WHAT IS HORIZON 2020 ? Horizon 2020 is the European Framework Programme for research and innovation. It is subsequent to FP7 and covers the period 2014-2020. Horizon 2020 supports research and innovation projects and programmes in ground breaking basic research, strategic and applied research, demonstration projects and close-to-market activities. Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness. In principle Horizon 2020 combines all research and innovation funding previously provided through the Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development, the innovation related activities of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). The total budget of Horizon 2020 will be 70.2 billion EUR for the period 2014-2020.

WHAT IS A SOCIETAL CHALLENGE? Societal Challenges are a number of areas where European society faces significant socio-economic challenges. Concerns about these challenges are shared by citizens across Europe and is characterized by the fact that solutions cannot be found within an acceptable timeframe without major technological breakthroughs. The nature of the challenges is hence a high degree of complexity involved in finding a solution and the need for an interdisciplinary approach in addressing them. Societal Challenges are addressed in one pillar of Horizon 2020. The idea of this pillar of Horizon 2020 is to support the development of new, interdisciplinary, innovative and impact-oriented solutions to such (predefined) challenges. It also supports European companies in developing products and services for European consumers and for global export. There are seven societal challenges in Horizon 2020. Please also see What is the structure of Horizon 2020?

WHAT IS INCLUDED IN INDUSTRIAL LEADERSHIP? Industrial Leadership is the second pillar of Horizon 2020 and is supposed to boost the competitiveness of European industry by developing Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies, LEIT (for example ICT, nanotechnologies, materials, biotechnologies and space technologies), to be deployed in new products and services. Industrial leadership also includes financial instruments to help companies (SME's in particular) getting access to risk finance and activities to help SMEs bringing new innovations to the market. Please also see What is the structure of Horizon 2020?

WHAT DOES SIMPLIFICATION MEAN? Compared to previous European research and innovation programmes Horizon 2020 intents to simplify access to funding by applying the same set of rules across the three pillars of Horizon 2020. The funding model is a simplification compared to previously as the same funding rates for direct and for indirect costs will apply to all types of participants whether they are research institutions, companies or public authorities. Furthermore, the aim is to shorten the period from a call is published to the selected projects can start ( time to grant) by on average 100 days and to make use of considerably fewer audits of the granted projects. Calls will be more open and all project administration from issuing a proposal to final reporting will be digitalized and web-based. Please also see "What will rules of participation look like in Horizon 2020?"

WHAT DOES INNOVATION MEAN? Funding for innovation activities is included in Horizon 2020 to improve market uptake of new technologies, processes and concepts. Activities which may receive financial support include prototyping, testing, demonstrating, piloting, large-scale product validation and market replication. Horizon 2020 emphasizes that innovation is not only understood as new breakthrough technologies. It also includes the use of existing technologies in novel applications, continuous improvement, non-technological and social innovation.

HOW IS INTERDISCIPLINARITY TO BE UNDERSTOOD IN HORIZON 2020? Interdisciplinarity is not explicitly defined in the Horizon 2020 Specific Programme. The open and challenge-based approach in Horizon is expected to stimulate interdisciplinary proposals and projects and bring together all the disciplines, knowledge and methods needed to create impact and to develop the best solutions. Horizon 2020 should stimulate a break-down of the silos of different research disciplines and stimulate integration in order to maximize impact.

WHAT ARE CROSS-CUTTING ISSUES IN HORIZON 2020? The implementation of Horizon 2020 should contribute to the cross-cutting objectives across all three pillars of Horizon 2020. Such objectives include: Sustainable development and climate change: All Horizon 2020 priorities are expected to contribute to sustainable development and to combating climate change. Bridging from discovery to market application: Bridging actions are going to be applied across Horizon 2020. These actions are aimed at bringing discoveries to market application in order to exploit and commercialize ideas when and however they occur in EU-funded projects. Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH): Horizon 2020 includes a mainstreaming of SSH as an essential element of the activities needed to enhance industrial leadership through pillar two and to tackle all the societal challenges of pillar three. The Specific Programme of Horizon 2020 emphasizes the chapters where contributions from SSH in particular can be expected. Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs): Horizon 2020 is supposed to encourage increased participation of SME's. The target is that 20% of the Horizon 2020 budget should be allocated to SME's. Please also see How will SME's be able to participate in Horizon 2020? International cooperation, i.e. cooperation with non-EU member states and non associated countries: The EU Commission states that international cooperation in research and innovation is not an end in itself. It is a means for the EU to achieve its higher level objectives, in particular by: strengthening the Union's excellence and attractiveness in research and innovation, tackling global societal challenges and supporting the Union's external policies. Gender issues: Work Programmes will contain information on how imbalances between women and men should be addressed, and how a gender dimension will be integrated. Digital Agenda: The Digital Agenda is an ICT-led flagship initiative under the Europe 2020 strategy. The cross- cutting inclusion of the digital agenda in Horizon 2020 is aimed at implementing relevant parts of the digital agenda in order to to spur innovation, economic growth and to enable Europe to address key challenges.

