The EU has nine outermost regions (ORs): Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, St Martin, Reunion, Mayotte; Canary Islands; Azores and Madeira. The ORs are an integral part of the EU territory but, as recognised in Article 349 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), they differ from the rest of the EU because of their remoteness, insularity, small size, adverse topographical and climatic conditions and dependence on a limited number of local industries. OR participation in the Horizon 2020 programme is inhibited by the fragmentation of the research community due to geographical isolation, but also to the lack of commitment of research institutions and the lack of connectivity with excellent partners in Europe and internationally beyond the traditional links with the European mainland of the same country. Therefore, the potential for excellent research activities based on the assets described above remains largely untapped. The overall objective of the FORWARD project is to improve the research excellence and innovation potential of ORs in order to enhance their participation in EU-funded research and innovation projects and to link research activities with territorial development. The project involves the regional governments of the nine ORs in charge of regional R&I policies together with the key R&I actors in each region. FORWARD will conduct an initial analysis of the R&I ecosystems and, based on these results, implement tailored actions including the definition of joint strategy and thematic action plans, capacity building and networking activities, and approaches to connect researchers and policy makers. The project, based on a multi-actor, multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral approach, will also support collaboration and networking between representatives of the quadruple helix (academia, industry, government and civil society) at regional level and with their counterparts in EU Member States and Third Countries.