Horizon Europe

The next research and innovation framework programme (2021 – 2027).

Horizon Europe – Lighting the Path to Innovation

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. Its strategic planners are using a complex funding structure with a consortium of public-private partnerships to enhance opportunities for all Europeans.

The EU is investing substantial resources towards alleviating common problems facing its citizens: human resources, industrial modernization, infrastructure, and inter-regional collaboration. At present, €100 billion is earmarked for research and innovation from 2021 to 2027. Europe plans to transform science leadership into global leadership in entrepreneurship and innovation by 2027.

The Commission is focusing on impact by fostering systemic changes across Europe. Improving job opportunities, scientific excellence, and creative innovation, the Horizon Europe proposal supports cross-functional teams to drive economic growth and create better living conditions.

Three pillars of Horizon Europe

Excellent Science Global Challenges & Industrial Competitiveness Innovative Europe
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. 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 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.

Within the fourth component Widening Participation and Strengthening the European Research Area Horizon Europe supports 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. The programme offers 3,3% of the budget (compared to around 1% in Horizon 2020) for actions such as spreading excellence, capacity building, and knowledge transfer.

“Horizon Europe will have simpler rules, cutting red tape for beneficiaries”, European Commission


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.

Strategic planning

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.

The first strategic planning is supposed to cover the first four years of the programme. Once it is finalized, Horizon Europe work programmes will be co-created and developed with all relevant Commission Services, Member States, stakeholders, and civil society. Stakeholder consultations play an important role in Horizon Europe's strategic planning, more than 8 000 people contributed already to both on- and offline discussions .

Openness in collaboration is extremely important in Horizon Europe, resulting in synergies with other programmes and international cooperations, or in new tools like European Open Science Cloud. The EC looks to solve the global issues together through the exchange of knowledge, putting together the best researchers, innovators, and resources for joint innovative solutions.


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: adaptation to climate change & societal transformation; cancer; healthy oceans, seas, coastal, & inland waters; climate-neutral & smart cities; health soil & food.

Another important novelty is a separate focus on Innovation within a new pillar – Innovative Europe and the new European Innovation Council. It aims to support innovative start-ups and companies with the most promising innovative ideas to scale up their activities by offering fast, flexible grants, and market-based instruments (including training, coaching, and mentoring).


In 2018, the EC budget designated €100 billion to support H2020 and its associated programmes. In agreement with the EU budget, planners wish to allocate €97.6 billion in funding to Horizon Europe programmes and €2.4 billion for Euratom research and training. Since member states must approve the budget unanimously, in addition to a simple majority in the European Parliament, negotiations will likely result in budget changes or reductions.

The European University Association supports an even higher funding threshold to create extensive job opportunities from research and innovation. An analysis by Universities UK predicts that Horizon Europe would generate enormous growth by adding £95 billion to Britain’s economy and creating more than 940,000 job opportunities in the UK alone.

Advocates are seeking to secure public support for these initiatives, which may increase EU science spending by 50 percent, by 2027. Some EU members oppose the new funding plan because it calls for cuts to agriculture spending and reallocating funds to other projects. Horizon Europe is also more expensive than almost €80 billion budgeted H2020. Opponents call the new budget unacceptable, and independent agencies predict a significant reduction to the budget prior to final approval. Yet, experts predict that Horizon Europe will contribute €11 to Europe’s GDP over the next 25 years for every Euro invested.

In an unprecedented effort, the European research and innovation associations jointly demand that the EU increase the budget for Horizon Europe in its multi-year budget 2021-27 to at least 120 billion euros.


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.


Some European universities are fighting to change Horizon Europe budget distribution, claiming that innovation funding increases are being made at the expense of research money. It is one of several challenges that the proposal faces in obtaining final budgetary approval, with some researchers noting that the 22 percent increase in funding is not equitably distributed.

On 21 March 2018 13 groups, including several research universities, claim the existing funding is not sufficient, because it only supports one in five quality research proposals. These groups support approving additional funding to increase GDP by nearly 50 percent over the project’ implementation period.

Some experts suggest that the proposal lacks significant health research funding to address global health problems, such as malaria and tuberculosis. Horizon Europe designates 8.2 percent of the budget to health research, down from 9.7 percent in the H2020 proposal.

These concerns are subjective, as stakeholders throughout Europe stand to benefit from Horizon Europe’s funds. The negotiation process may involve hotly contested, diverging viewpoints on the best way to fund this extensive project and how to draft an agreement that adds value in a manner that satisfies the various sectors.

Increase efficiency and lower costs

Several details of the programme still need to be clarified in the course of next year, but it is already time for potential applicants to reflect on what project ideas and partnerships they would like to launch, and in particular how to make the collaboration during the project planning effective.

With a success rate of less than 12% in H2020, your project proposal must be accurate and prepared efficiently. With EMDESK you can optimize collaboration and cut down administrative burden by more than 30%.