What to expect from Horizon Europe

Following Horizon 2020’s success, Horizon Europe is set to continue to keep the EU at the forefront of global research and innovation, but what are they going to do differently?

Horizon Europe will build on the achievements and success of the previous research and innovation programme (Horizon 2020) and keep the EU at the forefront of global research and innovation. Horizon Europe is the most ambitious research and innovation programme ever.

Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said “Investing in research and innovation is investing in Europe’s future.

“EU funding has allowed teams across countries and scientific disciplines to work together and make unthinkable discoveries, making Europe a world-class leader in research and innovation.

“With Horizon Europe, we want to build on this success and continue to make a real difference in the lives of citizens and society as a whole.”

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, added: “Horizon 2020 is one of Europe’s biggest success stories. The new Horizon Europe programme aims even higher.

“As part of this, we want to increase funding for the European Research Council to strengthen the EU’s global scientific leadership and reengage citizens by setting ambitious new missions for EU research.

“We are also proposing a new European Innovation Council to modernise funding for ground-breaking innovation in Europe”.

While continuing to drive scientific excellence through the European Research Council (ERC) and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowships and exchanges, Horizon Europe will introduce the following main new features:

  • New EU-wide research and innovation missions focusing on societal challenges and industrial competitiveness: Under Horizon Europe, the Commission will launch new missions with bold, ambitious goals and strong European added value to tackle issues that affect our daily lives. Examples could range from the fight against cancer, to clean transport or plastic-free oceans. These missions will be co-designed with citizens, stakeholders, the European Parliament and Member States.
  • Maximising the innovation potential across the EU: Support will be doubled for Member States lagging in their efforts to make the most of their national research and innovation potential. Moreover, new synergies with Structural and Cohesion Funds will make it easy to coordinate and combine funding and help regions embrace innovation.
  • More openness: The principle of ‘open science’ will become the modus operandi of Horizon Europe, requiring open access to publications and data. This will assist market uptake and increase the innovation potential of results generated by EU funding.
  • A new generation of European Partnerships and increased collaboration with other EU programmes: Horizon Europe will streamline the number of partnerships that the EU co-programmes or co-funds with partners like industry, civil society and funding foundations, in order to increase their effectiveness and impact in achieving Europe’s policy priorities. Horizon Europe will promote effective and operational links with other future EU programmes, like Cohesion Policy, the European Defence Fund, the Digital Europe Programme and the Connecting Europe Facility, as well as with the international fusion energy project ITER.

The Joint Research Centre (JRC), the Commission’s science and knowledge service, will continue to contribute with scientific advice, technical support and dedicated research.

The proposed budget allocation of €100bn for 2021-2027 includes €97.6bn under Horizon Europe (€3.5 bn of which will be allocated under the InvestEU Fund) and €2.4bn for the Euratom Research and Training Programme. The Euratom programme, which funds research and training on nuclear safety, security and radiation protection, will have an increased focus on non-power applications such as healthcare and medical equipment, and will also support the mobility of nuclear researchers under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions.

Horizon Europe
© iStock/FlamingoImages

Looking forward to Horizon Europe

A swift agreement on the overall long-term EU budget and its sectoral proposals is essential to ensure that EU funds start delivering results on the ground as soon as possible. Delays would force Europe’s brightest minds to look for opportunities elsewhere. This would imply the loss of thousands of research jobs and harm Europe’s competitiveness.

From fundamental research to market-creating innovation, key advances in healthcare, climate action, green transport and sustainable agriculture would slow down; solutions for cancer treatments, greenhouse gas emissions, smart cars, and healthy diets would be delayed.

An agreement on the next long-term budget in 2019 would provide for a seamless transition between the current long-term budget (2014-2020) and the new one and would ensure predictability and continuity of funding to the benefit of all.

The three pillars

  • The Excellent Science pillar supports frontier research projects designed by researchers through the European Research Council (ERC). This also funds fellowships, the distribution of research and invests in research infrastructures.
  • Secondly, the Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness pillar supports research into societal challenges. This reinforces technological and industrial capacities and sets goals tackling some of Europe’s biggest problems. This pillar will also support partnerships with Member States, industry and other stakeholders.
  • The final pillar, the Innovation pillar aims to ensure Europe is a frontrunner in market-creating innovation and SME growth through the European Innovation Council. This will help the overall European innovation landscape.

The structure holding these pillars together, the Widening participation and Strengthening the European Research Area underpins the whole of Horizon Europe. It is set to support EU Member States in their efforts to unlock their national research innovation potential and it will especially help low R&I performing Member States to participate in Horizon Europe.


The R&I window aims to make financing for innovation available across the innovation cycle and corporate development cycle. The challenge will be to develop a window that is both inclusive and in line with specific mission challenges. The only exceptions are the European Innovation Council’s specific financial instruments, which will be funding extremely promising but high-risk projects that cannot meet the ‘bankability’ criteria of InvestEU.

Commissioner Carlos Moedas, responsible for Research, Science, and Innovation, said: ”I warmly welcome this agreement with the strong support for the new European Innovation Council and our mission driven research agendas.

“We are now on track to launch the most ambitious ever European research and innovation programme in 2021, shaping the future for a strong, sustainable and competitive European economy and benefiting all regions in Europe.”

Looking back to Horizon 2020

The Horizon Europe proposal builds on the success of the current programme, Horizon 2020. The interim evaluation of Horizon 2020 showed that the programme is on track to help create jobs and growth, tackle our biggest societal challenges and improve people’s lives. It shows that the programme has clear European added value, producing demonstrable benefits compared to national or regional-level support. As of May 2018, it has supported over 18,000 projects with over €31bn awarded.

Horizon Europe
© iStock/tortoon

Today’s proposal also builds on the Commission’s contribution to the EU Leaders’ meeting on 16 May in Sofia “A renewed European Agenda for Research and Innovation – Europe’s chance to shape its future”, which highlighted the needed steps to ensure Europe’s global competitiveness.

About two-thirds of Europe’s economic growth over the last decades has been driven by innovation. Horizon Europe is expected to generate new and more knowledge and technologies, promoting scientific excellence, and to have positive effects on growth, trade and investment and significant social and environmental impact.

Each euro invested by the programme can potentially generate a return of up to €11 of GDP over 25 years. Union investments in R&I are expected to directly generate an estimated gain of up to 100 000 jobs in R&I activities in the ‘investment phase’ (2021-2027).

Horizon Europe is seven-year research and innovation programme set up by the European Union. The programme will be running from 2021 all the way through to 2027. The project is designed to all Horizon Europe to serve all the ambitions for the Political Guidelines of President-elect von der Leyen.

The programme’s general objective is to deliver scientific, technological, economic and societal impact from the Union’s investments R&I, this will strengthen the scientific and technological bases of the European Union and foster its competitiveness in all member states.

Horizon Europe has a proposed budget of €100bn, this funding is set to span over a seven-year period. Horizon Europe has the potential to generate significant economic, social and scientific returns. According to the European Union’s impact assessment, Horizon Europe has the potential to deliver up to €11 in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) gains for every euro invested, potentially creating 320,000 new highly skilled jobs by 2040.


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