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Research and innovation

Gulf countries

Policy background, funding, agreements, projects and results, and documents 

Policy background

EU cooperation with the Gulf (Kingdom of Bahrain, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, State of Kuwait, State of Qatar, Sultanate of Oman, United Arab Emirates) is framed by the EU- Gulf Countries Cooperation Agreement established in 1988.

The EU Communication on cooperation with the Gulf adopted by the College of Commissioners in May 2022 includes a focus on research and innovation and underlines its untapped potential to contribute to the economic diversification in the region and to address societal challenges like the green and digital transitions.

Within this context, cooperation on research and innovation is based on the EU’s Global Approach to Research and Innovation and promote openness, balanced with greater levels of reciprocity and seeking a level-playing field based on respect for fundamental principles such as academic freedom, gender equality, ethics, integrity and inclusiveness of research, open science and evidence-based policy-making.

Funding opportunities

Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe, the European Union’s framework programme for research and innovation, is open to the world, which means that participants from almost any country can participate in most calls. The EU can fund the participation in Horizon Europe collaborative research actions of entities established in EU Member States, in countries Associated to Horizon Europe, and in low- and middle-income countries. For other countries, including Gulf countries, in principle*, the EU does not provide funding for the participation of their research entities in collaborative research projects, so they are expected to bring their own funding to the table.

*In exceptional cases, the Commission or the relevant funding body may consider that funding the participation of a legal entity is essential for implementing the action (Article 23.2(b) of the Horizon Europe Regulation)

At present, the bilateral cooperation with the countries of the region is rather limited. In the previous framework programme Horizon 2020, Saudi Arabia was the most active of the Gulf countries in the funded projects.

European Research Council

The European Research Council offers grants to researchers in all research domains for frontier research. Researchers from Gulf countries are welcome to 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.

Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions

Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions offer fellowships for post-doctoral researchers from Gulf countries (and other countries) to spend up to 2 years in a European group – or for European researchers to spend up to 2 years in a Gulf country. Also offers opportunities for institutions in Gulf countries to participate in Doctoral Training Networks and Staff Exchange consortia.


Projects and results

Research project database (CORDIS)

EU-funded research projects involving the Gulf countries

For previous framework programmes, please contact the Research enquiry service.



National Contact Points

The National Contact Points (NCPs) provide guidance, practical information and assistance on all aspects of participation in Horizon Europe.

European Commission

RTD-F2-ASSISTatec [dot] europa [dot] eu (DG Research and Innovation unit F.2: International cooperation)