Horizon Europe: what is it all about?

European programming for the seven-year period 2021-2027 defines the distribution of the long-term European budget across the various European funding programs. Horizon Europe is the 9th framework program for research and innovation, which was launched in early 2021 and boasts a budget of 95.5 billion euros over seven years, making it the largest and most ambitious funding program ever adopted in the history of the European Union.

What’s new

Horizon Europe follows the just-completed Horizon 2020 program, retaining those elements that have proven to be most effective and functional and improving those that have been weakest. In general, the program has undergone simplification on all levels, from the rules, to the models, to the forms of funding with the aim of making the most of and exploiting the results of research and fostering greater concrete impact of actions at the technological, scientific, social and economic levels.

Access to Horizon Europe European funds: who can participate?

The program is open to participation by individuals and legal entities, including individual researchers, SMEs, industries, public and private research centers, universities, public administrations, and civil society organizations, either individually or in partnership, according to the eligibility criteria provided for each action. Where required, partnerships must be defined according to an appropriate geographical allocation of partners. In fact, to participate in European projects in Horizon Europe, a partnership of at least 3 partners from 3 different countries, including at least one EU Member State is required. Finding partners for European projects is therefore a key element in ensuring the scalability and transnationality of the proposal.

European grants in Horizon Europe: what do they fund?

European calls for proposals 2021-2027 for the new program will aim to support highly innovative research and innovation projects that support scientific and technological excellence to enhance European competitiveness internationally and strengthen innovative capacity to build a more inclusive, just and sustainable European Union. Specifically, Horizon Europe aims to contribute to the following objectives:

  • Green Transition: supporting the climate goals of the Green Deal and Paris Agreement and making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050;

  • Digital Transition: help build the decade of Digital Europe in all sectors;

  • Sustainable Development Goals: help achieve the UN-defined Sustainable Development Goals by 2030;

  • Next Generation EU: supporting Europe’s economic and social recovery following the pandemic.

The 5 “Missions” of Horizon Europe

Research is a key element in advancing societies and enhancing European competitiveness internationally. The new Horizon Europe framework program was defined with the aim of enhancing research activities at the European level, expanding the spread of excellence, and maximizing the concrete impacts of actions at the economic, social, technological, and scientific levels. For this reason, one of the main novelties of Horizon Europe is the approach based on research and innovation missions, designed to provide solutions to some of the greatest challenges of our days. Specifically, the “Missions” represent a portfolio of actions-research projects, policy measures, or legislative initiatives-directed at implementing a new approach to addressing some of the most pressing global challenges and offering an innovative method for funding research projects that will help find ambitious but realistically feasible solutions within a given timeframe. 

The missions will be pursued through an interdisciplinary approach and are organized into 5 “areas”:

Fighting cancer

Fighting climate change

The health of oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters

Smart cities

The health of soil and food

The 3 “Pillars” of Horizon Europe: the structure

The basic structure of the previous Horizon 2020 program is an element of continuity in Horizon Europe. In fact, the division into three main pillars has been maintained, although substantial changes were applied within each pillar, especially for the second and third pillars, greatly simplifying the program. The three pillars reflect some of the European Commission’s overarching goals of strengthening international scientific competitiveness, addressing the most pressing global challenges with the support of research, and developing innovation in all sectors.

It aims to strengthen the scientific excellence of the European Union through a bottom-up approach to support researchers and strengthen collaboration between research infrastructures at the European level. The Pillar 1 sub-programs are:

  • European Research Council (ERC)
  • Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCAs)
  • Research Infrastructures

It aims to identify joint actions with multi-stakeholder participation through the definition of European partnerships to develop solutions that help address major global challenges and strengthen industrial and technological competitiveness for inclusive and sustainable growth. The “clusters” identify the main thematic areas under which actions are grouped to strengthen the impact of research and innovation in the implementation of EU policies:

  • Health
  • Culture, creativity and inclusive societies
  • Civil security for society 
  • Digital, industry and space 
  • Climate, energy and mobility 
  • Food, bioeconomy, natural resources, agriculture and environment.

It aims to support the development of disruptive innovations in different sectors and with the potential to create new markets and eco-systems that foster the diffusion of innovation at all levels. 

  • European Innovation Council (EIC)
  • European Innovation Ecosystems (EIE)
  • European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)

This is a cross-cutting action across the entire Horizon Europe program, thus covering all three Pillars, which aims to implement concrete measures in support of the expansion of the European Research Area (ERA) by strengthening the spread of excellence and reforming the European Research and Innovation System.

Do you want to enter the world of European funding?

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