Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe is the European Union’s new Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. During its 7-year duration (2021 to the end of 2027) and with a total budget of around 95 billion euros, the best ideas from European/international research consortia and individual researchers are to be funded. The range of funding opportunities covers almost the entire value chain, from basic research to ready-to-market products. Funded projects should contribute to building a knowledge- and innovation-based society and a competitive economy in order to successfully meet the major challenges facing our society.

Funding is granted in the course of mainly thematic calls (top-down) along the programme structure explained below. However, in some programme parts, such as the European Research Council (ERC) or the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA), applicants are thematically free and can develop their own ideas without content-related restrictions (bottom-up).

Details on the different program areas:

Excellent Science (Pillar 1):

As in Horizon 2020, Pillar 1 contains the more basic research-oriented programmes. The mainly open-topic calls are partly aimed at individual researchers, but also at research consortia.

The European Research Council (ERC) is seen as the European excellence programme and funds excellent individual researchers and their teams. The Starting Grants (StG) are directed at researchers between 2-7 years and the Consolidator Grants (CoG) between 7-12 years after their doctorate. The Advanced Grants (AdG), on the other hand, are not subject to any formal requirements, but applicants must have an outstanding scientific track record over the last 10 years. Synergy Grants (SyG) fund projects of two to four promising Principal Investigators. The ERC Proof of Concept (PoC) funding line is aimed at scientists who have already carried out a Starting, Consolidator, Advanced or Synergy Grant and who would like to assess their research results for social or economic added value.

The mobility activities of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) are primarily aimed at the career development of researchers. The funding schemes known from Horizon 2020 will be continued in Horizon Europe under a different title and with slightly different rules. The MSCA Doctoral Networks (MSC-DN) are transnational networks for doctoral training. The MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships (MSC-PF) support individual researchers who have completed their doctorate and wish to further their career through a research or training project within the framework of a European Postdoctoral Fellowship or Global Postdoctoral Fellowship. The MSCA Staff Exchanges (MSC-SE) programme aims to promote intersectoral, international and interdisciplinary collaborations through the exchange of staff and knowledge. MSCA COFUND supports existing as well as new regional, national and international programmes for the training, mobility and career development of doctoral and postdoctoral researchers. The well-known European Researchers’ Night, which aims to raise public awareness of the importance of science, is now open for applications under MSCA and Citizens.

The Research Infrastructures aims to provide Europe with an excellent infrastructure of e.g. facilities, equipment, resources, databases and services for the development of new knowledge, as well as to make them accessible to all researchers in Europe and optimise their use.

Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness (Pillar 2):

Pillar 2 combines the pillars “Industrial Leadership” and “Societal Challenges” known from Horizon 2020. It is now divided into six thematic clusters for which there will be separate work programmes (usually running for 2 years) with the corresponding call descriptions. These will be carried out according to the top-down principle, i.e. the topics for which calls for proposals are issued are thematically predefined. There will be different types of activities with different objectives and stages of research and development. The so-called Research and Innovation Actions (RIA) primarily aim to generate new knowledge, whereas the Innovation Actions (IA) start later in the research and innovation cycle and aim less at the creation of new knowledge but rather at the further development of already existing innovations, products and services. In most cases, the EU will also provide information on the so-called Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) in the course of the calls for proposals. Coordination and Support Actions (CSA) are accompanying measures such as standardisation, dissemination, awareness-raising and communication, networking, coordination or support measures.

Missions: One of the most important changes in Horizon Europe is the introduction of so-called missions. Inspired by the Apollo 11 mission in the 1960s, thematically defined missions will help find solutions to the most important global challenges facing our society within a defined time horizon. The missions will be located in funding pillar 2 and comprise the following mission areas:

  • adaptation to climate change including societal transformation
  • cancer
  • healthy oceans, seas coastal and inland waters
  • climate-neutral and smart cities
  • soil health and food

IInnovative Europe (Pillar 3):

The funding of (market-creating) innovation-related activities is supported in Pillar 3 by the European Innovation Council (EIC), the European Innovation Ecosystems and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. The EIC Pathfinder (Open/Challenge), which is seen as the follow-up to the well-known Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) in Horizon 2020, plays an important role for university applicants.

Widening participation and strengthening the European Research Area:

Horizon Europe should contribute to ensuring and further expanding Europe’s global competitiveness. To achieve this goal, it is important to strengthen cooperation in Europe and to further reduce the gap in research and innovation performance, i.e. to specifically involve countries with low R&D output (above all the so-called EU-13 countries). This is to be achieved through the Widening Participation and Spreading Excellence sub-programme. In the Reforming and Strengthening the European Research and Innovation System sub-programme, research and innovation in Europe are to be strengthened and the impact of the European Research Area is to be supported. These goals should be achieved through a wide variety of measures such as open science practices, gender equality, ethics and integrity, science communication, etc.