Horizon Europe Funding Programme: Pillars and Partnerships

Horizon Europe Funding Programme

What is Horizon Europe and main pillars of this funding programme? Horizon Europe proposal template and associated countries.

What is Horizon Europe?

Horizon Europe is the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation with a budget of €95.5 billion. The Horizon Europe programme (2021-2027) is the EU’s largest investment in supporting and accelerating research and innovation in Europe.

Four Pillars of Horizon Europe

The Horizon Europe pillars are:

Pillar 1: Excellent Science

Excellent Science part of Horizon Europe focuses on supporting and funding frontier research. The European Research Council (ERC), which funds top-level science, and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, which support researcher mobility, are both part of this pillar. Additionally, the pillar includes a development programme for research infrastructures.

Pillar 2: Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness

Pillar 2 of Horizon Europe consists of themes mainly implemented as consortium projects between participants from at least three member states or associated countries. The themes are divided into six clusters:

  1. Health
  2. Culture, Creativity and Inclusive Society
  3. Civil Security for Society
  4. Digital, Industry and Space
  5. Climate, Energy and Mobility
  6. Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment.

Pillar 3: Innovative Europe

Innovative Europe part of Horizon Europe aims to support research to produce European innovations. One of the framework programme’s novelties, the European Innovation Council (EIC), is included in the pillar. The objective of the EIC is to support European growth by translating research excellence into breakthrough innovations and by helping pioneering companies to become global market leaders. The EIC will therefore fund both multidisciplinary research consortia focusing on early-stage technology research and new initiatives and the commercial development of research results, in particular global-level scale-up. Additionally, the pillar supports the development of European innovation ecosystems.

Pillar 4: Widening participation and strengthening the European Research Area

Horizon Europe includes a part that contains so-called widening actions that contribute to building research and innovation capacity for countries lagging behind and that reform and enhance the European Research Area.

Missions of the Programme

In the Horizon Europe context, missions or social missions are a tool for solving major societal challenges. Through clear, time-limited, and targeted thematic assignments, the aim is to set a political agenda and create popular commitment for the social missions.

There will be separate mission announcements. Initially, funds will be announced for a limited number of preparatory projects through so-called co-ordination and support actions. During the summer of 2021, the EU will decide whether and how the mission areas will be implemented on a full scale. During the autumn of 2021, the EU will announce funding for several projects under five mission areas.

The programme funds technological developments, innovation scaling and international growth as well as cutting-edge research, training and international mobility of researchers. The Horizon Europe programme facilitates collaboration and strengthens the impact of research and innovation in developing, supporting and implementing EU policies while tackling global challenges.

It supports creating and better dispersing of excellent knowledge and technologies. It creates jobs, fully engages the EU’s talent pool, boosts economic growth, promotes industrial competitiveness and optimises investment impact within a strengthened European Research Area.

Horizon Europe Partnerships

Participating is open to all types of organizations from EU countries and the so-called associated countries. However, the competition is fierce and only top-notch proposals can expect funding. Furthermore, most calls require a consortium of 3 partners from different EU or associated countries. Information on the latest funding and tender opportunities can be found in the EC Portal.

The Horizon Europe partnership is open to universities, higher education institutions, research institutes, businesses, individual researchers and other organisations performing or utilising research, such as an association or a city from EU member states and horizon europe associated countries.

The Horizon Europe programme provides funding for research and innovation projects carried out in international cooperation and research projects carried out by individual researchers. In Horizon Europe calls, experts from different fields are invited by the European Commission to review the project proposals received, and only the best are funded.

Three different types of partnerships

Co-programmed European Partnerships

Co-programmed European Partnerships are public-private partnerships between the European Commission and associations representing the large stakeholders involved in specific fields. They are based on an arrangement between the Commission and private and/or public partners.

This type of contractual arrangement specifies the objectives, the commitments from all sides involved regarding financial and/or in-kind contributions, the key performance and impact indicators, the outputs to be delivered and the reporting modalities.

The agreements also include the identification of complementary research and innovation activities, detailed in Strategic Research and Innovation Agendas that are implemented separately by the partners and by the EU through work programmes, where they are allocated ring-fenced budgets.

Co-funded European Partnerships

Co-funded European Partnerships are public-to-public partnerships, based on a grant agreement between the Commission and the consortium of partners in which national and regional funding programmes on a common thematic are pooled together, normally with an EC top-up, to launch joint trans-national calls for proposals. This type of partnership is best suited to partnerships involving public authorities, but it is possible also to include foundations and international partners.

The programmes need to specify the objectives, key performance and impact indicators, and outputs to be delivered, based on the commitment of the partners for financial and/or in-kind contributions and the integration of their relevant activities.

Institutionalised European Partnerships

Institutionalised European Partnerships cover research and innovation programmes undertaken by several Member States. This type of partnerships are based on a Decision by the Council and European Parliament, in accordance with different legal sources. They are often referenced to as “Article 185” for partnerships executing national programmes, and ”Article 187” for what in Horizon 2020 was called Joint Undertakings. This category now also includes the EIT Knowledge and Innovation Communities, in compliance with the EIT Regulation and the EIT Strategic Innovation Agenda (SIA).

Such partnerships will be implemented only where other forms of European Partnerships would not achieve the objectives or generate the expected impacts, and if they are justified by a long-term perspective and high degree of integration. In fact, they normally cover very specific value chains, where a significant integration of private and public research and innovation efforts are needed to achieve the results of ambitious Strategic Research and Innovation Agendas.

How to apply

The application process consists of the following five steps, quite similar to the former Horizon 2020 programme:

1. Find the suitable call to cover your needs.

Call for proposals is published on the Funding and Tenders portal, where applicants can find the scope of funded activities and relevant details.

2. Find your partners (if applicable).

Are you applying alone or as a consortium? The requirements for the consortium are defined in the relevant Horizon Europe call text so read that carefully.

3. Register your organization to EU Funding and Tenders Portal.

Start the process. Whether you are a single applicant, consortium leader or a partner in a consortium, you need to register your organisation to EU Funding and Tenders Portal. By doing so, you will receive a Participant Identification Code (PIC) which you will need in the application process.

4. Write your application.

This is when the hard work needs to be done as you need to convince the evaluators that you have everything needed to get the necessary funding! Applications come in many shapes and sizes depending on what you are applying for. They range from 5-pager equivalents (EIC Accelerator Step 1) to 300 pages (Key Digital Technologies) and may have several required annexes. Most commonly, proposals are split into Excellence, Impact and Implementation sections.

There are some programmes (e.g. the new EIC Accelerator) where the whole application process has changed and it is now through an AI interactive platform (e.g. the new EIC Accelerator). The plan of EC is to apply with digital application transition to more and more programmes within the overall Horizon Europe, thus keep yourselves updated for potential changes in the applications processes.

5. Wait for the evaluation.

After submitting the application, you can sit back, relax and wait for the results!

Innovation Manager and Horizon Europe

Get in touch to find out how we can help you write a proposal that wins Horizon Europe funding.