Collaboration in research and innovation (R&I) is a major driver for developing innovative ideas and solutions to tackle the most pressing challenges faced by societies today: be it climate change, health, food, water, or energy. These challenges are global challenges. Hence, the most effective R&I collaboration is international. International collaboration in research and innovation enables rapid sharing of knowledge and technologies, bundles resources, and can help minimise risks by distributing responsibilities among several actors.
Plus, collaboration beyond national or continental boundaries accelerates turning research results into profitable goods and services with high socio-economic impact. Against this backdrop, it comes as little surprise that international R&I cooperation is one of the strategic priorities for the European Union (EU) with the European Commission leading several global research partnerships.
Research and Development activities between India and EU
With one of the world’s largest economies, an ever-growing population, and a fast-moving market, India is among the most active countries in the field of scientific research and has become an emerging global power. In view of the dynamic evolvement and internationalisation of the Science and Technology (S&T) sector, the EU and the Republic of India have since long decided to significantly increase collaboration in this field.
Following the first EU-India Summit held in Lisbon in June 2000 and a joint Declaration, both parties signed the “Agreement For Scientific And Technological Cooperation Between The Government of The Republic Of India And The European Community” in 2001. The aim of the agreement was to expand the cooperation in scientific and technological research with a view to strengthen the conduct of cooperative activities in areas of common interest and to encourage the application of the results of such cooperation to their economic and social benefits. On 17 May 2020, the agreement was renewed for the third time establishing a Roadmap to 2025 as a common roadmap to guide joint action and further strengthen the EU-India Strategic for five more years.
The roadmap contains many research and innovation actions underpinning overall policy objectives, notably on combatting Covid-19, supporting India’s modernisation process, the green transition and human-centric digitalisation. Both sides also agreed to enhance cooperation on innovation and technology deployment by tapping into each other’s innovation ecosystem.
Indian participation within Horizon Europe
The EU’s current Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon Europe, which is the world’s largest funding programme for research and innovation with a total budget of € 95.5 billion over seven years, offers a wide variety of cooperation opportunities for the participation of partners from across the world (“open by default”), and many topics are marked as being specifically relevant for international cooperation or target specific countries and/or regions and multilateral organisations.
In the case of India, a distinction has to be made between participation and funding. Indian companies or research organisations are not automatically eligible for funding through Horizon Europe when participating in collaborative R&I projects (Pillar 2 of Horizon Europe “Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness”) or within market-driven actions such as the European Innovation Council’s (EIC) “Pathfinder” and “Transition” grants (Pillar 3 of Horizon Europe “Innovative Europe”). Thus, they have to bear the cost of their participation. This can be own or institutional funding or funding received from Indian ministries or agencies, from foundations and other organisations, which fund Indian participants in international research and innovation actions with European partners.
Only in exceptional cases does Horizon Europe provide funding for Indian entities. For the time being the Government of India has no co-funding in place for the participation of Indian entities in Horizon Europe collaborative projects. This is different from the past when the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), had co-funding mechanisms available for specific topics under Horizon 2020.
However, Indian researchers succeeding in individual grant or fellowship actions under the European Research Council (ERC) and the Postdoctoral Fellowships under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA), are funded by Horizon Europe. Organisations based in India can also participate in the MSCA Doctoral Networks, the MSCA Staff Exchanges and COFUND, but have to bear the cost of their participation. For actions in which entities from India have to bring their own funding, they are considered as ‘Associated Partner’ (and thus have no obligation to sign the grant agreement).
In addition to becoming a consortium partner of a collaborative project in Horizon Europe, Indian partners can also be granted access to Horizon Europe project results through technology transfer activities, such as technology licensing. However, in case of exclusive licenses or assignments from an EU beneficiary to a legal entity (e.g., business partner) based in India, this would require the prior approval of the granting authority (European Commission). This requirement does not apply to non-exclusive licenses.
Intellectual Property (IP) considerations in Horizon Europe
Horizon Europe is an impact-focused programme: from project selection to monitoring of its results and impact. Valorising research results and scientific knowledge is key to delivering new solutions that tackle global challenges and benefit the well-being of citizens and safeguard economic prosperity. Beneficiaries in a collaborative Horizon Europe R&I project must make best use of all relevant knowledge and Intellectual Property (IP) to develop and successfully commercialise innovations that enhance competitiveness and growth. This includes, of course, the outputs from the project itself, their own existing knowledge and IP, and potentially also that of the other partners and third parties.
Effective management of all of these intellectual assets is crucial; particularly of those results which are developed collaboratively and jointly owned. Like any other asset, IP needs to be managed and used strategically. Different IP-related questions and issues arise throughout the entire lifecycle of a project: from the start of the project (or even at proposal stage) through implementation and exploitation of results towards the end of the project and even beyond.
While strategic questions at the beginning of the project revolve for instance around the analysis and assessment of what kind of background IP to bring to the project and share with partners, the focus during project implementation shifts to issues such as the (joint) ownership of newly generated IP within the project and possible protection options. Lastly, once the project is drawing to a close, appropriate exploitation strategies and pathways respecting the interests of the different partners involved in the creation of results need to be defined.
The programme grants participants a lot of freedom for the concrete and most appropriate structuring of their cooperation according to the type of research endeavour they embark on (formally agreed on by all partners in the Consortium Agreement). However, there are several rights and obligations with regard to IP management and the dissemination and exploitation of research results, which are formally outlined in different Horizon Europe documents such as the Rules of Participation, the proposal template for Research & Innovation Actions (RIA)/Innovation Actions (IA), or the respective Model Grant Agreement, and here Articles 16 & 17 in particular. Moreover, Annex 5 “Specific Rules” details additional requirements linked to communications, dissemination and exploitation – including IP provisions – for specific funding programmes.
Depending on the type of funding action and participant status of an Indian partner as defined in the Grant and corresponding Consortium Agreements, different rules regarding IP ownership, access rights, and further exploitation modalities ensue.
Horizon Europe Funding & Tenders Portal – Online Manual Horizon Europe
European IP Helpdesk Guide “Successful Valorisation of Knowledge and Research Results in Horizon Europe”
European IP Helpdesk Guide “Intellectual Property Management in Horizon Europe”
- Publication date
- 13 December 2022