From Horizon 2020 to Horizon Europe, a new ambitious program for research and innovation funding in Europe.

Horizon 2020, the Research and Innovation EU program with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) is coming to an end and will be succeeded by Horizon Europe (2021 to 2027), with a higher budget (nearly €100 billion), and an ambitious program more focus on innovation, research, and individuals.

This overview aims to better understand Horizon Europe, its main differences with the last funding program, its boosted strategy on open innovation with a budget of €13 500 million, presenting more opportunities for the private sector in Luxembourg (e.g. SMEs including start-ups (24.483,496 total SMEs[1]) than the previous framework programme, and finally provide you some guidelines of how to increase your chances to be funded under the program Horizon Europe.

For this purpose, we addressed the following questions:

  1. Horizon 2020 to Horizon Europe, which are the major differences in the strategic planning process and budgeting?
  2. Why Horizon Europe is a relevant financing source for the private sector?
  3. Based on past framework programmes, how can the private sector prepare efficient and competitive proposals under Horizon Europe to enhance their chances to be financed?   

First, one of the major changes between Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe is the allocated budget. As part of the EU’s next long-term budget for 2021-2027, the Commission proposed on 7 June 2018 to devote €94.1 billionfor Horizon Europe compare to €74.8 billion for Horizon 2020[2]. The budget was approved this year by the Council and the European Parliament (EP).

This is the largest budget ever allocated to funding projects, which reflects the collective ambition and commitment to make Europe a global leader, in the creation and diffusion of high-quality knowledge and technologies.  Within the overall Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF), Horizon Europe is one of the programmes for which the proposed budget increased the most: 26% more than Horizon 2020, in a context of competing priorities and limited resources.

Regarding the structure of the new program, it is divided into 3 Pillars as Horizon 2020, however multiples changes have already been done, to reinforce research and innovation in Europe[3].

  • Pillar I “Excellent Science” has an allocated budget of €25,800 million for the period 2021-2027, presenting a 5.26% increase compared to H2020.
  • Pillar II “Global Challenge and Industrial Competitiveness” (gathering different clusters on health, culture, creativity, civil security, digital, industry, climate, energy, etc) has an allocated budget of €52,700 million for the period 2021-2027, presenting a 43.68% increase compared to H2020.
  • Pillar III “Innovative Europe”, has an allocated budget of €13,500 million for the period 2021-2027. This Pillar’s program budget cannot be compared to H2020 has it is slightly different from “Industrial Leadership”.
  • Part “Strengthening the European Research Area” has an allocated budget of €2,100 million for the period 2021-2027.

The new FP Horizon Europe has been improved based on past programmes, and on feedback from the event “European Research & Innovation Days” hold for the first time before the launch of the programme. This event allowed to co-create strategic priorities through stakeholder dialogue, and shape Horizon Europe with policymakers, stakeholders, academic research, SMEs, private companies, etc.

A novelty from Horizon Europe is the incorporation of research and innovation missions to increase the effectiveness of funding by pursuing clearly defined targets. There are 5 major missions which are; Climate Change, including Societal Transformation; Cancer; Healthy Oceans, Seas, Coastal and Inland Waters; Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities; Soil Health and Food. These missions will be implemented through a systemic approach, combining new knowledge and technology with a business model, finance, regulatory, governance, skills, and social innovation. Furthermore, Europe offers new advantages to develop new products, and services when it comes to innovation, putting Europe at the forefront of the upcoming digital transformation period. The improved Pillar 3 “Innovative Europe”, led by the European Innovation Council (EIC), with a total budget of €10,500 million, aims to support innovations with breakthrough and disruptive natures and scale-up potential that are too risky for private investors.

Starting at the end of 2019 and with continuation in Horizon Europe, the enhanced EIC Pilot is bringing several novelties in: Accelerator blended finance for innovative SMEs with potential to scale-up, global substantial support up to €17,5 million (€2,5 million in Grant plus €15 million in equity), additionally the EIC will provide an Advisory Board made of 15 to 20 entrepreneurs, investors, individuals building start-up communities, innovative researchers and academics working on innovation policy. There are two EIC Pilots:

  1. EIC Pathfinder Pilot: Supports researchers, innovators and innovative companies with ideas relating to future and emerging breakthrough technologies with a grant.
  2. EIC Accelerator Pilot: Provides innovators and innovative companies with blended finance (grants and equity).

