Horizon Europe – lighting the path to innovation (2021-2027)

Horizon Europe – investing to shape our future

Europe is putting forth a great effort to improve and sustain the continent’s robust growth and development, while creating a better quality of life. Horizon Europe is the most ambitious programme ever implemented to address the ills of society. Within the long-term budget 2021-2027 the Programme will receive €95.5 billion. The EU is investing substantial resources towards alleviating common problems facing its citizens: human resources, industrial modernization, infrastructure, and inter-regional collaboration. Europe plans to transform science leadership into global leadership in entrepreneurship and innovation by 2027. Its strategic planners are using a complex funding structure with a consortium of public-private partnerships to enhance opportunities for all Europeans.

Three pillars of Horizon Europe

Excellent Science

This pillar supports researchers through fellowships, exchanges, and funding the projects defined and driven by researchers themselves. The pillar operates within European Research Council, Marie-Skłodowska-Curie Actions, and Research Infrastructures.

Global Challenges & Industrial Competitiveness

This pillar fosters directly research related to societal challenges around issues that worry us daily, such as health, climate change, clean energy, mobility, security, digital, materials, etc. For that the Joint Research Centre provides EU with independent scientific evidence and technical support. Within this pillar and throughout the programme as a whole the industrial leadership is supposed to get prominent.

Innovative Europe

Innovative Europe is a new pillar which aims to make Europe a front runner in market-creating innovation. A new funding body, the European Innovation Council offers a one-stop shop for high potential and breakthrough technologies and innovative companies. The pillar includes as well the activities of European Innovation Ecosystems and European Institute of Innovation and Technology.

Widening Participation and Strengthening the European Research Area, the fourth component, support European Member States in developing their national research and innovation capacities. A special focus is put on encouraging countries that perform lower in research and innovation to succeed in Horizon Europe.

Background of the Programme

On June 7, 2018, the European Commission (EC), published its 9th framework proposal to address innovation shortfalls and improve research and technological advancements, called Horizon Europe. The new proposal enables programme achievements to be measured, while ensuring strategic management and budgetary flexibility.

Additionally, a European Innovation Council has been tasked with supporting creative innovations and ideas to ensure that Europe remains a strong leader in the global economy. This initiative will offer select innovators all the start-up support and funding they need to bring bright ideas into the market.

Key performance indicators for Horizon 2020 (H2020) include 65,000 researchers under Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions or 25 publications plus 1 patent application for every €10 million in FET funding. Horizon Europe focuses on improving the objectives in the previous framework, H2020, by supporting a broad range of member state science and research projects.

Horizon Europe will include research and innovation missions to increase funding efficiency by achieving clearly defined goals. The lessons learned from the H2020 Interim Evaluation, motivate four Key Novelties in Horizon Europe – European Innovation Council (EIC), R&I Missions, extended association possibilities and open science policy, and a new approach to partnerships.

Mission boards are spearheading five major initiatives – to end cancer, address climate change, clean oceans, develop climate-neutral cities, and produce healthy food. Each of these five boards consists of 15 well-respected experts from a pool of talented citizens along with academic, financial, and industry leaders. These experts will contribute creative ideas for resolving regional, national, and international issues.

Horizon Europe Strategy

The areas of funding priorities, partnerships, and missions of Horizon Europe will be set in line with the strategic planning approach and will take the form of a multiannual strategy. The European Comission stresses the importance of the planning to remain flexible in order to respond quickly to unexpected crisis or substantiated policy demands.

Thus, work has been ongoing on Horizon Europe’s Implementation Strategy, which presents the framework for carefully designed rules and effective processes throughout the life cycle of the programme and project. As the European Commission claims the Strategy focusses on the following objectives:

  • Maximising impacts
  • Ensuring greater transparency and further simplification
  • Fostering synergies with other EU spending programmes
  • Easing access through digital transformation and outreach

Missions of the Programme

One of the main novelties in Horizon Europe is the mission-orientation – a set of certain objectives connected with the key societal challenges aimed to be achieved with project portfolios. The missions relevant to a broad range of stakeholders and to citizens should be completed using a bottom-up approach.

There are five mission areas aimed to address some of the world's biggest challenges:

  • Conquering Cancer – the Mission’s goal is “By 2030, more than 3 million lives saved, living longer and better”
  • Accelerating the transition to a climate-ready and climate-resilient Europe – "By 2030, the Mission will prepare Europe to deal with climate disruptions"
  • Regenerating our oceans and waters – the Mission’s goal is to reach "full recovery and regeneration of European marine and freshwater ecosystems by 2030"
  • 100 Climate Neutral Cities by 2030 - by and for citizens – the Mission’s goal is to "support, promote and showcase 100 European cities in their systemic transformation towards climate neutrality by 2030”
  • Caring for the soil is caring for life – the Mission’s goal is to “ensure that 75% of soils are healthy by 2030 and are able to provide essential ecosystem services”

Horizon Europe Budget

The new EU research and innovation programme will have a budget of around €95.5 billion for 2021-2027.

This includes €5.4 billion from Next Generation EU to foster recovery and make the EU more resilient for the future, as well as an additional reinforcement of €4.5 billion. The overall Horizon Europe budget represents a 30% increase comparing against Horizon 2020 and makes it the most ambitious research and innovation programme in the world.

Structure of the Programme

Horizon Europe supports an inclusive structure that widens collaboration and enhances research and innovation systems throughout the continent. The three pillars support the creation and diffusion of excellent knowledge, expected outcomes, including expanding access to research, improving economic opportunity, and innovating collaborative processes.

Mission boards will propose and implement specific objectives, relating to areas of expertise, such as cancer prevention, climate change, and food resources. These proposals encourage engagement from citizens to ensure alignment with EU priorities. The overall impact will bridge the gap between citizens and the innovations that affect their daily lives.

Researchers expect to resolve global challenges and improve conditions worldwide by targeting ground-breaking initiatives. Sustainable goals will address societal needs, as outlined in the proposal. Regional innovations will also benefit Europe’s innovation ecosystems to ensure advantages for its citizens in technology, economics, science, and health.

EMDESK checklist for Horizon Europe – Towards a successful participation

Download and share with your colleagues our helpful at a glance Horizon Europe checklist, which shows all the key elements for a successful preparation to your Horizon EU project.

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