The EU's China policy is defined by the Elements for a new EU Strategy on China and Council Conclusions EU Strategy on China which were reviewed in 2019 in the EU-China Strategic Outlook. Together these documents reflect the fundamental premises of EU's engagement based on a realistic, assertive and multi-faceted approach in order to promote democracy, rule of law, human rights, and respect for the UN Charter and international law, with the pursuit for reciprocal benefits in political and economic relations.
In line with the 2019 EU-China: A Strategic Outlook Communication, and as agreed at the Fourth EU-China Innovation Cooperation Dialogue of April 2019, the EU and China are discussing a Joint Roadmap for the future of EU-China cooperation in science, technology, and innovation. The aim is to develop a mutually beneficial research and innovation environment based on reciprocity, level playing field and respect of fundamental research and innovation values, through discussion, agreement, and implementation of a set framework conditions for cooperation, as well as areas for cooperation.
In line with the ongoing discussions on the Joint Roadmap, and in accordance with the EU’s Global Approach to Research and Innovation the EU has developed an increasingly nuanced and transactional approach towards engagement with China in research and innovation. China remains a cooperation partner the EU wants to engage with to tackle global challenges; therefore, during the EU-China High Level Dialogue on Research and Innovation in January 2021, both sides agreed at Commissioner and Minister level to launch a new flagship initiative on Climate Change and Biodiversity (CCB).
Cooperation continues also in the framework of the flagship on Food Agriculture and Biotechnology (FAB), initiated in 2013 by the European Commission and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS). Both initiatives are ongoing under the current Horizon Europe Work Programme 2023-2024 and are co-funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China.
At the same time, due to persisting imbalances in the EU and China cooperation in research and innovation and considering the lack of progress with the Joint Roadmap talks on the framework conditions related to innovation, China’s participation to Innovation Actions has been limited in the Horizon Europe Work Programmes 2023-2024, through the application of Article 22(6) of the Horizon Europe Regulation.
China is a member of the ITER project and participates in the multilateral dialogue on principles and values for international cooperation in research and innovation, set out in the Commission Communication on the Global Approach.
Science and Technology Agreements and Arrangements
The EU-China scientific cooperation dates back to the signature of the Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement in 1998 (tacitly renewed in 2019). The implementation of the Agreement is overseen by a Joint Steering Committee. The 15th Joint Steering Committee Meeting on Science and Technology Cooperation was held on 17 May 2022 and focused on the state of play and next steps with regards to the ongoing discussions on the Joint Roadmap for the future of EU-China cooperation in science, technology, and innovation.
In line with the ongoing discussions on the Joint Roadmap, on 22 April 2022, the EU and China signed an Administrative Arrangement for the period 2021-2024 to set up a Co-funding Mechanism that will support collaborative research projects under the two agreed flagship initiatives on Food, Agriculture and Biotechnology (FAB) and on Climate Change and Biodiversity (CCB). Through the Co-funding Mechanism, Chinese entities participating in the projects under the flagship topics will be funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China.
In 2015, the European Commission concluded an Implementing Arrangement with the National Natural Science Foundation (NSFC) to facilitate short term mobility to be hosted by European Research Council grantees.
Areas of cooperation
In line with the Global Approach and the ongoing discussions on the ‘Joint Roadmap for the future of EU-China cooperation in science, technology, and innovation’, cooperation between European and Chinese researchers and entities under Horizon Europe is encouraged mainly under Food, Agriculture, and Biotechnology, and Climate Change and Biodiversity flagships.
Cooperation and funding opportunities
Cooperation on research and innovation with China takes place through the EU’s Research and Innovation Framework Programme Horizon Europe (2021-2027) based on calls of proposals that are mostly open to the participation of third countries, unless specific limitations or conditions are explicitly expressed in the work programme and/or in the topic texts.
Cooperation with China is encouraged under the flagship initiatives on Food, Agriculture and Biotechnology (FAB) and on Climate Change and Biodiversity (CCB), while it is limited in innovation actions.
Chinese participants are not automatically eligible for EU’s funding under Horizon Europe; they have thus to participate as Associated Partners and bring their own funding to the projects. Through the Administrative Agreement in place, the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China has committed to fund the participation of Chinese entities under the flagship topics and in other research areas linked to the flagship initiatives.
For details about the co-funding provided by the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China, see the Guide on the Complementary Funding mechanism.
In addition, Chinese researchers can apply for European Research Council Grants and Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions.
European Research Council
The European Research Council offers grants to researchers in all research domains for frontier research. Researchers from anywhere in the world can apply and if selected are eligible for funding to establish a research group in Europe. Grants are available for researchers starting or consolidating their independent career and for advanced researchers. Synergy grants are also available, where a group of 2-4 Principal Investigators (PIs) may include one PI outside the EU or countries associated to Horizon Europe, to tackle together an ambitious research problem, with all funded by the ERC.
The European Commission and the National Natural Science Foundation of China have concluded an Implementing Arrangement to facilitate short term mobility to be hosted by European Research Council grantees across Europe. Read more: Press Highlight.
Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions
Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions offer fellowships for post-doctoral researchers from anywhere in the world to spend up to 2 years in a European group – or for European researchers to spend up to 2 years in a group abroad. Opportunities are also available for third country institutions to participate in Doctoral Networks and Staff Exchange consortia (Chinese institutions are self-funded in ITNs and SE).
Projects and results
Research enquiry service
Contact the research enquiry service to find out more about research in Europe, the EU's research and innovation funding programmes as well as calls for proposals and project funding.
RTD-F-DIR-ASSISTec [dot] europa [dot] eu (DG Research and Innovation International Cooperation)
Delegation-China-Scitecheeas [dot] europa [dot] eu (Research and innovation section at the EU Delegation to China)
Euraxess China provides access to a complete range of information and support services for researchers in China wishing to pursue a research career in Europe or looking for collaboration opportunities.
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EU and China to hold the 15th Joint Steering Committee Meeting on Science and Technology Cooperation
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