Memo on the State of Affairs and Future of the EU-CA STI Cooperation

Wed, 30/09/2015


State of Affairs and Future of the EU-CA STI Cooperation

Brussels, 3 September 2015



The Workshop on the State of Affairs and Future of EU - Central Asia science, technology and innovation cooperation, addressed challenges and opportunities related to the EU-CA STI cooperation, took stock of recent achievements of the IncoNet CA project, and provided a forum for an open and constructive discussion among key stakeholders from the EU and Central Asia (CA).

The aim of the workshop was to ensure that:

  • messages from/to Central Asia would be equally addressed and transmitted;
  • ideas and recommendations for a more efficient STI cooperation, with emphasis on the EU’s Framework Programme, would be addressed to the European Commission, the EU MS and the representatives from the target region;
  • concrete supportive actions would be planned as a follow-up.



The European Union opens up to the world by promoting international cooperation through the Framework Programme “Horizon 2020”. However, one of the key messages arising from the workshop was that despite the support actions that have been funded to promote the STI cooperation with Central Asia, the participation in H2020 remains very low. Indicatively, only one Horizon 2020 project involves a Central Asian participant (from Kyrgyzstan) until now. This alarming situation necessitates actions to be taken mainly in view of the forthcoming new Work Programme (2016-2017) which was briefly presented during the workshop.

On the flip side, the ongoing “IncoNet CA” Project aiming to promote the STI Cooperation with Central Asia , has strengthened policy dialogue and capacity building, has provided valuable input related to the current state of affairs of the EU - CA STI cooperation and has shaped future perspectives.  More specifically:

  • A bibliometric analysis of joint EU-CA publications on Energy, Climate Change and Health research, has provided a picture of the state-of-the-art and recent trends in EU -CA research collaboration and as such, it functions as an input to the policy dialogue, joint agenda setting and Horizon 2020 related activities. The publication output in the CA countries is stable or slightly increasing with the exception of Kazakhstan where an impressive growth rate is observed during the last two years. The percentage of co-publications is declining in Kazakhstan (due to a more rapid increase of the total number of publications), while it is slightly increasing in the other countries. Most important co-publication partners for the CA countries are: RU, US, DE, GB, JP, IT, ES, PL, CA and FR, with the EU overall being the major co-publication partner for most of the countries. Co-publication with the EU presents a slightly higher growth rate when compared to US and Russia. The topic “Water” is clearly in the focus of Climate Change co-publications with Germany being the most important co-publication partner in that topic, followed by UK, US, Switzerland, Belgium, Norway, China, Denmark, Russia and Spain.
  • A pilot twinning grant scheme among research teams has been established by IncoNet CA as a tool for the development of long-term STI cooperation. The grant focuses on researchers wishing to apply to Horizon 2020 and alleviates obstacles in cooperation between EU and CA (“Risk money” for travel / meetings with CA partners). Five grant agreements have been signed until now, while a number of applications are in the pipeline. CA countries have shown a high interest for this pilot grant scheme when considering communication indicators (350-400 emails and calls until now). All CA countries have been involved in the successful grants, while EU participants come until now from Germany, Poland, UK, Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy and Spain. Based on the input from the grant recipients, this scheme is extremely useful for building new synergies
  • A Benchmarking exercise of Energy related Research Institutes in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) has been conducted in Spring/Summer 2015. This exercise is a process of learning from good practices of other comparable entities to improve its own performance and competitiveness (under the specific countries’ framework conditions). The objective of this exercise was to stimulate mutual learning by reflecting the assessment of external reviewers and by exchanging good practices on how to increase the performance of RTOs working in the field of energy research. As an outcome, a confidential report will function as information source for the institutes involved to improve their functioning also with regard to link up to European research organisations in the field of "Energy".
  • A Policy Mix Peer Review in Kyrgyzstan has been implemented by the IncoNet CA project, at the request of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, in Spring/Summer 2015. The Policy Mix Peer Review is a tool for assessing the performance of the STI System of a country which contributes in improving policy making, in adopting best practices and complying with established standards and principles. The aim of this exercise was to improve the design and implementation of the Kyrgyz STI policy in four dimensions: Human resources in S&T, Public science base, Business R&D and innovation, Economic market development. An experienced panel visited Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan and conducted interviews with key national STI institutions and policymakers. The Final Report will offer European expertise and a platform for a consultative process to actively include local government, academia, NGOs, business community etc. to share thoughts and ideas for the support of the ongoing reforms in Kyrgyzstan.



According to an IncoNet CA study, Opportunities for EU Researchers to participate in national programmes (and to get funding) in CA countries are quite limited. Only Kazakhstan has two national programmes open for participation of foreign researchers: the programmes and projects supported by the Ministry of Education and Science of Kazakhstan (Permanent calls for proposals for applied and basic research for the period of 2015-2017), and Innovation grants of the National Agency for Technology Development (grants on increasing knowledge of local engineers, consulting and advisory services, implementation of lean technologies, and doing high-tech and industrial research;). Kyrgyzstan can be involved in the development and implementation of international S&T programs on the basis of multilateral or bilateral treaties and agreements. The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Tajikistan is planning to launch co-funded calls for proposals. The Committee for Coordination of Science and Technology Development under the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan examines the possibility to open national programmes to foreign researchers.

As a key opportunity for future EU-CA STI cooperation, Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) provide unique partnerships that increase Europe’s capacity for innovation by bringing together leading companies, universities and research labs. Opportunities for cooperation of KICs with CA countries is a key element for the future of EU-CA STI cooperation. Climate-KIC, EIT Digital, KIC InnoEnergy, EIT Raw Materials and KIC Health are the established thematic communities that have been receiving various funding until now and cooperation/synergies with them should be further pursued through IncoNet CA and beyond. There is still room for achieving the inclusion of a CA country to the list of KIC partners from third countries.

