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Call: Upgrading Independent Knowledge on Contemporary China in Europe

Type of Fund Direct Management
Description of programme
"Horizon Europe - Cluster 2 - Destination 3: Innovative research on social and economic transformations"

Europe is being transformed by changes that impact the livelihoods and wellbeing of its citizens. Such changes present important opportunities for the EU to innovate and shape forward looking inclusive societies and economies, while avoiding the mistakes of the past and promoting an inclusive recovery that strengthens economic and social resilience. However, demographic changes, digitalisation, automation, environmental degradation, the transition to a low carbon economy and globalisation all pose multidimensional, interconnected and complex social and economic challenges. At the same time, there has been an increase in inequality, poverty and social exclusion, a polarisation of skill needs in the labour market, and a slowdown in convergence in income and employment in most European countries. Inequalities threaten social and territorial cohesion, economic growth and wellbeing. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the pervasive inequalities across European societies, with significant differences in the way losses and costs of the COVID-19 pandemic and the crisis that followed are distributed in society. To seize the opportunities emerging from socio-economic transformations in a strongly connected and integrated world, these challenges need to be better understood and tackled.

Population ageing increases social protection spending on pensions, health and long-term care and restricts the capacity of the redistributive system to reduce inequality. Societies also need to adapt to a new role elderly people may have, with their experience and capacity to remain productive. Policies need to support a transition towards more environmentally-friendly ways of producing and providing private and public services, while ensuring all regions and individuals equally benefit from these transitions and that no one is left behind, in particular when it comes to access to essential services. Access to social protection for those in need should be ensured, while making sure that everyone can participate in economic, social, political and cultural developments. Social protection supports individuals in emergencies that they can no longer cope with on their own and, in addition, protect them by means of long-term measures – whether in the event of illness, accident, need for care, unemployment or old age. Moreover, mitigation and adaptation strategies are essential to make sure population movements shaped by these transitions are positive for all areas, and do not contribute to deepening the divide between regions or countries.

Education and training are key long-term factors in preventing and reversing inequalities and promoting equal opportunities, inclusion and social mobility. However, the educational outcomes of younger generations are still determined to a large extent by the socio-economic background of their parents rather than by their own potential. Promoting and ensuring inclusion and equity in education and training is thus fundamental in breaking these patterns.

In this context, it is important to reflect on the nature of economic growth and the need to better capture the different dimensions of social progress. It is increasingly important to distinguish between the different purposes of measurement: economic activity, social and cultural wellbeing and sustainability, and to develop relevant indicators. This is particularly the case as the pervasive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the economic performance and socio-economic fabric of many countries in Europe.

Migration has been a critical component of the makeup of European societies, one that is likely to dominate policy and political agendas for many years to come. It is an issue requiring comprehensive and coordinated European responses in order to ripen its benefits, both inside and outside the EU, involving Member States, Associated and partner countries, EU actors, as well as local and regional authorities, civil society organisations, migrants’ representatives – including migrant organisations – and economic and social partners. Partnerships between these stakeholders are needed to make the most of the positive consequences of migration, as well as ensuring that migration occurs in an orderly and dignified manner. The task of research is to better understand migration in a global and EU context, assist in its governance, support security and help the socio-economic as well as civil-political inclusion of migrants in European societies. It can enhance policies by providing evidence on the causes and consequences of the phenomena and facilitate timely response by identifying trends and suggesting possible policy solutions.

The implementation of the research activities in the two calls of this Destination will contribute to a comprehensive and reflective European strategy for inclusive growth, including social, economic, ecological and historical dimensions. This will strengthen the resilience of the EU and of its citizens, and will ensure that no one is left behind, including through the accumulation and preservation of human capital in the face of old and new risks. It will equally support productivity gains and their fair distribution, as well as boosting social and economic resilience that is essential to face situations of crisis such as in the case of COVID-19. Activities will contribute to EU migration and mobility policies, both internal and external. The overall knowledge generated, including a holistic understanding of societal wellbeing, will feed into the design of policy strategies in line with the above mentioned objectives and will facilitate the assessment of policy needs and outcomes in the field of the societal and economic transformations.

The Destination calls for proposals that may help in reaching these key strategic policy objectives in the EU. It invites proposals to do so by integrating feedback loops with stakeholders and policymakers that may help in developing suggestions and recommendations throughout their lifecycles. These proposals should take into consideration the stakeholders associated to the decisions that are suggested, and should also account for the context in which decisions are made. Therefore, in order to maximize and facilitate the uptake of group-sensitive recommendations in policy, they should include analyses of political and financial trade-offs associated to the recommendations produced, reflecting also on contextual changes needed to implement proposals developed. Proposals are also invited to build upon previous research funded by Horizon 2020, valorising its experience and findings.

