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What’s on the R&I Horizon in Europe – planned changes for 2021-2027

Time is ticking fast – it seems that we have just all gotten used to Horizon 2020 rules and trends and the programme is suddenly nearing its end. While there are still many calls with the deadlines in 2020 (and I encourage you not to yield to the proposal writing fatigue and actually go through the Funding and Tenders Portal and start applying), there is a buzz already around the funding available for 2021-2027 within the next R&I Programme – Horizon Europe.

There are many documents, presentations and online discussions on Horizon Europe. I was personally following the relevant updates, carefully studied available materials and strategic orientation documents and provided my contribution to the  stakeholder consultations online on shaping the future programme. Stakeholder consultations are an important part of Horizon Europe strategic planning and as of now more than 8000 people contributed to the discussions online and during the R&I Days organized in Brussels this September.

In this blog post I will try to summarize main points I think are important to consider in preparation for Horizon Europe.

  • The planned launch date for Horizon Europe is January 2021, the overall planned budget is around 100 billion EUR.
  • The three pillars in Horizon Europe will be a bit different: Pillar I - Excellent Science, Pillar II - Global Challenges and Industrial Competitiveness and Pillar III – Innovative Europe, all three together addressing fundamental science, global challenges and (open) innovation.
  • Innovation enjoys a separate focus within a new pillar – Innovative Europe.

A European Innovation Council (EIC), a new funding body, will be set up. The EIC will support breakthrough disruptive deep tech innovations as well as rapid scale up of innovative companies. It will offer fast, flexible grants and market-based instruments supporting all types of innovators (from individuals to universities, research organisations and companies). Apart from financial support, training, coaching and mentoring will be provided.

  • Horizon Europe will also establish open access as modus operandi for project results. The EC sees Open Science as “the way research is carried out, disseminated and deployed and transformed by digital tools, networks and media”. Therefore, in Horizon Europe openness in research is encouraged and new support tools will be set up.For example, a European Open Science Cloud will facilitate the processing of huge amounts of scientific data and sharing of scientific results for better access to knowledge and innovation. The open access will follow the principle of “as open as possible, as closed as necessary” and will include additional incentives and/or obligations for beneficiaries.
  • Pillar II will be organized around 6 Clusters – Health; Culture, Creativity and Inclusive Society; Civil Security for Society; Digital, Industry and Space; Climate, Energy and Mobility; Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment. Each of the Clusters will contribute to reaching specific UN Sustainable Development Goals as these goals serve as reference points in reshaping the overall EU policy agenda.
  • Research will be mission-oriented. Specific missions will be defined – a set of clear objectives to be achieved in concrete areas by a portfolio of projects. The solutions to complete these missions should be developed using a bottom-up approach. Therefore, in Horizon Europe, less prescriptive calls will be published, enabling researchers to choose the ways and types of actions themselves to deliver the expected impact. Evaluations may be different from mission to mission with a possibility of adapting to different portfolio of projects.
  • Horizon Europe encourages openness in collaboration through synergies with other programmes and international cooperation. The EC believes in tackling the global challenges together through the exchange of knowledge, know-how, putting together the best researchers and innovators and resources for joint innovative solutions. Targeted actions will be launched (joint calls, flagship initiatives) as well as further facilitation of funding application under several programmes will be introduced.
  • Horizon Europe will offer more support (3,3% of the budget compared to around 1% in Horizon 2020) for actions aimed at Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation. In practice, Teaming and Twinning activities supporting the capacity building and knowledge transfer to countries that rank lower in terms of R&I performance.
  • For the first time, in line with Horizon Europe’s approach to partnerships, all partnerships, from ERA-NETs to JTIs, FET Flagships and even the EIT/KICs will be uniformly labelled as ‘European Partnerships’ as subdivided into Co-funded, Institutionalized and Co-programmed.

As a separate important note, Horizon Europe will be all about impact and supporting EU policy priorities. Achieving impact stands at the centre of the Horizon Europe programme, the general objective is to deliver scientific, technological, economic and societal impact. Therefore, the programme will set Key Impact Pathways to track progress of individual projects and the R&I funding overall. In practice, beneficiaries should be ready for continuous reporting, including post project, enhanced dissemination and exploitation activities and providing more data via new monitoring instruments. The EC will also offer support through Horizon Results Platform and new functions on the Funding and Tenders Portal for timely diffusion of project results to relevant stakeholders.

In summary, the aim of this ambitious R&I programme is to complement and transform EU’s leadership in science into leadership in innovation and entrepreneurship and tackle global challenges in future through foresight and preparedness.

I hope you found this blog post useful. Do you think you are now prepared for the next 2021-2027 funding period? Would you like to check your knowledge on Horizon Europe? I created a short  interactive exercise for you to test your understanding of planned changes.

You are also welcome to join me for the upcoming webinar on Horizon Europe where we can discuss the planned changes together!