WHAT IS THE SPECIFIC PROGRAMME? The Specific Programme is part of the legislative package that establishes Horizon 2020. It defines the implementation of Horizon 2020. The Specific Programme includes in broad terms the issues and activities to be covered during the seven years of Horizon 2020. The Specific Programme describes the programmes under the three pillars and activities and objectives of these programmes. The Specific Programme is implemented through biannual Work Programmes with announcement of call for proposals. The Specific Programme also covers the instruments that implement the Framework Programme.

WHAT IS A STRATEGIC PROGRAMME? The Strategic Programme is a novelty for Horizon 2020. It complements the Specific Programme by prioritizing particularly important issues and activities to be supported by Horizon 2020 over a three-year period. It is implemented through the biannual Work Programmes. The Strategic Programmes aim to ensure a flow and continuity between the biannual Work Programmes. It is expected that activities and focus areas included in the Strategic Programme will receive a relatively large part of the budget during the period it covers. Three Strategic Programmes are expected to be prepared under Horizon 2020 (2014-2016, 2016-2018 and 2018-2020). The strategic programme 2014-2016 will be official after its formal adoption together with the adoption of the first biannual Work Programme (most likely in mid-december 2013). This is illustrated in table below.

WHAT ARE THE ADVISORY GROUPS? The Advisory Groups are independent expert groups which the Commission consults during preparations of the work programmes. They consist of scientific or industrial experts who attend the groups in their own capacity. The experts are selected due to their expertise and ability to give independent advice. The first call for expression of interest in being a member of an Advisory Group was launched in early 2013. 

WHAT ARE THE PROGRAMME COMMITTEES? The Programme Committees (PC) are the member states' forum to give input to the Commission on the Work Programmes. The PCs approve the final version of the Work Programmes before the calls are published. All EU- countries and countries associated with Horizon 2020 are represented. The Programme Committees are also a link between the EU and national research systems. The Danish representatives in the Programme Committees are usually representatives from the Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation (FI), the relevant sector ministry (Environment, Food etc.) and an expert (scientist or industry representative).

WHAT ARE THE REFERENCE GROUPS? The Reference Groups is a Danish concept. These groups are established by the Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation (FI) in order to structure the dialogue between the Danish Programme Committee members and the Danish stakeholders, e.g. the universities, industry and interest organizations. For Horizon 2020, eight Reference Groups were established in March 2013.

WHO ARE INVOLVED IN THE EUROPEAN TECHNOLOGY PLATFORMS? Most European Technology Platforms (ETP) were established during FP6 and continued under FP7. The ETPs are industry-driven and aim at uniting stakeholders related to a specific sector. The members are from industry, research and technology organizations, academia and in some cases the member states. The technology platforms prepare strategic research agendas which define research priorities for the sector and draw up plans for implementation. The ETPs are expected to continue to play a role as consulted stakeholders in Horizon 2020 by delivering input to the biannual Work Programmes.



The use of 3 years Strategic Programmes to set the priorities in the Work Programmes

• Biannual Work Programmes

• A challenge-driven approach to the formulation of topics. Topic texts include the definition of a specific challenge, a scope which defines the elements addressed by selected projects and the expected impact of selected projects

• More emphasis on industry, innovation and linking research to deployment, market application and impact Horizon 2020 will combine all research and innovation funding previous provided through the Framework ,Programmes for Research and Technological Development, the innovation related activities of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).




HOW IS THE INTERACTION BETWEEN HORIZON 2020 AND OTHER EU FUNDING PROGRAMMES? All EU institutions support a better alignment between Horizon 2020 and other EU Programmes. In particular the alignment and complementary use of research funding and structural funds is encouraged. It is expected that the Commission will require regions to dedicate regional funds to e.g. innovation and education. Horizon 2020 will also interact with the COSME Programme targeting SMEs in order for SMEs participating in Horizon 2020 to obtain funding for market application and commercialization of research results.




