S3 thematic partnerships and new policy agendas of EU Green Deal and Agenda 2030 for sustainable development

#12, May 2021

Katerina Ciampi Stancova

European Commission, Joint Research Centre

With the start of 2021, the European Union has entered a new multiannual programming period that will last until 2027. In this relation, the European Commission designed and launched new strategies for sustainable, resilient, just and inclusive growth. The new EU programming period strengthens EU’s commitment to deliver on Global Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals.

The Agenda 2030 affects all EU policies, including the European Green Deal (EGD) – a new EU sustainable growth agenda. In fact, EGD contains number of objectives and targets to achieve sustainable development, resilience and climate neutrality, among them:

  • making Europe climate neutralby 2050 and cut emissions,
  • protecting life on the planet,
  • helping companies become globalleaders in clean product and technologies, and
  • helping to ensure a just andinclusive societies.

In post-COVID era, we need to make sure that economic recovery and socio-economic developmentis sustainable and aligned with the European Green Deal and 2030 UN Agenda for sustainable development. Environmental commons and climate change as well as sustainable food system are of utter most importance to local communities. Quality education and international partnerships are enablers to achieve the system change.  We need to support green and smart climate mitigation and adaptation, invest in circular and low carbon economies, support shift from industrial to regenerative agriculture, exploit the limits of the digital revolution and reduce transportation needs. 

Within this context, interregional and international collaborationin science, technologies and innovation is even more important. Scientists from different countries, regions and institutions are working together, often at distance to make new discoveries, share data, create socio-economic prognosis, and support policy and decision making by providing scientific evidence and advice.

Interregional and transnational Partnerships in Smart Specialisationhave knowledge, leadership, capabilities and innovative ideas that can contribute to economic post-COVID reconstruction and achievement of the European Green Deal and Sustainable Development Goals.

The Partnerships have been able to connect regions, businesses, research organisations and civil society representatives across EU countries and thus strengthen R&I eco-systems. At the same time, they have been able to develop new European value chains and find new viable solutions for socio-economic and environmental challenges of tomorrow.

It is important to point out that the Partnerships are not ad-hoc consortia whose lifetime is limited to a project funding. They are rather long-lasting Partnerships that generate, implement and fund joint projects in smart specialisation domains on rolling basis. Many of them have been able todevelop funding mix combining EU competitive and Cohesion funds. A significant number of Partnership have received funding from Horizon 2020, COSME, EUCluster programme or INTERREG.

In the programming period 2021-2027, the European Union will support the activities and innovative projects generated by the Partnerships though multiple funding sources, among them the European Regional Development Fund with a new Interregional Innovation Investment instrument and Horizon Europe. The new EU Cohesion Policy proposed for the upcoming EU programming period foresees number of simplifications measures to allow for a greater flexibility and synergies among the funds dedicated to Research and Innovation (R&I). This will help the Partnerships to plan, access and manage resources in a more efficient way, and deliver the joint projects with high R&I added value for Europe.

Yet, the Partnerships need to review their strategies, priorities and actions so as they reflect better not only economic and societal but also environmental challenges. In other words, they need to pay an increased attention to environmental issues and climate change; finding environmentally friendly solutions and solutions to achieve sustainability through systemic change. This might include a reflection on an alignment between place-based research and innovation activities under the Smart Specialisation umbrella and innovation missions - Horizon Europe research programme for 2021-2027.