Expected impacts:

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to the following targeted expected impacts of the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan:

  • Social and economic resilience and sustainability are strengthened through a better understanding of the social, ethical, political and economic impacts of drivers of change (such as technology, globalisation, demographics, mobility and migration) and their interplay.

Inclusive growth is boosted and vulnerabilities are reduced effectively through evidence-based policies for protecting and enhancing employment, education, social fairness and tackling inequalities, including in response to the socio-economic challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Link Link to Programme
Upgrading Independent Knowledge on Contemporary China in Europe
Description of call
"Upgrading Independent Knowledge on Contemporary China in Europe"

Expected Outcome

Proposals are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:

  • Take stock, identify weaknesses, and advance our knowledge on contemporary China’s social, cultural, political, and economic characteristics, on the impact of its foreign policy, and on its compliance with international obligations/laws/norms (or lack thereof). Scrutinize new global narratives and how these compare and interact with European interests and values and identify possible areas of mutually beneficial cooperation
  • Incrementally develop and network independent European knowledge and expertise on Contemporary China in order to mainstream knowledge and enhance the European capacity to bring forward coherent and fact-based policy-making. This should be done by taking into account and building upon existing knowledge and relevant networks already being developed and/or strengthened at the level of Member States in order to increase knowledge sharing across Europe, create new synergies between knowledge nodes, and complement existing knowledge enhancing strategies.


Europe aims for a realistic, assertive and multi-faceted approach to China (Joint Communication “EU-China – A Strategic Outlook”, 2019). China and the EU are two of the three largest economies and traders in the world and in the last few decades, China’s economic and political dimensions have grown with unprecedented scale and speed. Recent developments within the international system including, the creation of new global frameworks and multilateral institutions such as the Belt and Road Initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank or the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and China’s growing presence in key international institutions, have unveiled a newfound Chinese pro-activeness in the international sphere. Today China is a key global actor and a leading scientific and technological power. This results in an increase in bilateral and multilateral engagements on a vast variety of issues such as trade, research/technology, sustainable development, climate change, foreign direct investment, and human rights. At the same time, this rise has exposed the weakness Europe faces in its capacity to better understand China in its various specificities, complexities, and goals and respond to its rapid evolution and new policy directions. As China becomes ever more prevalent in a wide array of policy areas, upgrading, supporting, connecting, and mainstreaming knowledge on the topic in Europe has become a necessity for policy-makers, stakeholders, and civil society at large in order to better navigate strategic opportunities and challenges with foresight instead of reacting with delay. Because of China’s increasing relevance, Europe needs to get to know and understand it on its own terms: not through the lens of other external sources but from its own European perspective. The upgrade needs to be based on independent European analysis grounded in facts and insights from science and research carried out in academia and by independent think thanks as well as surveys and trend analysis on experiences of stakeholders engaged in a number of areas. At the intersection of science, economics and foreign affairs, Europe should support an independent understanding of China and its overall defining social, economic, and political characteristics.

Projects are expected to address the following: further deepen European independent knowledge/understanding of China’s social, cultural, political, and economic characteristics, of the impact of its foreign policy, and of its compliance with international obligations/laws/norms (or lack thereof). Analyse new global narratives and study how these compare and interact with European interests and values, while acknowledging and reflecting Europe’s diversity. Enhance the visibility of our independent expertise and mainstream knowledge on China to increase its appeal in learning/research institutions among students. Stimulate and support the creation of independent knowledge on contemporary China to increase the level of “knowledge autonomy/independence” through the creation of new connections and synergies between intra-European China knowledge nodes from across all relevant organizations and joint research projects.