Moreover, Fast Track to Innovation (FTI), a bottom-up opportunity also part of the EIC’s Working Programme, will allow consortia to fast go-to-market of industry-driven, innovative concepts to grow and scale-up by providing only grants, capped at €3 million contributions. Following the same concepts as the EIC pilots, there will be three cut-off dates in 2020 with an available budget of €100 million that will be continued in the next MFF.

This new framework brings plenty of opportunity for innovation and collaboration at the European and international levels, however, it certainly comes with a high level of competition. Currently, the average success rate for H2020 is 12%, being 17% in Luxembourg, whose innovative organizations are managing €125 million in EC contributions and have signed 339 grants ever since the Programme started. More and more Luxembourgish entities are interested in this type of programmes to finance their innovation, nevertheless, applicants need to be prepared[4].

It is very important to start working on innovative proposals months before deadlines, as this Programme requires a high level of coordination from partners for the proposal preparation, being as complicated as another type of subvention from private investors. This trend will just continue in Horizon Europe, with evaluators giving increasingly more relevance to the following aspects:

  • All Pillars should emphasize the importance of innovation in the proposal set-up and should be reflected depending on the project’s topic, in the technology/service provided, in the data storage and management, communication and exploitation of the results, etc.
  • Europe now has a unique opportunity to shape the next wave of the digital revolution: in the upcoming years, new technologies will fundamentally transform traditional industries and enter into everybody’s daily life, well beyond just communication habits. For that reason, new tenders’ opportunities encourage the implementation of digital tools in targeted sectors such as health, finances, energy, etc.
  • Proposals should emphasize more on qualitative research, find the way people think and feel their social realities impacting the product/service developed (e.g. diary accounts, open-ended questionnaires, participants observation, ethnographies, etc)  
  • Tenders for Innovation and Action projects are encouraged to upscale their technologies and develop more pilot scales.
  • The EC is changing the way in which the topic of Gender is treated in proposals by homogenizing the number of women and men submitting proposals.
  • Concerning the dissemination, communication parts in a proposal, participants should amplify and diversify the way they share knowledge from their projects, by promoting or emphasizing other issues (in different areas) that could be solved using the service or technology developed in their project (e.g. the H2020 project REMOVAL, has organized a workshop addressing EU regulatory framework which is applied to different residues from other metal sectors[5])
  • Regarding the exploitation part, participants should define since the beginning the IP/IPR they want to implement for the technology transfer at a R&D level and at a commercial level (e.g. Search patents already in the market, Screening for the technology at a legal and market point of view and finally before starting the project carry on the contractualization of the transaction (MoU, NDA, MTA, etc).  
  • Collaborative and innovative European projects introduce more and more digital data to develop new products in different sectors. The generated data have to be stored, managed and protected (e.g. IoTWINS H2020 and AI4EU H2020 projects are designing Edge-based Big Data test-beds and an AI platform, respectively, to support this ecosystem and share resources in a protective way, with a quite developed data management strategy[6].)

All these changes in the new programme are supported by an improvement in the communication between tenders, and the EC through the simplification of the “Funding & Tenders Portal” that intends to better support the tenders in the process of submission, and management of EU projects. Moreover, NCPs (National Contact Points) as essential contributors of the framework programme, would be more prepared by the EC to better guide tenders on their proposals.

In brief, Horizon Europe, picking up from where H2020 left, will fund ground-breaking research and innovation, create up to 320.000 new highly-skilled jobs by 2040, strengthen links between the EU Members States and beyond, and provide evidence for other EU policy areas and programmes.

This financial framework programme will bring interesting opportunities for Luxembourgish organizations that wish to develop and market innovation at all levels of development, taking further aspects like open innovation and giving priority to transversal aspects as digitalization, IP protection, and socio-economy. With this, the European Commission is trying to make sure that Europe’s competitivity and social awareness are well at the core of one and every project.

Results on past framework programmes have shown to present a poor communication towards the society, poor decisions on IP and IPR influencing the exploitation of results, and bad analysis of the data generated along with the project development.  As experts in financing, we often find that key aspects in evaluations are neglected, such as communication and dissemination of the project (technology, value chain, citizen engagement, etc.), exploitation of the results (IP/IPR), data analysis, management and security, digitalization aspects and knowledge management.

If you are a Luxembourgish company interested in this type of opportunity, do not hesitate to contact the Luxembourgish contact points that will always be willing to guide you: do not let non-technical features get in the way of your research and technologic market uptake. Be ready for Horizon Europe.

[1] Eurostat, National Statistical Offices, DIW Econ

[2] Commission proposal for Horizon Europe (2021-2027): press release, factsheet on Horizon Europe, factsheet on R&I success stories  

[3] Idem.  




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