Horizon Europe – lighting the path to innovation

The next research and innovation framework programme (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. At present, Horizon Europe budget is proposed of €75.9 billion earmarked for research and innovation from 2021 to 2027.

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.

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

Background

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.

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

The Strategy is a living document, so there will be further updates.

Novelties

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).

Budget

On 20 July, EU national leaders agreed the budget of €75.9 billion for Horizon Europe, and an additional €5 billion for the pandemic recovery fund.

In 2018, the European Commission proposed a budget of €83.5 billion for the new framework programme. Earlier this year, that figure was revised to €80.9 billion, which was subsequently increased in May, with €13.5 billion expected from the Covid-19 reconstruction fund to total €94.4 billion (all in relation to 2018). However, the latest proposal is bringing that figure down to only €5 billion.

Nevertheless, the budget story is not over yet. Next, the European Parliament will have a say; and it usually supports research funding far more than national finance ministers.

Structure

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.

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%.