitator of networking, through the creation of synergies with other existing projects and initiatives
-    The network of five partners - four European and one US - who are among the key actors in the fields of research and technology.

The BILAT-USA Project will be complementary to the Link2US Project, which is being coordinated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and aims to support EU access to national research and/or innovation programs of the US.

Fact Box: The LINK2US Project

Category: Capacities
Project Type: Support Action
Funding: €526.625 (of which €376.693 are EU-funded)
Duration: October 1, 2009 - September 30, 2012
Coordinator: AAAS - American Association for the Advancement of Science

LINK2US - Linking the European research community to the United States

The Link2US project seeks to enhance US-European Union science and technology cooperation by increasing awareness of European scientists and research organizations and addressing barriers to participation in US federal cooperative research funding schemes for European scientists and research organizations.

Link2US will spread information about US federal cooperative funding schemes among the European scientific research community by disseminating information through a multi-faceted information network. This network will consist of a web site, electronic and physical communications including awareness-raising events, and a virtual help desk to provide assistance to European researchers regarding the intricacies of US programs and funding opportunities. By researching, interviewing, and analyzing data and information from key US science government agencies, Link2US aims to map out opportunities for collaborative funding schemes and rules for participation. Potential obstacles to participation will also be analyzed so they can be avoided and/or solutions may be found. Link2US will also monitor the participation of European researchers in these programs.

The US-based project coordinator for Link2US is the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a 160-year-old scientific organization that has worked to advance science in the service of society around the world, and to enhance international S&T cooperation. AAAS is joined by three European organizations - the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), the Hungarian Science and Technology Foundation (TETALAP), and Italy's Agency for the Promotion of European Research (APRE).

For further information on BILAT-USA and LINK2US, pleases contact the author at Sabine.Herlitschka(at)

Sabine Herlitschka is currently Director of the European and International Programmes Division at the Austrian Research Promotion Agency.