Another opportunity is the ISTC. ISTC is an intergovernmental organization located in Astana, Kazakhstan, which works on Trusted Scientific Partnerships, Professional Programme Management, Cost-effective R&D and Project Delivery.  ISTC’s new focus is on co-funding models, targeted Initiatives, Regional & outreach activities and Younger Scientist retention. With that said, ISTC provides co-funding opportunities through a flexible hybrid model, with a potential for a Horizon 2020 engagement something that leaves open opportunities to be exploited in the context of the EU-CA STI cooperation.

Since recently, the innovation policies and S&T priorities of Uzbekistan have been addressed through the establishment of the Centre of High Technologies (CHT) with the support of the Cambridge University (2011). CHT supports the innovative development of science and technologies in Uzbekistan by bridging the gap between business and science, and by pioneering the highest standards of applied scientific research and innovation practice. Recommendations for broadening EU-Uzbek STI cooperation were also mentioned: implementation of joint applied research; commercialization of innovation; consultancy services in the field of international patenting; transfer of technologies on the CHT’s major areas of research; distance learning courses and webinars.

The workshop showed that addressing water problems in Central Asia constitutes a privileged field for creating STI synergies with the EU in the near future. Downstream countries, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, are dependent on irrigated agriculture, whereas upstream countries, Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan, are focused on expanding reservoir capacity and hydroelectric power generation. Meanwhile the region’s main glaciers are shrinking as a consequence of Climate Change, therefore threatening the overall water supplies for the region. To keep track of all natural and human processes and to give them a scientific basis and practical advice, it is necessary to carry out large-scale integrated research that meets modern requirements and standards. There is room for enhancing research synergies with the EU’s research institutions in the field of water problems and climate change. Recommendations were raised to join relevant research teams from the EU to the studies and observations carried out by Central Asian countries along with other international players (International organizations, US, China, Russia, etc.).



Central Asian stakeholders as well as EC representatives and experts participated in a lively debate which included critical issues related to the future EU-CA STI cooperation. Τhere was a common belief among the participants that the role of Central Asia NCPs stands important in efficiently transmitting information to the local research communities in Central Asia and, as a result, the NCP structures need to be more instrumental in doing so. CA countries insisted in further supporting the NCP activities in the region (through trainings) and in further stimulation towards prominent universities and individual researchers to participate in H2020. Another discussed issue was the lack of explicit reference of Horizon 2020 calls to “Central Asia” something that weakens the chances for participation of Central Asian organizations in a consortium. However, it was highlighted that the selection of an organization in a consortium is always based on excellence criteria and in that respect it was recommended that CA countries should use contacts through bilateral cooperation projects with EU MS in order to build consortia in view of Horizon 2020 applications.

Central Asia countries’ representatives paid a lot of interest in cooperation with the EU to support young researchers in their country due to the generation gap in the region; they also showed increased interest to explore offering exchange programmes (Tajikistan) or co-financing bilateral calls (Uzbekistan). This could start with small scale projects and should touch the university level where young scholars with innovative ideas work but they remain neglected. It was also stressed that open science in the region should be supported by the STI sector. An example of STI support could be the policy coordination for the development of technological parks (but not the funding of infrastructures). ERANETs and mostly JPIs remain an ideal option for cooperation given the latter’s higher success rates. Conditions for co-funding ERANETs are already developed with the support of the IncoNet CA project.



Based on the discussions of the panels, the following follow-up actions and recommendations were identified:

1. Implement supportive and awareness actions to increase participation of Central Asian researchers in the new Horizon 2020 Work Programme (2016-2017). In particular:

  • Instrumental use of the results of the EU-CA bibliometric analysis with a view to investigate and promote collaboration partnerships between excellent research teams in the EU and CA;
  • Further support of the most potential research teams through grant schemes facilitating their preparation to apply for H2020; It would start by identifying the best scientists in CA by using bibliometrics and then investigating their collaboration patterns by bibliometrics and interviews
  • Further support of the NCP structures in CA through additional training activities. The IncoNet CA project will allocate remaining funds for that scope;
  • Address obstacles in CA, such as the generation gap in STI, through the implementation of actions dedicated to young researchers’ participation in H2020;
  • Participation in new ERANETs (2016-2017) was commonly agreed to be a priority for CA. This will be supported through facilitation actions undertaken by IncoNet CA, by establishing contacts with ERANET coordinators;

 2. Support of identified opportunities for future EU-CA Cooperation through Research, Innovation and Business. In particular:

  • Investigation of STI synergies between EU and CA in the field of water problems (including glaciers) through an EU - Central Asia Water Initiative;
  • Preparation of action plans for STI and Industrial Cooperation with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan; It would take into account also European Technology Platforms (ETPs) and their roadmaps, and show how the chosen CA industry sectors fit into these.
  • Disseminate opportunities for the two open national programmes to European researchers in Kazakhstan and exploration of future opening of national programmes for European researchers in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (through missions to the countries in Spring 2016);
  • Promotion of venture portfolios of KICs to Central Asia countries;
  • Exploration of synergies with the ISTC in common priority fields (Environment with emphasis on Water, Energy, etc.) with a view to enhance the EU-CA STI Cooperation;
  • A demand was expressed for transfer of EU knowledge in the development of technological parks in CA;
  • Policy Mix Peer Reviews exercises as a tool for STI reforms were agreed to be highly recommended for other CA countries after the successful implementation of an exercise in Kazakhstan (2012) and Kyrgyzstan (2015)