In the context of EU-China relations, Research and Innovation (R&I) is an important area of cooperation. Cooperation in the area of R&I is driven by the need to tackle global challenges related to the areas of food & agriculture, biodiversity and climate change.

Our Work

The Science Technology & Innovation (STI) section of the EU Delegation to China plays an important role in facilitating EU-China cooperation in this area. The STI section’s role is to:

  • Work with Chinese counterparts to identify and promote balanced, reciprocal and values-based cooperation in areas of mutual interest
  • Work closely with Member States’ diplomatic missions in China on STI issues
  • Raise awareness in China of EU R&I policies and programmes, thereby supporting coordination and development of joint activities, in particular through EU key R&I funding programme Horizon Europe (2021-2027)
  • Assist EU researchers – based in both Europe and China – that wish to develop professional connections with China.

Regarding the latter, we support EU researchers in close connection with EURAXESS, an EU initiative that supports research mobility and career development.

EU-China R&I Cooperation

The EU and China have had formal Science & Technology relations for almost 25 years. The 1998 Agreement for Scientific and Technological Cooperation was complemented by the 2012 Joint Declaration to set up a political-level ‘Innovation Cooperation Dialogue’ (ICD), which added a focus on innovation.

The EU and China are currently carrying out discussions over a Joint Roadmap for the future of EU-China cooperation in science, technology, and innovation (STI). The aim of this roadmap is to set joint thematic priorities and framework conditions for engagement to be fulfilled by both sides, in order to create a level playing field (balanced reciprocal and values-based cooperation) in the area of STI. As noted in the European Commission’s May 2021 Communication on the ‘Global Approach to Research and Innovation’, reaching a level playing field and reciprocity will be conditional to developing cooperation with China in STI.

More information on the above agreements, dialogues and on the Roadmap can be found on the European Commission DG Research and Innovation webpage on relations with China.

Cooperation under Horizon Europe (current funding programme) and Horizon 2020 (previous programme)

Horizon Europe (2021-2027) is the EU’s framework programme for R&I. With a budget of over €95 billion, it provides 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.

Using Horizon Europe, the EU seeks to extend international cooperation by teaming up with the best talents from Europe and third countries. The programme specifically aims to form new partnerships between research, innovation and industry that can enable effective solutions.

Regarding China, Horizon Europe will strengthen EU-China cooperation through specific research projects that address thematic priorities mutually agreed by both sides in line with the progress on the Roadmap discussions. As of April 2022, the EU and China have agreed to cooperation on two ‘flagship’ initiatives under Horizon Europe, namely:

  • Food, Agriculture and Biotechnology (FAB)
  • Climate Change and Biodiversity (CCB)

The Administrative Arrangement signed by the EC and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) in April 2022 intends also to support and fund cooperation in other research projects linked to the two main areas of the flagship initiatives, and targeting low TRL projects (up to TRL4 = Technology validated in lab). General information can be found on the Commission’s webpage at Horizon Europe. In addition, the Commission has developed a specific guidance document for China (‘Horizon Europe: A practical guide for China’), which is available in both English and Mandarin.

Prior to Horizon Europe, the EU and China cooperated extensively under the last framework programme – Horizon 2020 – which ran from 2014 to 2020. In all, with about 600 Chinese participants joining approximately 300 projects, China was the second most successful non-associated third country partner in Horizon 2020, after the US. This was facilitated by the agreement in 2015 of a joint ‘Co-funding Mechanism’ (CFM), which saw funds 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. In terms of the areas covered, under Horizon 2020, the EU and China identified five flagship initiatives, covering specific areas of mutual interest. These covered:

  1. Food, Agriculture and Biotechnologies (FAB) (link);
  2. Sustainable Aviation (link);
  3. Sustainable Urbanisation (link);
  4. Biotechnologies for Health and Environment (link); and
  5. Surface Transport (link).