Horizon 2020 is the most important programme of the European Union devoted to research and innovation. It aims at introducing the great ideas conceived in the laboratory on the market. To this purpose, loans for 80 billion euros payables in a period of 7 years (2014 - 2020) have been made available.
Horizon 2020 enjoys the political support of the Europe leaders, who agree that the investment on research and innovation is essential for the future of the Union and have made him protagonist of the Europe 2020 strategy for a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Horizon 2020 is contributing to the achievement of this objective by associating the research to innovation and focusing on three key areas: scientific excellence, industrial leadership and challenges for society. The objective is to ensure an European development in science and technology able to stimulate economic growth.
Scientific excellence, competitive business and social challenges are pivotal factors of Horizon 2020. A focused loan helps to ensure that the best ideas are marketed more quickly and then spread on the market.
Horizon 2020 is divided into 3 pillars (Work Programmes) corresponding to its main priorities:
- Pillar I: Scientific Excellence (441 Billion €: 31,73 % of the total budget) aims at increasing the quality of European science base, supporting the best ideas, developing talents in Europe, providing to researchers the access to the best research infrastructures and making Europe a more attractive place for the best researchers in the world.
It is divided into 4 different programmes:
- Frontier research funded by the European Research Council (ERC), organism that funds excellent researchers of any age and nationality who intend to carry out frontier research activities in EU Member States or Associated Countries. The ERC main objective is to uphold the excellence, enhancing the dynamism and the creativity in European research of frontier. The strategic objective is to support projects of high-risk research, managed by Principal Investigators (PI) with important curricula at international level. Projects will be funded based on project ideas submitted by researchers, in any field of science, without fixed topic and evaluated depending only on the scientific excellence criteria. In brief, the ERC intends to support the work of the best European researchers in all scientific, technical and academic fields and put excellence at the heart of European research. The ERC also promotes the frontier research entirely started on the initiative of researchers with a “bottom-up” approach.
- Future and Emerging Technologies (FET): state-of-the-art new technologies will maintain Europe competitive and will create new highly specialized jobs. The objective is to promote technologies radically new by means of the exploration of new ideas and high risk founded on scientific bases, identifying and seizing the opportunities of long-term benefit to citizens, economy and society.
- Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions: career training and development help to produce prominence researchers. The main objectives are projects funding for the training and mobility of researchers and the strengthening of skills, training and development of researchers career, also through staff separation to share knowledge exchange and good practice.
- Global level Research Infrastructures (RI): research equipment can be so complex and expensive that no single research team - or even country - can afford to buy, build it or make it work alone. The objective of this program is to finance resources and services used by researchers or companies on a large scale, as big as scientific equipment, archives, databases and other ICT technologies (software, super computers, etc.).
- Pillar II: Industrial Leadership (17.016 billion €: 22,09 % of the total budget) aims to make Europe a more attractive place to invest in research and innovation (including eco-innovation), promoting activities organized by the companies. It aims at bringing a large investment to essential industrial technologies, promoting growth in European companies by providing them with adequate levels of funding, and helping innovative SMEs to become leading companies worldwide.
It is divided into 3 programmes:
- Leadership in supporting and industrial technologies: to be the best in its field, Europe must invest in promising and strategic technologies, as those used for advanced manufacturing and micro-electronics. Objective: To encourage companies to invest more in research, and aim to the areas where they can work with the public sector, in order to promote innovation. Companies earn and become more innovative, efficient and competitive. In turn, it creates new jobs and business opportunities.
- Innovation of SMEs (SME Instrument): small and medium-sized enterprises - a crucial source of employment and innovation - receive particular attention in the context of Horizon 2020. They can collaborate on projects as part of a consortium and may receive support through a dedicated tool created specifically for smaller highly innovative businesses. The integrated and simplified nature of Horizon 2020 will increase the participation of SMEs up to at least 20% (8.65 billion euros) of totals budgets included the themes "Leadership in supporting and industrial technologies" and "challenges for society". The instrument for SMEs will be central to reach this objective because it will help the individual SMEs, or the SMES consortium, to evaluate the feasibility on the market of their ideas in the high risk phase and after to further develop these ideas. They are also available loans for training and orientation on how to identify and attract private investors. The specific financing for this tool is at least of 3 billion euros.
- Access to risk capital. Objective: to contribute to correct the market’s failures concerning the access to risk capital for research and innovation, increasing the private sector willingness to invest and thus contributing to the achievement of a key objective of Europe 2020: 3% of EU GNP invested in research and development by the end of the decade.
