Joint programming of research

Societal challenges related to climate change, health and energy transcend the borders of the European Union (EU) Member States. Research in Europe relies heavily upon national research. In order to strengthen the impact of the latter, Member States must coordinate their efforts and accept to pool their resources. In this Communication, the European Commission proposes that Member States adopt a new approach called “Joint Programming” so as to increase the efficiency of European research which is still too compartmentalised.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 15 July 2008: “Towards Joint Programming in Research: Working together to tackle common challenges more effectively” [COM(2008) 468 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


Research necessitates a new approach to cooperation between Member States in order to address a number of societal challenges that are crucial for Europe, such as food safety, health, sustainable development, securing the supply of energy, etc., that are not limited to national borders.

National research represents up to 85 % of public funds spent on research in Europe. The usefulness of national programmes to meet national requirements or priorities does not need to be demonstrated. However, Member States could combine their efforts to enhance the impact of national investments in certain strategic fields. This would avoid the funding of identical research programmes in several Member States and offset the lack of resources.

Joint programming

Joint programming aims to reinforce cross-border cooperation and the coordination and integration of research programmes in Member States benefiting from public funding in a limited number of fields. Its objective is thus to help Europe tackle societal challenges by making the most of national budgets allocated to research.

Joint programming consists of defining a joint vision of the main socio-economic and environmental challenges with a view to preparing and implementing strategic research visions and agendas. For Member States, this can mean coordinating existing national programmes or designing new ones. In practice, this implies putting resources together, selecting the most appropriate instruments, implementing, monitoring and reviewing progress collectively. The participation of Member States is an entirely voluntary process. Member States are free to participate or to refuse to make a commitment.

Joint programming offers advantages for those involved. In particular it allows the participating States to respond to common challenges together, to widen the range of pan-European research programmes and to avoid wasting resources whilst at the same time promoting excellence. It also allows cooperation to develop as a result of the pooling of knowledge and expertise scattered across different European countries, and management costs to be reduced through better programme visibility.


This Communication identifies three essential stages that make up the life cycle of research programmes:

Choice of specific areas

The areas selected must meet the following criteria:

In addition, joint programming should contribute to limiting costs related to compartmentalisation and duplication in research in order to improve the efficiency of research programmes and public resources. Joint programming should also integrate public initiatives in the selected field and benefit from the full support of participating Member States.

The Commission endorses the implementation of joint programming. The overseeing and monitoring of progress is entrusted to the Council of the European Union who may envisage measures to facilitate the implementation of joint programming initiatives.


This Communication constitutes one of the five policy initiatives planned by the Commission in 2008 as a follow-up to the Green Paper entitled “The European Research Area: New Perspectives”. It relates in particular to the dimension “Optimising Research Programmes and Priorities” and removes barriers to a knowledge society, thus contributing to the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy.

Last updated: 22.09.2008