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Horizon Europe Programme Overview

Horizon Europe is the European Union’s flagship programme for Research and Innovation, running for seven years from 2021 to 2027, intending to deliver scientific, technological, economic and societal impact to strengthen scientific and technological bases, and to foster competitiveness.

It has a budget of €95.5 billion across the programme (compared to approximately €80 b for Horizon 2020).

The programme aims are to strengthen the European Research Area (ERA), boost Europe’s innovation capacity, competitiveness and growth, and to deliver on citizen’s priorities.

This includes the ambition to:

  • include actions that support the wider political objectives of the European Commission, including the green and digital transition and a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic:
  • make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, directing a minimum of 35% of the funding available to climate objectives (7.5% on biodiversity).
  • making 2021-2030 Europe’s digital decade and further support the objectives of the European Green Deal.
  • establish clear links between R&I activities and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS), as well as work to ensure the Union helps fulfil its role as signatory to the Paris Agreement.

Overview of Structure

The Horizon Europe programme has three main pillars

  1. Excellent Science
  2. Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness
  3. Innovative Europe

The Excellent Science pillar aims to increase the EU’s global scientific competitiveness. It supports frontier research projects defined and driven by top researchers themselves through the European Research Council, funds fellowships for experienced researchers, doctoral training networks, exchanges for researchers and entices more young people to a career in research, through Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, and invests in world-class research infrastructures.

The Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness pillar supports research relating to societal challenges and reinforces technological and industrial capacities through clusters. It sets EU-missions with ambitious goals tackling some of our biggest problems. It also includes activities pursued by the Joint Research Centre which supports EU and national policymakers with independent scientific evidence and technical support.

The Innovative Europe pillar aims to make Europe a frontrunner in market-creating innovation via the European Innovation Council. It also helps to develop the overall European innovation landscape, by developing European Innovation ecosystems and through the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) which fosters the integration of the knowledge triangle of education, research and innovation.

An additional component, Widening Participation and Strengthening the European Research Area (ERA), underpins the whole programme, aiming to increase support to EU Member States in their efforts to make the most of their national research and innovation potential and promote an ERA where researchers, scientific knowledge and technology circulate freely. This particularly focuses on helping traditionally low R&I performing Member States to participate better in Horizon Europe.

How will it work:

Horizon Europe will be implemented through Work Programmes. These documents will set out the strategic aims, call details and expected impact within the specific sections they relate to. 

The first work programme will cover 2021-2022. Consisting of 13 parts: an introduction, 11 thematic parts and the annexes with the rules for participation. Additional work programmes cover the ERC, EIC and JRC. With the EIT covered by a separate work plan.

Each Work Programme part will include a number of ‘Destinations’ outlining the topic in question and outputs expected. In this impact-driven approach, these destinations will set out what exactly the outputs should be what they want your project to produce, leaving the exact methodological approach to the applicant consortia.