History of the joint programming process and the JPIs

Joint Programming has been introduced by the European Commission (EC) as a new approach to resolve the lack of coordination between national research programme implementation. Its objectives are to reduce fragmentation, unnecessary duplication and a lack of critical mass. Alignment of national research programmes is thus part of creating the European Research Area (ERA), a concept launched by the EC in 2000. The joint programming process (JPP) and the Joint Programming Initiatives (JPIs) launched under this concept, serve as complementary to coordination schemes such as ERA-NETs and the Article 185 Initiatives  

Timeline of the Joint Programming Process

With the notion of the European Commission that research on some key societal issues can best be addressed through combined European research, the first draft for a coordination mechanism was laid down in 2007. Member States were asked to establish and implement joint research programmes based on the existing national ones.    

In March 2008, the European Council asked the Commission and the Member States to further explore the potential of Joint Programming. July that year saw the launch of the Joint Programming Process by a Communication from the Commission stating the need to pool national resources in order to strengthen research and development across the ERA. Its main message was the need to come to a common approach in tackling societal problems that Member States can't solve solely. The communication proposed a way to effectively structure national research and development funding in such a way that unnecessary duplication of research was avoided, and barriers for transnational cooperation were lowered. The Council of Ministers endorsed the proposal for the Joint Programming Process and agreed to launch it in December 2008. A special configuration of the European Research Area Committee (ERAC) was mandated by the Competitiveness Council to guide this process and identify themes for possible Joint Programming Initiatives. This configuration: the High-level Group on Joint Programming (GPC) subsequently was tasked with guiding the JPP, come up with guidelines and select possible topics for Joint Programming Initiatives. 

To enable a first pilot on joint programming a dedicated Coordination and Support Action (CSA) call was included in Framework Programme 7. This pilot had to be developed in the area of neurodegenerative diseases, in particular Alzheimer's disease. The JUMPAHEAD project started in September 2010 and supported the development of the first JPI, dedicated to Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND), and the development and implementation of its Strategic Research Agenda, which was presented in 2012.

In March 2010, the European Commission launched its initiative (and paper) Europe 2020 – A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. As part of the Innovation Union Flagship Initiative the Commission stated to work towards completing the European Research Area, including seeking to enhance joint programming with Member States and regions. This became the central topic for the first joint programming conference that took place in October 2010 ('Joint Programming and Research: a common approach towards innovation'). In the wake of the conference the GPC offered its report Joint Programming in research 2008-2010 and beyond to the Council in November 2010 and one Month later the 'first wave' of Joint Programming Initiatives were adopted by the Council. These JPIs were on 'Agriculture, food security and climate change' (FACCE-JPI), 'Cultural Heritage and Global Change: a new challenge for Europe' (JPI Cultural Heritage) and 'A healthy diet for a healthy life' (JPI HDHL).

One year later, in December 2011, the next six JPIs were launched in a 'second wave'. These included initiatives on 'Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans' (JPI Oceans), 'Urban Europe - Global Urban Challenges, Joint European Solutions' (JPI UE), 'Connecting Climate Knowledge for Europe' (JPI Climate), 'Water Challenges for a Changing World' (Water JPI), 'More Years, Better Lives – the Potentials and Challenges of Demographic Change' (JPI MYBL) and 'The Microbial Challenge - An Emerging Threat to Human Health' (JPIAMR).

JPIs are Member State driven initiatives that operate under a variable geometry, thus enabling partners to engage in actions within their national legal and operation frameworks and priorities. Development and Implementation of their Strategic Research (and Innovation) Agenda's is financially supported with dedicated CSA's. All JPIs are currently supported with a second dedicated CSA.

Evaluation of the Joint Programming Process

In October 2012 a first formal review of the Joint Programming Initiatives was published by a group of experts invited by the EC. It was noted that the joint programming concept suffered from a political challenge of national programme owners and policy makers to fully adopt and implement the concept. Apart from insufficient levels of national commitment, structural and organisational challenges hindered the process. At the 2013 Dublin conference on joint programming, the needs for a renewed commitment of the Member States to joint programming was concluded to be essential to unlock the its potential. 

However, in the 2016 JPI evaluation, and the 2017 H2020 interim evaluation, it is again concluded that the JPIs have not yet been able to reach their full potential. Apart from difficulties many Member States face, to fully align national priorities and reserve the necessary funding, most JPIs rely to a large extend on EC financing mechanisms to cover operational costs (through dedicated Framework Programme funding). This is seen as a threat to the long-term sustainability of the JPIs and is considered in the GPC and ERAC.