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Horizon Europe

EU R&D under Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 is the EU’s primary instrument for direct funding of scientific research. It compliments funding for research capacity building under the EU’s Structural Funds and operates in parallel with related funding mechanisms such as COST.  

Horizon 2020 was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council at the end of November/beginning of December 2013 in time for the first calls to be published on 11 December 2013. Horizon 2020 will constitute Europe’s primary EU-level instrument for direct funding of scientific research, development and innovation over the period 2014 to 2020. It will incorporate three existing programmes into a common strategic framework: 

  • The Framework Programmes for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration.
  • The Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme.
  • The European Institute of Innovation and Technology.

Under the original European Commission proposal, the objective of Horizon 2020 is stated as supporting the implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy and other Union policies as well as the achievement and functioning of the European Research Area. These strategic policy objectives are threefold: 

  • Excellent Science: Elevating Europe’s level of excellence and competitiveness in scientific research.
  • Industrial Leadership: Maximising competitiveness impacts of research and innovation and Europe’s industrial leadership in these sectors.
  • Societal Challenges: Tackling major EU and global societal challenges, such as unemployment, food and energy security, climate change, renewable energy, health.  

The Horizon 2020 framework has been planned as a structural catalyst for innovation in Europe. Its market-driven approach relies on building partnerships with the private sector and Member States in order to bridge the gap between research and the market in the EU and on a global level. Funding will target activities where intervention at an EU level brings added value—compared to intervention at national or regional level—to promote the EU-level scientific and technological base and foster an improved EU community.


With a total budget of Horizon 2020 amounts to nearly €80 billion and in constant prices €78.6 billion.

  • R&D funding will go to achieving Europe 2020’s objective to increase spending of GDP on R&D to 3% by 2020;
  • 31.7% funds towards “Excellent science” (approximately €13 billion will be reserved for the European Research Council, €6.1 billion for Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions, €2.4 billion for European research infrastructures, while €2.6 billion will go to supporting Future and Emerging Technologies);
  • 22% funds towards “Industrial leadership” (contains special support for the participation of SMEs, Key Enabling and Industrial Technologies as well as Access to risk finance);
  • 38.5% funds towards research for a “Societal challenges” (e.g. Health, Food security and Energy security, Transport, Climate and resources, Inclusive and Secure societies);

Innovative Features of Horizon 2020

In November 2011, the European Commission proposals for Horizon 2020 outlined a research funding framework that will be distinctive from previous programmes in a range of ways. The political negotiations that followed resulted in a package with the following key features which distinguish it from previous framework programmes: 

  • Simplified structure and processes 
  • Permanent open calls for proposals
  • Increased focus on SMEs 
  • Enhanced role for the European Institute of Innovation and Technology
  • Synergies with Cohesion Policy and the Structural Funds
  • Focus on societal challenges
  • Added emphasis on International Cooperation with third countries

International Cooperation under Horizon 2020


In a communication on the strategic approach to international cooperation under Horizon 2020, the European Commission identified international cooperation as a central component of several key EU priorities: 

  • Strengthening the Union’s excellence and attractiveness in research and innovation; 
  • Tackling global societal challenges;
  • Supporting the Union’s external policies. 


International Cooperation – A core feature of Horizon 2020

As a central aspect of the EU’s strategic approach to these priorities, international cooperation is a mainstream feature across all aspects of Horizon 2020. Unlike FP7, there is no particular funding instrument for international cooperation. Instead, Horizon 2020 is fully open to participation from third countries.  While no specific funding scheme for international cooperation is expected under Horizon 2020, there is an instrument for supporting joint calls between the EU and Third countries or international organisations, with the possibility of co-funding on each side. 

Associate Countries

Associated countries – those countries with the closest form of cooperation which has been implemented with non-EU countries – play a key role in EU Framework Programmes. Such countries participate formally and contribute to the framework programme budget. In return, organisations and researchers in Associated countries participate on an equal footing with their equivalents in EU Member States. Associated countries will play a key role in Horizon 2020, as under FP7, although they are required to negotiate updated agreements specifically for Horizon 2020.


