Shared Resources and Interests: Enhanced EU-Canada Cooperation

Bridges vol. 39, May 2014 / Feature Articles

By Isabella Wagner and Elke Dall

ERA-Can+ Information Session in Montréal, January 2014

Key priority areas for S&T cooperation between Canada and the EU are the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic as shared geographical resources, as well as health, information and communication technologies (ICT), aerospace, food, agriculture and fisheries, biotechnology, and recently, nanotechnology. The Canada-EU cooperation on biotechnology, in particular, serves as a model for international science and technology collaboration. The successful project-twinning mechanism developed through Canada-EU biotechnology cooperation has since been used in other geographical areas and other research themes (e.g., energy).


EU-Canada relations were further upgraded through a trade agreement in October 2013 as well as other commitments to intensified cooperation in different sectors, including Science and Technology. These issues are linked as international cooperation offers advantages, not only through sharing research costs while simultaneously improving the quality of advanced research, but also by potentially providing access to larger markets.

The Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) Expert Panel Report on the State of Science and Technology in Canada 2012 affirmed that Canada is part of a network of international science and technology collaboration that includes the most scientifically advanced countries in the world – many of them in Europe. These findings were echoed by a Science-Metrix study examining international coauthorship of 16 million published scientific articles in the natural sciences. It found that the rate of Canadian participation in such international collaborations had increased significantly and expanded (beyond the United States) in the last 10 years. Canadians had coauthored papers most often with researchers from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Japan. Yet the study also found less collaboration with Europeans than was expected, given their importance in overall scientific production. Like Canadians, European researchers are part of strong international networks that span the globe, and the European Union is committed to a robust international S&T strategy.

The great potential in Canadian research, and the progress achieved over the past seven years in developing mechanisms to promote closer cooperation between Canada and the European Union, allow Canada to assume a strategic place among Europe’s international partners in Horizon 2020 and in large international projects in the key areas that it supports.

Canada already participated in Framework Program 4, which ran from 1994 to 1998 (with 70 projects) and has constantly increased its participation during subsequent Framework Programs. Furthermore, the success rate of FP7 proposals with Canadian partners was well above the norm in Europe and above the Canadian success rate in FP6.

Horizon 2020, the new framework program running from 2014 to 2020, is open to participation by international partners, so Canadian research institutions and businesses may participate and even – under specific circumstances – receive grants through the program. Several instruments are open to implement cooperation, such as the Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions that has had particularly high interest and success rates in previous programs.

In order to promote cooperation between the EU and Canada in science, technology, and innovation, a dedicated “coordination and support action” is currently underway: the ERA-Can+ project. This project builds on a previous initiative and is funded mainly by the European Community’s Program for International Cooperation under the 7th Framework Program for Research and Technological Development (2007-2013).

ERA-Can+, which started at the end of 2013, will implement quite a broad range of measures. Among these are publishing guides to support applicants in Horizon 2020 and Canadian programs, preparing reports on Canada–EU STI policies and programs, conducting monitoring of joint projects, and providing active support by organizing various events and activities (training sessions, info sessions, roundtables) on both sides of the Atlantic. There is also an online helpdesk, which enables researchers interested in the cooperation to provide concrete support, especially on questions related to Horizon 2020. Furthermore, a newsletter is being published, webinars will be organized, and an online calendar is available covering relevant events.

Another important aspect of promoting the cooperation is the Canadian network of National Contact Points (NCP) on Horizon 2020. NCPs are persons officially nominated by national authorities to provide tailored information in national language(s). They usually specialize in specific thematic priorities. The NCP systems in different countries show a wide variety of architectures and a number of very different actors, but they exist in all EU Member States and many other countries around the world. A list of NCPs in Canada is available and provides more information. It is important to recognize NCPs’ contribution to the overall profile of Canadian applicants and participants, especially as Canadian participation in FP7 was strongest in areas where Canada has had National Contact Points for a number of years.


Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, de la Science, de la Technologie du Québec

On the policy level, ERA-Can+ aims at enriching the EU-Canada policy dialogue by identifying areas of mutual interest, developing implementation plans, and analyzing Canadian and European policies, programs, and project participation. Furthermore, ERA-Can+ will prepare a feasibility study for a joint EU Member State Liaison Office in Ottawa to strengthen European representation in Canada. Despite clear evidence of substantial EU participation in Canadian Research & Development (R&D) and innovation programs, this evidence cannot be quantified, dissected, or subjected to longitudinal analysis. Several holders of the Canadian Excellence Research Chair are of EU origin, and it can be assumed that the position benefits from their own previously established networks and contacts – establishing numerous links with former EU colleagues both in the EU and elsewhere. And, of course, the National Research Council Canada and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) support numerous foreign (non-Canadian) researchers on a temporary basis, including a significant (but unknown) number of scientists from the EU. So there is a general openness to the prospect of EU researchers collaborating with Canadian counterparts in Canadian programs – some of the readers of this report might even be examples of that collaboration.

Austrian stakeholders are actively interested in supporting the cooperation on the European as well as on the bilateral level. And while ERA-Can+ addresses the whole EU and Canada, it is still implemented by a consortium of associations and organizations for research, innovation, and public policy discussions from across Canada and Europe, including the Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI) from Austria. The Canadian partners are the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, and the Public Policy Forum. The other European partners are the Agenzia per la Promozione della Ricerca Europea in Italy, which coordinates the activities, the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique in France, and the Project Management Agency at DLR in Germany.

ZSI is a nonprofit research organization based in Vienna. The unit “Research Policy and Development” is highly involved in promoting and analyzing international cooperation within Europe and beyond and also supports the cooperation of Austrian researchers, research administrators, and policy makers with other regions in the INCO-NET and BILAT scheme of the Framework Program.

In the near future, the project will provide guides to support applicants regarding Horizon 2020 and Canadian programs. The online helpdesk is already active, and all readers are invited to visit the web site and stay updated by registering for the newsletter and joining the network on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Austrian partners:
Centre for Social Innovation:                                                                              
Isabella Wagner   
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Isabella Wagner and Elke Dall are on the team for the Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI) is an independent scientific institution, which deploys socio-scientific research, education, advisory and networking services. Its department for research and development pools experts for scholarly methods to gather scientific inputs for evidence-based policy and well experienced project managers in the field of international science, technology and innovation cooperation.