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EU-Russia Year of Science 2014 – old wine in new bottles

The European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, and the Russian Minister of Education and Science, Dmitri Livanov, attended the official opening ceremony of the EU-Russia Year of Science 2014 in Moscow on 25 November.

The EU-Russia Year of Science is taken by the EU and its member states, on the one hand, and Russia, on the other, as an opportunity to enhance joint S&T cooperation. More than 200 dedicated events and initiatives will be implemented across Russia and the EU in the course of the next year. Events that are relevant for the EU-Russia scientific cooperation and planned for 2014 can be included in the official programme of the Year of Science.

The launch of the Year of Science coincides with the start of new R&D programmes in the EU and Russia – Horizon 2020 and the new Russian R&D Federal Targeted Programme. Although Russian research organisations have so far been extremely active and successful in the EU’s Framework Programmes – Russia was ranked first among all third countries (non-EU and non-associated countries) in terms of participations in projects funded through the Sixth Framework Programme - , they will no longer be eligible for financial support under Horizon 2020. Therefore, the development of dedicated mechanisms for co-funding collaborative research activities on the basis of the two key funding programmes on both sides, as well as other multilateral and bilateral funding instruments, are currently being discussed by the EU and Russia.

Traditionally, key areas of EU-Russia cooperation include aeronautics research, space, ICT, energy, nanotechnology, and health. In addition, the implementation of so-called mega-science projects in the field of research infrastructures emerge as a point of special interest for both parties. According to the Russian officials, Russia has committed to and is contributing over EUR 1 billion for the implementation of flagship research infrastructure projects in Europe, such as the X-ray Free-Electron Laser (XFEL), the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR), the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) and the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN). Several large-scale infrastructure projects are being developed in Russia, so the possibilities of joint exploitation of unique scientific installations in Russia are likely to be at the top of the scientific policy agenda in the coming months.

EU researchers have been successful in winning grants offered by Russia in order to attract top scientists to Russian universities (see ACA Newsletter - Education Europe, February 2013). Thirty one grants of up to EUR 3.5 million each have been awarded to the EU scientists under the first three calls.

Science and education remain two areas that are least problematic and politicised in the overall EU-Russia relations. The general framework for R&D collaboration is set by the EU-Russia S&T Cooperation Agreement which is due for renewal next year. Clearly, the new agreement should reflect both the old parameters, according to which EU and Russia are complementary strategic scientific partners, and the changing reality, whereas the EU-Russia S&T cooperation is becoming more reciprocal, diverse and seems again to be full of promises.

EU-Russia Year of Science

European Commission - Press release