Third Countries and Biregional Cooperation

Bi-regional or multilateral cooperation is to be encouraged where appropriate. In terms of cooperation with particular third countries, the strategy differentiates between three groupings of countries:

  • Industrialised and emerging economies (receiving funding under specific conditions)
  • Enlargement and neighbourhood countries (automatically qualify for funding)
  • Developing countries (automatically qualify for funding)


Research Infrastructures and International Collaboration

Horizon 2020 will facilitate the development of global research infrastructures, support cooperation of European research infrastructures with global counterparts, ensure their global interoperability and pursue international agreements on reciprocal use, openness and co-financing. 


International Collaboration and Societal Challenges

Tackling societal challenges, one of the three overarching objectives of Horizon 2020, is by nature a global challenge common to all countries. They will therefore provide a natural basis for cooperation with global partners. Societal Challenge 6 - “Europe in a changing world – inclusive, innovative and reflective societies” - is likely to be a particular focus for such cooperation: it will support bilateral, multilateral and bi-regional policy dialogues in research and innovation with third countries, regions, international fora and organisations; networking and twinning activities; coordination of EU and national cooperation policies. 

Horizon 2020 and Global Challenges

Horizon 2020 is a key instrument in addressing the challenges facing Europe’s research and development landscape. More broadly, it addresses wider societal concerns shared by citizens in the European Union and in the world and aims to bring together resources and knowledge across different fields, technologies, and disciplines to tackle global challenges, including health, food security and sustainable agriculture, green economic development, and freedom and security.  

A session on Horizon 2020 was held at the conference EU Science: Global Challenges, Global Collaboration (ES: GC2), which was organised by ISC Intelligence in Science from the 4th to the 8th of March 2013. This conference was held at the European Parliament in Brussels and provided a unique platform for members of industry, research and academia, policy makers and decision makers to address the major issues and developments in their respective fields.  

The session Horizon 2020: Europe’s Major New Collaborative Research Programme explored the opportunities for global collaboration in ICT in Horizon 2020 and focused on the solutions that innovations in ICT can bring to global challenges. The importance of ICT in the development of many areas, from healthcare to commercial services, was highlighted, and the panellists discussed projects which exemplify the far-reaching applications of ICT innovations. Speakers included David Soldani, Vice President of the Huawei European Research Centre; Professor Jonathan Blackledge, Science Foundation Ireland Stokes Professor at the Dublin Institute of Technology; Desmond Fitzgerald, fellow of the European Society of Cardiology and the American Heart Association; Luis Rodríguez Roselló, Head of Unit of Network Technologies from DG CONNECT of European Commission; and Dr Kieran Delaney, R&D Manager of the Nimbus Centre at Cork Institute of Technology. 


How to Participate in Horizon 2020

Each year the European Commission publishes work programmes outlining how they intend to fund particular areas of research. Funding is disbursed through a system of Calls for Proposals, which are published on the Cordis website of each year. These calls are preceded by the publishing of annual work programmes which outline research priorities for the year. This provides the official trigger for applications for funding under the Framework Programme.


First Steps

Members of the research community hoping to secure funding for collaborative projects must typically follow several steps:

  • Establish a research vision
  • Consult the Horizon 2020 participation rules
  • Seek research partners in other Member States 
  • Submit an application to the European Commission, according to the Commission’s annual Calls for Proposals deadlines and dedicated work programme. 

Guide to Horizon 2020

In March 2013, ISC convened a major associated event of the Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU which explored the potential of EU science to support the global response to global challenges. Horizon 2020 was identified as a key instrument in this regard and attention must now turn to putting ideas into action.

To support this process, and as follow up to the March 2013 conference, ISC is now providing concise and relevant information on Horizon 2020 through a guide which can be downloaded here. Interested parties can gain an overview of the structure, purpose and aims of Horizon 2020, an analysis of its innovative features, the negotiation process towards political agreement and first steps towards participating in the programme.

Horizon 2020 Calls

The European Commission published the first calls for Horizon 2020 on 11 December 2013.  The calls can be accessed under the following link.


Contact details

ISC has a unique set of skills and experience as a partner in the Calls for Proposals process. We have deployed these attributes to disseminate R&D information effectively, to raise decision-maker awareness of R&D excellence and develop R&D profiles in an EU context for innovative organisations. 

For anyone interested in contacting us about the Horizon 2020 Calls for Proposals, please contact: