The European Co-operation in Science and Technology (COST) is an intergovernmental organisation which provides funding for the creation of research networks.
In other words, COST does not provide funding for research. Instead, it focuses on connecting communities of researchers and innovators from universities, as well as from public and private institutions, NGOs, industry and SMEs.
COST mission is: ‘to provide networking opportunities for researchers and innovators in order to strengthen Europe’s capacity to address scientific, technological and societal challenges’.
COST is funded by contributions from COST Member States and Horizon Europe.
Researchers can either choose to create a network or join ongoing Actions. COST Actions expand over their funding period of four years.
What are COST Actions? How can you participate in a COST Action?
- Are bottom-up, highly interdisciplinary pan-European networks. They can be in any (new or emerging) science and technology fields (including social sciences). They last 4 years.
- Are typically made up of researchers from academia, public institutions, industry, SMEs, and other relevant stakeholders.
- Help connect research initiatives across Europe and beyond; Promote the creation, exchange, access and application of scientific knowledge. It does so by enabling researchers to meet, grow and share ideas.
- Boost research, innovation and careers. Approximately 45,000 individuals from all career stages currently take part in COST Actions.
- Often pave the way for the development of consortia which go on to participate successfully in EU Research and Innovation bids.
How can you participate in a COST Action?
You can either:
- join a research network once it has started running and throughout the duration of the Action. There are currently over 250 active COST actions.
- propose a COST action.
Make sure to browse existing COST actions before considering proposing a COST action.
How to join an existing COST Action? Why should you join one?
Find a relevant Action you could join by browsing running COST Actions.
Once you have identified a relevant Action in your field, identify how you could potentially get involved:
- by reading the project plan (Memorandum of Understanding)
- by visiting their COST Action website to find out what opportunities are available (e.g. joining a Working Group, Training School, Short-term scientific mission etc).
There are different ways to participate in a COST Action.
- As a participant in COST Actions activities such as short-term scientific missions (STSM), training schools, workshops, and conferences.
- As a Working Group (WG) member
- As a Management Committee (MC) member
There are 2 MC members per COST country per COST Action. If you are interested in being a MC member and those two roles have not been filled yet, please contact the UK National Coordinator (CNC).
Please follow the link to learn more about how you can join and participate in a COST Action including which COST representative(s) to contact. The person you need to contact will depend on how you wish to get involved.
Why should you join a COST action?
COST is a great opportunity for researchers (at all career stages):
- who are starting out or wish to get further involved in EU funding;
- who wish to start developing or strengthen their European networks and make important links for potential future consortia. COST is a pre-portal for EU R&I programmes.
For example, follow-up Collaborative proposals from COST Actions have a 37% success rate. 18.3% of H2020 ERC Consolidator grantees are or have been COST Action Participants.
- Researchers including early-career researchers can benefit from participating in:
– training schools (intensive coaching opportunities on a topic chosen by the Action, lasting up to 15 days)
– short-term scientific missions (STSM) – exchange visits for researchers, last up to six months. STSM allow researchers to share techniques & gain skills that may not be available at their home institution.
- COST Actions are a career accelerator for early career researchers. 88% indicate that participation has led to advancement.
Propose your own Action - How to apply, eligibility criteria & deadline
COST Actions are bottom-up. Proposals can be on any topic, in any science and technology fields (including social sciences and humanities). COST proposals should:
- Identify a timely research challenge
- Explain how addressing it could lead to scientific and/or technological advancements
- Be anonymous
- Be composed of a network of proposers. At least 7 proposers from 7 different COST Full or Cooperating Members (one Main Proposer plus at least 6 Secondary Proposers).
- At least 50% of Countries in the network of proposers must be from Inclusiveness Target Countries (ITCs). For example, out of seven eligible countries, a minimum of four countries must be ITCs.
- Respond to COST Excellence and Inclusiveness Policy (Geographic diversity, Empowering early career researchers, Gender balance)
- Have an emphasis on excellence and be innovative
The page limit for the technical annex (core proposal) is 15 pages. If successful, the technical annex become part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). MoU can be consulted when browsing COST actions.
If successful, COST Actions are managed by the Main Proposers. Please be aware that COST actions can be burdensome to administer. If you intend to apply as the Main Proposer, please contact us first.
Collection Date (Deadline)
You can submit a proposal for a new COST Action through a continuously open call via the e-COST Portal. Due to the impact of COVID-19, COST has currently only one collection date a year. The next call deadline is 20 October 2022 at 11:00 UK Time.
For more information on how to apply, please consult:
Funded networking activities & Budget
COST Actions receive funding to cover the expenses of a range of networking activities. This includes:
- Meetings, workshops, conferences;
- Short-term scientific missions (STSM);
- Training schools;
- ITC conference grants;
- Communication & dissemination activities;
- Virtual networking tools.
The financial support averages €130,000 per year for a four-year period. It is expected that the maximum grant allocated to each COST will increase from 2022 onwards.
Once a COST Action is funded a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is signed. The MoU provides the Action’s objectives, tasks, activities and milestones.
Based on the MoU, the Management Committee of the Action agrees an annual Work and Budget Plan at the start of the Action and then each year an Annual Grant Agreement is signed between the grant holder and the COST Association.
Evaluation process & Success rate
The evaluation is based on four criteria: Science & Technology Excellence, Networking excellence, impact and implementation.
Evaluation results are received within 8 months from the collection date (deadline). Successful COST Actions are expected to start within three months after approval.
In Horizon 2020, the success rate was typically around 10%.
COST is expecting to fund 40 to 50 actions as part of the 2021 call. However, it is expected that 40 to 70 actions will be funded for the 2022 call.
What makes a competitive proposal?
Consider the following elements when proposing a COST Action:
- Create a new network (rather than seek funding for an existing one);
- Encourage capacity-building, by connecting scientific communities in Europe and beyond;
- Contribute to the coordination & defragmentation of research efforts across Europe by strengthening of Europe’s scientific networking capacity
- Contribute strongly and visibly to European society, economic growth and welfare by producing results to relevant stakeholders (e.g. policy-makers, standard bodies etc.)
- Relate to the interest, need and resources of participant countries; Identify and consider R&D efforts supported by other national and international funding schemes
- Demonstrate the Action’s added value through the coordination of national research efforts
COST eligibility is independent of UK association to Horizon Europe.
The UK is a COST Full member. As such, UK-based researchers are fully eligible to apply as a main or secondary proposer in COST Open Call for new Actions, participate in all COST activities and receive funding as well as act as expert evaluators.
For more information, please consult:
- the COST Action article on Eligibility of Participation of Swiss and UK researchers in COST.
- 2022 info kit: Growing ideas through networks COST & UNITED KINGDOM.