In the context of EU-China relations, Research and Innovation (R&I) is an essential area of cooperation.  A policy priority both in Europe and in China, Research and Innovation is driven by ambitions of ensuring a sustainable and inclusive future of their citizens and the planet. 

Cooperation Instruments

The EU and China have signed the Agreement for Scientific and Technological Cooperation, which has been in force since December 1998. Later, in 2012, the two sides signed a joint declaration to set up a High Level Innovation Cooperation Dialogue (ICD). Through this dialogue, which first took place in 2013, the two sides have been working together to improve mutual understanding of their respective innovation systems and policies, to promote effective innovation policies and support measures, and to tackle the framework conditions for innovation. The ICD is conceived as a high-level dialogue between the European Commission and the government of the People’s Republic of China. It is co-chaired at the Commissioner-Ministerial level and gathers all relevant administrations of both sides to review bilateral cooperation on innovation and underlying framework conditions.

The EU and China are currently carrying out discussions over an EU-China Joint Roadmap for Future Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Cooperation. This roadmap aims to set joint thematic priorities and framework conditions to be fulfilled by both sides, in order to create a level playing field. Under the guiding principles of openness, reciprocity and mutual benefits, the EU and China will be able to strengthen STI cooperation, while respecting fundamental values, high ethical and scientific integrity standards. As noted in the EC communication of 18 May 2021on the Global Approach to Research and Innovation, the adoption of the Joint Roadmap is a precondition to readdress the cooperation between EU and China in STI.

Agreements and arrangements

Agreement for scientific and technological cooperation between the European Community and the Government of the People's Republic of China

Agreement between the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) and the Government of the People's Republic of China for R&D Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy (RD-PUNE) 

Joint declaration on EU-China innovation cooperation dialogue

Framework Research Arrangement between the European Commission Joint Research Centre and the Chinese Academy of Sciences

Support to Research and Innovation

Under the EU’s research and innovation framework programme Horizon 2020 (2014-2020), numerous scientific collaborations have taken place between Europe and China to tackle jointly global challenges. With about 600 participants joining approximately 300 projects, China was the second most successful non-associated third country partner in Horizon 2020, after the US.

To support joint research and innovation projects between European and Chinese universities, research institutions and companies in strategic areas of common interest under the framework of Horizon 2020, the Chinese government launched a Co-funding Mechanism (CFM) on the occasion of the 2nd EU-China Innovation Cooperation Dialogue in June 2015. Through CFM, funds are provided by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) for China-based participants involved in Horizon 2020 research and innovation projects, particularly focussing on areas of mutual interest (flagship initiatives), although not limited to.

Under Horizon 2020, the EU and China identified five flagship initiatives, which refer to specific areas of mutual interest and concentrate most of the funding allocated to EU-China cooperation in R&I:

  • Food, Agriculture and Biotechnologies (FAB).
  • Aviation.
  • Sustainable Urbanization.
  • Biotechnologies for Health and Environment.
  • Surface Transport.

For Horizon 2020 projects that include Chinese participation, the CFM allowed the EU and China to provide an equal contribution in terms of effort and resources in selected areas (e.g. FAB and Aviation). For more details (links to 5 .pdf documents):

Horizon Europe (2021-2027) is the EU’s new framework programme for Research and Innovation succeeding Horizon 2020 (2014-2020). With a EUR 95.5 billion budget, it will provide support for a green, healthy, digital and inclusive Europe. Not only it aims to boost Europe’s scientific global leadership, excellent science, and breakthrough innovation,  it introduces at the same time commitments to societal challenges, by setting up specialised  ‘missions’ to work on the fight against cancer, adaptation to climate changes, greener cities, healthy food and soil, and protection of oceans, seas and waters. Horizon Europe seeks to extend international cooperation by teaming up with the best talents from Europe and third countries. The programme aims to form new partnerships between research, innovation and industry that can enable effective solutions.

Horizon Europe will further strengthen EU-China cooperation through specific research projects that address thematic priorities agreed in the Joint EU-China Roadmap for future cooperation in Research and Innovation. As of August 2021, the EU and China have reached agreements on two flagship initiatives under Horizon Europe, namely:

  • Food, Agriculture and Biotechnology.
  • Climate Change and Biodiversity.

For more information on Horizon Europe:

Horizon Europe

Communication on the Global Approach to Research and Innovation

Our Work

The EU Delegation to China plays an important role in strengthening EU-China cooperation in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI). The Delegation promotes and facilitates dialogue among EU Member States’ diplomatic missions in China on a common approach towards China in research and innovation-related issues. The Delegation also works to raise awareness on EU policies and programmes and supports coordination and development of joint activities.

For more details:

Research, Innovation and Science cooperation between EU Member States, H2020 Associated Countries, the EU and China

The EU Delegation to China also actively assists European researchers, either based in Europe or China, that wish to develop professional connections with China. In close connection with EURAXESS, an EU initiative that supports research mobility and career development, the EU Delegation cooperates in the organisation of networking events, involves researchers in policy discussions, and promotes mobility opportunities.

For specific information on Euraxess in China, please visit china.euraxess.org.