Rue d’edimbourg 26, 1050 Bruxelles

From technological development to the circular economy and more inclusive societies: the Horizon (is) Europe

A four-pronged plan for investment in research and innovation in Europe over the next four years.

A roadmap to transform economies and citizens’ lives by restoring a balanced and healthy relationship with nature

Source for the photo:

Promote open strategic autonomy by driving the development of key digital technologies, sectors and value chains. Restore Europe’s ecosystems and biodiversity and manage natural resources sustainably. Make Europe the first circular, climate-neutral and sustainable economy, enabled by digital technology. Creating a more resilient, inclusive and democratic European society. These are the four strategic guidelines for investment in research and innovation under Horizon Europe for the next four years. It is worth noting that international cooperation underpins all four guidelines, as it is essential to address many global challenges.

The European Commission has specified that the Strategic Plan also identifies co-funded and co-programmed European partnerships and EU missions to be supported through Horizon Europe. The partnerships will cover critical areas such as energy, transport, biodiversity, health, food and circularity. While EU missions will address global challenges that affect people’s daily lives by setting ambitious and challenging but achievable goals, such as fighting cancer, adapting to climate change, protecting the oceans, greening cities and protecting soil and food. Using a wide range of instruments in different disciplines and policy areas, EU missions will address complex issues through research projects, policy measures or even legislative initiatives.

The orientations of the plan also address a number of horizontal issues, such as gender. In fact, gender mainstreaming will be a default requirement in research and innovation content throughout the programme, unless it is specified that sex or gender is not relevant to the topic in question.

The European Commission stressed that the strategic plan is a novelty within Horizon Europe and sets out the strategic guidelines for determining investments in the first four years of the programme. That is why it is “an ambitious plan for an ambitious programme”.

“The plan presents a framework for research and innovation activities of the highest quality and based on excellence that will be carried out under the Horizon Europe work programme,” highlighted European Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager. “Through this strategic orientation we ensure that investment in research and innovation can contribute to recovery based on green and digital transition, resilience and open strategic autonomy,” she added.

“The Strategic Plan guidelines will ensure that new knowledge, ideas and innovations will benefit the EU’s common policy priorities. This new approach is another way to ensure that EU-funded research and innovation addresses the challenges faced by Europe’s citizens,” continued Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.

What is Horizon Europe?

Horizon Europe is the EU’s main funding programme for research and innovation with a budget of €95.5 billion for the period 2021-2027. It addresses climate change, helps achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and promotes EU competitiveness and growth. The programme facilitates collaboration and strengthens the impact of research and innovation in developing, supporting and implementing EU policies, while addressing global challenges. It supports the creation and better dispersion of excellent knowledge and technologies.

It creates jobs, fully engages the EU talent pool, stimulates economic growth, promotes industrial competitiveness and maximises the impact of investments within a strengthened European Research Area. Participation is open to legal entities from the EU and associated countries.

New elements in Horizon Europe

The new elements of Horizon Europe are, first of all, the European Innovation Council, to support breakthrough and disruptive innovations with expansion potential that may be too risky for private investors. This is 70% of the budget allocated to SMEs. Missions, i.e. a set of measures to achieve bold, challenging and measurable objectives within a given timeframe. There are 5 main mission areas as part of Horizon Europe. The open science policy, i.e. mandatory open access to publications and open science principles are applied throughout the programme. A new approach to partnerships, with goal-oriented and more ambitious partnerships with industry in support of EU policy objectives. The challenge for Europe is to embrace open science as a modus operandi for all researchers.

The five mission areas are: adapting to climate change, fighting cancer, safeguarding water, achieving 100 smart cities, and a soil agreement. More specifically: adapting to climate change means supporting at least 150 European regions and communities to become resilient to climate change by 2030. Combating cancer means working with the European Cancer Plan to improve the lives of more than 3 million people by 2030 through prevention, treatment and solutions to live longer and better. Water conservation translates into working to restore Europe’s ocean and waters by 2030. Smart Cities aims to have 100 climate-neutral cities by 2030. Finally, the European soil agreement translates into 100 living laboratories to guide the transition to healthy soils by 2030.

Open science is about sharing knowledge, data and tools as early as possible in the research and innovation (R&I) process, in open collaboration with all relevant knowledge actors, including academia, industry, public authorities, end-users, citizens and society at large. Open science has the potential to increase the quality, efficiency and impact of R&I, lead to greater responsiveness to societal challenges and increase society’s trust in the scientific system.

Work programmes set out funding opportunities under Horizon Europe

A specific programme under Horizon Europe is implemented through: the main work programme and the coverage of other work programmes. Within the main work programme are Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions and research infrastructures under the first pillar, i.e. the one entitled ‘Excellent Science’; all clusters under the second pillar, i.e. the one related to global challenges and European industrial competitiveness; European innovation ecosystems under the third pillar, i.e. the one entitled ‘Innovative Europe’; the part widening participation and strengthening the European Research Area. Within the coverage of other work programmes, we find the European Research Council (ERC); the Joint Research Centre (JRC); the European Innovation Council (EIC).

Next steps

The European Commission has announced an information day for the Horizon Europe work programme on widening participation and strengthening the European Research Area (ERA). It will take place virtually on 27 April 2022 (10:00-12:00). The information day will focus on two types of new calls: first, the Hop-On Facility, which creates the possibility for legal entities established in low performing the R&I Member States to participate in already selected actions. Secondly, the ERA Talents call, aims to attract more research and innovation talent with different skills to entities in expanding countries. In addition, there will be a brief overview of the European Research Area policy. The following Q&A will give participants the opportunity to ask any remaining questions. Anyone wishing to obtain information on how to participate can go to:

Giulia Torbidoni – PFE