The Call Excellence Hubs (HORIZON-WIDERA-2022-ACCESS-04) is open for submission!

Deadline date: 15 March 2022

Expected Outcome:

Excellence hubs are an initiative to strengthen regional innovation excellence in placed based innovation ecosystems by cross-border collaboration on a common strategy and/or alongside value adding chains. Place based innovation ecosystems are interconnected companies, research institutions, governmental bodies and societal actors that are mutually reinforcing each other in a territorial context and together raise the level of innovation excellence in their regional fabric.

Projects are expected to contribute to the following outcomes:

  • Excellent and sustainable place based innovation ecosystems in Widening countries and beyond in relevant domains of cutting-edge science and innovation
  • Long term joint R&I strategies underpinned by concrete action plans of European relevance
  • Common investment plans for R&I including infrastructures leveraging national, regional and European funds as well as private capital in a synergetic manner
  • R&I pilot projects alongside a joint strategy and in line with regional and national strategies, notably regional innovation strategies for smart specialisation (RIS3)
  • New competencies and skills for researchers, entrepreneurs and professionals in R&I intensive domains
  • Strengthened linkages between science and business
  • Poles of attraction for talents in catching up regions and countries
  • Improved knowledge transfer and development of entrepreneurial skills.
  • Uptake of innovative technologies
  • New business opportunities especially for SMEs and new employment.


Excellence hubs are part of the European excellence initiative and complement the science oriented schemes Teaming, Twinning, ERA Chairs and the European excellence initiative for universities by a dedicated innovation component. Excellence hubs will focus on innovation by allowing innovation ecosystems in widening countries and beyond, to team up and create better linkages between academia, business, government and society. This will foster a real placed based innovation culture in widening countries based on a strategic agenda aligned with regional or national smart specialisation strategies. In this context, synergies will be sought with the programme parts on European Innovation Ecosystems and the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT).

Projects should be established around the following core components:

  • Cross-border joint R&I strategy aligned with regional smart specialisation strategies and/or European policy priorities such as the green and digital transition
  • R&I project consolidating academia business linkages and providing evidence for strategy building and investment
  • Action and investment plans for implementation of the strategy
  • Conceptual design and pre-planning for pilots and demonstrators (if applicable) in line with the strategy
  • Accompanying measures e.g. to raise visibility, citizen engagement, technology transfer, entrepreneurship training, staff exchange, mutual learning etc.

Excellence hubs should improve access to excellence for R&I actors in widening countries and elaborate joint R&I strategies that are aligned with national, regional (notably RIS3) and/or European strategies or policy priorities (e.g. Green Deal, Digital transition). These strategies will be underpinned by concrete actions plans and an investment strategy that reaches out beyond the project’s lifetime and will leverage national, regional and European funds as well as private (venture) capital. Investment plans may include pertinent R&I infrastructures as well as demonstrators and pilots.

Excellence hubs as a new action under the widening component are complementary but different to initiatives such as Digital hubs or the EIT regional innovation scheme (RIS) because of their strategic orientation, broader scope and alignment with widening eligibility criteria.

The expected duration of the project is up to 4 years.

All details of the call are available here.