HOW WAS THE PROPOSAL FOR HORIZON 2020 DEVELOPED? The overall policy discussions reflected in the Horizon 2020 proposal from the Commission dates back to 2008- 2009. The notion that research must contribute to solve the grand societal challenges of our time became a regular discourse with the Lund Declaration prepared during the Swedish EU presidency in 2009. Another essential factor was the midterm evaluation of FP7 published in 2010. The final proposal with its emphasis on jobs, growth and competitiveness reflects the economical situation and the financial crisis in Europe. In 2010 the current Commission took office and prepared the Europe 2020 strategy including the Innovation Union flagship. It created the basis for including innovation and competitiveness in the next framework programme. In early 2011 the Commission published a reflection paper “Common Strategic Framework” which suggested including the current research and innovation funding programmes under one umbrella (FP7, CIP and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology). At the same time a public consultation was launched. During 2011 the Commission also organized a number of thematic workshops where selected experts from different areas were invited to give their views on e.g. the content of the societal challenges. Finally, the Commission published its proposal on the 30 November 2011. Subsequently, it has been negotiated in both the European Parliament and in the Council of Ministers and since early 2013 in informal trialogues between the three main EU institutions.

HOW ARE THE WORK PROGRAMMES PREPARED UNDER HORIZON 2020? DG Research and Innovation (RTD) is responsible for preparing the Work Programmes. The Work Programmes are the result of a number of formal and informal consultations with various stakeholders. The collaboration between DG RTD and so-called policy DGs is more structured than previously and internal coordination and working groups have been established. The European Commission  also consults the Advisory Groups  and the Programme Committee during the preparations. In addition, a number of stakeholder groups are consulted more or less informally. It includes the European Technology Platforms, inputs from conferences, workshops and public consultations, ad hoc expert groups and informal dialogue with stakeholders.



HOW CAN ONE PREPARE FOR HORIZON 2020? To prepare for the call for proposals in Horizon 2020 it is important to get access to early Work Programmes which give an indication of the call content, requirements, timing of the call and deadlines. Preparation activities vary and can include: Establish a general network to work with Make early warnings among your core partners as soon as you see an interesting call text Establish or consider cooperation with private enterprises and/or end-users Consider innovation potential of the project Consider how to include different disciplines, also disciplines outside one’s usual scope Consider the societal or industrial impact of one’s project Contact relevant advisers as early as possible to get advice. Please also see “Where can I seek advice?”

HOW CAN ONE PROVIDE INPUT TO THE WORK PROGRAMMES? In general, direct contact with the Commission (DG RTD and relevant policy DGs) is important, often on an informal basis. It may be through meetings, by organizing thematic workshops or through participation in a stakeholder event organized by the Commission. Such activities are often useful in order to put forward scientific, innovative and impact related issues. Personal contact to Commission staff also provides a platform for topic related input to specific parts of the Work Programme. Contacts to members of Advisory Group  and Programme Committees Members at ISERD as well as active participation in a relevant European Technology Platform are other important channels to provide inputs. For some areas, the Commission may organize public consultations where all stakeholders may suggest future topics. Participating in COST actions and involvement in science policy active networks and/or scientific societies are platforms that allow you to attract the attention of Commission staff and other players involved in preparing the Work Programme to certain issues, challenges or needs.



WHAT WILL RULES OF PARTICIPATION LOOK LIKE IN HORIZON 2020? The Rules for Participation and dissemination  lay down the specific rules for participating in Horizon 2020 and the rules governing the dissemination of results from funded projects. The discussions on rules of participation are focusing on:


1. Structure There will be a single set of rules governing the formerly separated research (FP) and innovation (CIP) programmes and they will also apply to other Horizon 2020 activities such as the Article 185 initiatives and the Joint Technology Initiatives and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. The exception is the European Institute of Innovation and Technology which has its own set of rules.


