Horizon 2020 is the EU’s largest research and innovation programme, making nearly €80 billion of funding available over seven years (2014 to 2020). Negotiations for Armenia’s participation in Horizon 2020 were concluded in 2015. On 19 May 2016, the Armenian Minister of Education and Science, Levon Mkrtchyan, and the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Carlos Moedas, signed an Association Agreement for Armenia. Researchers and innovators from Armenia now have full access to Horizon 2020 under the same conditions as their counterparts from EU member states and other associated countries.
Until now Armenia had only been able to participate in Horizon 2020 as a third country. This meant that its entities did not count towards the minimum number of participants required for a project, thus restricting access to some important parts of the programme, such as support to innovative businesses and to key policy bodies.
Thanks to this agreement, research institutes, universities and individual researchers will now have access to all opportunities offered by Horizon 2020 in diverse areas on equal footing with researchers and organisations from EU member states and other countries associated with the programme. These areas include anything from fundamental science to demonstration projects. Armenian SMEs and businesses will also be able to benefit from increased support to develop new ideas and bring new products and services to the Armenian market. The Association Agreement covers 2016-2020 and opens up new opportunities for the country’s universities, research institutions and enterprises.
On 2-3 June 2016, a launch workshop and information day devoted to Armenia’s association with Horizon 2020 was organised. The programme was presented with a particular focus on the new opportunities it brings by offering tools and networks for SMEs and joint research centre grants for scientific research and innovation.
Two workshop sessions on how to use European research and build on good practices discovered from other associated countries were held on 2 June. Later on the same day, a conference on “Supporting Innovation in Armenia” was held in Yerevan. InnovFin is a new generation of financial instruments and advisory services, which help innovative firms access finance more easily. Armenia gained access to InnovFin after joining Horizon 2020. The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, attended the event and underlined the EU’s support to the Armenian government’s efforts to build a knowledge-based economy in Armenia.
Ambassador Świtalski also attended the second day of the Horizon 2020 launch workshop on 3 June, and stressed the importance of research and innovation: ‘It’s a good day for the Armenian science and research community and a very good day for Europe. I am very glad that Armenia has decided to join Horizon 2020 – the biggest platform for supporting research and innovation. Armenia’s contribution to Horizon 2020 wasn’t easy to secure, but I hope it will help the country to grow and have tangible benefits. Horizon 2020 is a very important tool, but, as many of us know, the difficult part of it is to link ideas with practice with the market. We, at the EU, always remember that Armenia, in addition to Horizon 2020, decided also to join the COSME programme, which supports SMEs – this is a good tool to link research and the practical implementation of results.
The Chairman of the Armenian State Committee of Science of the Ministry of Education and Science, Samvel Harutyanyan, welcomed all the participants on behalf of his Minister, Levon Mkrtcyan: ‘The signing of the Association Agreement is the result of hard work by several ministries over the last three-four years, which will have very significant and important improvements for our scientific community, the development of science in general, and integration into the European research area’.
After the keynote speeches, discussion sessions started: the first one on the general scope of the Horizon2020 programme was moderated by Hoa-Binh Adjemian, the Head of Cooperation Section of the EU Delegation to Armenia. The second one focused on COSME Programmes within the areas of climate change, energy and SMEs”.
Horizon 2020 facilitates promotion of excellent scientific and industrial leadership in tackling societal challenges through innovation, funding and networks offered by the EU. The goal for Armenia is to join the European scientific community to produce world-class research, remove barriers to innovation, and make it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in finding and delivering innovative solutions to social and economic priorities – both locally and globally.