- Pillar III: Challenges of society (29.679 billion €: 38,53% of the total budget) reflects the strategic priorities of the Europe 2020 strategy and deals with more important worries shared by European citizens and other countries, by bringing together the resources and knowledge from different sectors, technologies and subjects, including social sciences and humanities (whose development is supported in particular in the specific context of "inclusive, innovative and safe companies"). It would fill activities that ranging from research to marketing, focusing on those related to innovation, such as pilot projects, shows, test beds and support to public contract and trade adoption. Activities involve the entire life cycle that goes from basic research to market, with a new emphasis on activities related to the innovation, such as pilot actions, shows, tests to support and to conduct invitations to tender, planning, social innovation and innovations marketing. Given the global nature of many challenges, strategic cooperation with third countries is an essential part of the pillar.
The EU has identified in this context, seven key challenges:
- Health, demographic change and wellness: to improve health and welfare throughout life.
- Food safety, sustainable agriculture, navy/maritime research, bio-economy: producing the best from our biological resources in a sustainable manner.
- Safe, clean and efficient energy: to improve toward a reliable energetic system, sustainable and competitive, in times of growing scarcity of resources, of the increase in demand for energy and climate change.
- Intelligent green and integrated transport: to realise a European transport system efficient in terms of resources, environmentally friendly, safe and beneficial to citizens, economy and society.
- Climate Action, resource efficiency and raw materials: to ensure an efficient economy in terms of resources and capable of reacting to climate change as well as a sustainable supply of raw materials, to meet the needs of a growing world population.
- Europe in a changing world - inclusive, innovative and reflective companies: to strengthen solidarity and social inclusion, economic and political and intercultural dynamics positive in Europe and with international partners, by means of a cutting-edge science, technological and interdisciplinary advances and organizational innovations. In this case humanistic research can play an important role. And, on the other hand, promoting the development of companies and innovation policies in Europe by means of citizens, businesses and users loyalty as regards research and innovation as well as the promotion of research and innovation policies coordinated within the framework of globalization.
- Secure Companies - freedom and security protection of Europe and of its citizens: to support community policies of internal and external policy and ensure security, trust and informatics discretion on the single digital market, at the same time improving the Union security competitiveness, of ICT and services sector. Activities:
- Fight against crime and terrorism
- Strengthening safety thanks to border management
- ICT security
- An increase in Europe’s ability to deal with crises and disasters
- Strengthening the social dimension of security
In addition, HORIZON 2020 provides the following horizontal activities (independent pillars):
- Spread excellence and expand participation. Objective: to take fully advantage of the potential of existing talents in Europe and ensure that benefits of an economy based on innovation are maximized and distributed widely throughout the Union in accordance with the principle of excellence through groupings and twinning between research centers and researchers.
- Science and Society. Objective: to build an efficient cooperation between science and society, to recruit new talent for science and to match scientific excellence with social responsibility.
- Direct actions by the Joint Research Center, the domestic scientific service of the European Commission, which aims to provide independent technical support and based on scientific evidence and on the EU policies when they are defined. Objective: To provide a scientific and technical support to EU policies, based on request, with the necessary flexibility to respond to new strategic needs (anticipation and prevision on trends and events that occur in science, technology and society and their possible implications for public policies; analysis of fundamental scenario; policy analysis; assessment of the political choices impact).
- European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). Objective: to integrate the knowledge of research, innovation and education; to strengthen the capacity of EU innovation; and to face the society challenges.
- The Euratom program, whose overall objective is to improve nuclear safety and radiation protection and contribute to the decarbonisation of long-term energy system in a safe and efficient way.
- Research and development actions can be linked to activities aimed at new knowledge or to explore the feasibility of a new or improved technology, of a product, of a process, of a service or a new solution. To this end they may include basic research, technological development and integration, validation and testing of a prototype on a small scale in a laboratory or in a simulated environment. The projects may contain demonstration activities closely related to research, but limited or pilot actions to demonstrate the technical feasibility in an environment close to the operative one.
- Innovative actions are mainly constituted by activities aimed directly at plans, projects or designs for new, modified or improved products, processes or services of production. To this end they may include prototyping, experimentation, demonstration, testing, validation of the product on a large scale and replication on the market. The activity proposes to support the first market application/diffusion of an innovation that has already been shown, but not yet applied or distributed on the market.
- Any subject which has legal personality: companies, universities and research centres that have an office in one of the Member States or in an Associated State or in a third country (with the possibility of exceptions depending on the call).
- Normally, at least 3 independent legal entities and located in 3 different EU Member States or associated.
- For the SME Instrument the applicants shall be classified as a small or medium enterprise and may make application both in a single form that in an associated form.
- State Members of European Union
- Associated Countries (see the complete list)