Cross-cutting Priorities:

Link Link to Call
Thematic Focus Research & Innovation, Technology Transfer & Exchange, Health, Social Affairs, Sports, Equal Rights, Human Rights, People with Disabilities, Social Inclusion, Competitiveness, SME, Clustering, Development Cooperation, Economic Cooperation, Administration & Governance, Art & Culture, Cultural Heritage, History, Media, Community Integration, European Citizenship, Shared Services, Employment & Labour Market, Capacity Building, Cooperation Networks, Institutional Cooperation
Funding area EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Origin of Applicant EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Eligible applicants Education and Training Centres, Federal State / Region / City / Municipality / Local Authority, Research Institution, Lobby Group / Professional Association / Trade Union, International Organization, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, SMEs (between 10 and 249 employees), Microenterprises (fewer than 10 employees), NGO / NPO, Public Services, National Government, Other, Start Up Company, University, Enterprise (more than 250 employees or not defined), Association
Applicant details

eligible non-EU countries:

  • countries associated to Horizon Europe
At the date of the publication of the work programme, there are no countries associated to Horizon Europe. Considering the Union’s interest to retain, in principle, relations with the countries associated to Horizon 2020, most third countries associated to Horizon 2020 are expected to be associated to Horizon Europe with an intention to secure uninterrupted continuity between Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe. In addition, other third countries can also become associated to Horizon Europe during the programme. For the purposes of the eligibility conditions, applicants established in Horizon 2020 Associated Countries or in other third countries negotiating association to Horizon Europe will be treated as entities established in an Associated Country, if the Horizon Europe association agreement with the third country concerned applies at the time of signature of the grant agreement.

  • low-and middle-income countries

Legal entities which are established in countries not listed above will be eligible for funding if provided for in the specific call conditions, or if their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority.

Specific cases:

  • Affiliated entities - Affiliated entities are eligible for funding if they are established in one of the countries listed above.
  • EU bodies - Legal entities created under EU law may also be eligible to receive funding, unless their basic act states otherwise.
  • International organisations - International European research organisations are eligible to receive funding. Unless their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority, other international organisations are not eligible to receive funding. International organisations with headquarters in a Member State or Associated Country are eligible to receive funding for ‘Training and mobility’actions and when provided for in the specific call conditions.
Project Partner Yes
Project Partner Details

Unless otherwise provided for in the specific call conditions , legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes:

  • at least one independent legal entity established in a Member State;and
  • at least two other independent legal entities, each established in different Member States or Associated Countries.

In order to achieve the expected outcomes, and safeguard the Union’s strategic assets, interests, autonomy, or security, namely to strengthen the European capacity to create and to foster/bolster the production of independent European knowledge on contemporary China needed to safeguard and advance the Union’s strategic interests going forward through the development of fact-based and unbiased analyses, foresight, and expertise, participation is limited to legal entities established in Member States and Associated Countries. Proposals including legal entities which are not established in these countries will be ineligible.

For the duly justified and exceptional reasons listed in the paragraph above, in order to guarantee the protection of the strategic interests of the Union and its Member States, entities established in an eligible country listed above, but which are directly or indirectly controlled by a non-eligible country or by a non-eligible country entity, may not participate in the action unless it can be demonstrated, by means of guarantees provided by their eligible country of establishment, that their participation to the action would not negatively impact the Union’s strategic, assets, interests, autonomy, or security.

The guarantees shall in particular substantiate that, for the purpose of the action, measures are in place to ensure that:

  1. control over the applicant legal entity is not exercised in a manner that retrains or restricts its ability to carry out the action and to deliver results, that imposes restrictions concerning its infrastructure, facilities, assets, resources, intellectual property or know-how needed for the purpose of the action, or that undermines its capabilities and standards necessary to carry out the action;
  2. access by a non-eligible country or by a non-eligible country entity to sensitive information relating to the action is prevented; and the employees or other persons involved in the action have a national security clearance issued by an eligible country, where appropriate;
  3. ownership of the intellectual property arising from, and the results of, the action remain within the recipient during and after completion of the action, are not subject to control or restrictions by non-eligible countries or non-eligible country entities, and are not exported outside the eligible countries, nor is access to them from outside the eligible countries granted, without the approval of the eligible country in which the legal entity is established.
Further info

Proposal page limits and layout:

The application form will have two parts:

  • Part A to be filled in directly online  (administrative information, summarised budget, call-specific questions, etc.)
  • Part B to be downloaded from the Portal submission system, completed and re-uploaded as a PDF in the system

Page limit - Part B: 45 pages

Type of Funding Grants
Financial details
Expected EU contribution per projectThe Commission estimates that an EU contribution of between EUR 2.00 and 3.00 million would allow these outcomes to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of a proposal requesting different amounts.
Indicative budgetThe total indicative budget for the topic is EUR 9.90 million.
Typ of ActionResearch and Innovation Actions (RIA)
Funding rate100%
Submission Proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funding & Tenders Portal Electronic Submission System. Paper submissions are NOTpossible.

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