2. Participants The Minimum number of participants in an action is at least three independent legal entities established in different Member States or Associated Countries. Exceptions where only one legal entity established in a Member State or Associated Country is required:

  • ERC
  • SME instrument
  • FTI-Fatst Track to Innovation
  • Programme co-fund actions
  • Justified actions provided for in the Work Programme or work plan
  • Support actions
  • Training and mobility actions

3. Funding Horizon 2020 will make use of the following forms of funding 12

  • Grants
  • Public procurement o Pre-commercial procurement
  • Procurement of innovative solutions
  • Prizes, including inducement prizes
  • Financial instruments: a debt financial instrument, an instrument providing equity finance for R&I, etc.

                  1.  Enhanced use of lump-sums (including output-based grants), flat rates and 

                    scales of unit

                  2.  A single funding rate:



-Up to 100% of total eligible costs

-Limited to maximum 70 % for actions close to market except for non- profit universities and research institutions who will be able to receive  up to 100%.

-One project = One rate (no different rates for different types of activities)



  • Indirect costs shall be determined by applying a flat rate of 25 % of the direct eligible costs.
  • Personnel costs:


- Wider acceptance of average personnel costs (scale of unit costs)

- Less requirements for time records: Researchers who work exclusively in a project will not be required to produce time records.


WHAT ARE THE INSTRUMENTS TO BE APPLIED UNDER HORIZON 2020? Horizon 2020 will in line with the former Framework Programmes FP6 and FP7, employ four different forms of funding: Grants, prizes, procurement and financial instruments . For each of these forms of funding a number of types of actions will be funded in Horizon 2020:



Types of actions:

  • Research and innovation actions
  • Innovation actions
  • FTI-Fast track to innovation
  • Coordination and support actions
  • Support to Pre-Commercial Procurement / Public Procurement of Innovative solutions
  • SME Instrument
  • ERA-NET (programme COFUND action)
  • European joint programme (programme COFUND action)
  • Marie Sklodowska Curie (MSCA) (includes COFUND action)
  • ERC Grants


Types of actions:

  • Inducement and recognition prizes


Types of actions:

  • Studies, advice, conferences, special service

4.Financial instruments

Types of actions:

  • Debt and Equity Facilities



As a general rule the answer is no. As long as the project produces the deliverables that have been agreed upon in the Grant Agreement with the Commission (e.g. reports, technical specifications, a prototype, a test period etc.) there will be no demands for re-payment based on an evaluation of the activities carried out in the project. However, when funding is performance-based lump sums or inducement prizes the funding is given on the condition that agreed upon outputs are delivered and milestones are reached. In those cases pay-back of any prefinancing given is a possibility.

HOW WILL SME’S BE ABLE TO PARTICIPATE IN HORIZON 2020? SMEs will be able to participate across Horizon 2020 and will be eligible in all instruments. SME participation will be supported across the Horizon 2020 pillars with the goal that 20 % of the budget will benefit SMEs. In addition, SMEs can make use of a new dedicated SME instrument. Only SMEs can apply for funding under this instrument. The SME instrument is open to highly innovative SMEs showing a strong ambition to develop, grow and internationalize regardless of whether they are high-tech or not. The instrument supports SMEs in three phases of innovation:

Phase 1: Concept and Feasibility assessment. EU support in the form of a lump sum of €50,000 to present a first business plan.

Phase 2: R&D, demonstration and market replication. €1-3 million projects to bring innovative concepts and products to market.

Phase 3: Commercialization. Support and facilitation of access to private finance and EU financial instruments implemented via the European Investment Bank Group (see below “What kind of financial instruments are available in Horizon 2020”). There will be no direct funding.

An SME is defined as a private enterprise with up to 250 head counts, annual turnover up to 50 million euro or annual balance sheet total of up to 43 million euro.

WHAT KIND OF FINANCIAL INSTRUMENTS ARE AVAILABLE IN HORIZON 2020? Horizon 2020 will set up two facilities: the Equity Facility and the Debt Facility. The implementation will be done by the European Investment Bank Group (EIB and European Investment Fund) and/or national financial institutions entrusted with the implementation of financial instruments.

A debt facility providing loans, guarantees and other forms of debt finance to entities of all forms and sizes, including research and innovation-driven SMEs

An equity facility providing finance for early- and growth-stage investments, with a particular focus on earlystage SMEs with the potential to carry out innovation and grow rapidly.

WHAT WILL THE ETHICAL RULES LOOK LIKE IN HORIZON 2020? The rules will continue as in FP7: Participants shall comply with national legislation, regulations and ethical rules in the countries where the activities will be carried out. Where appropriate, participants shall seek the approval of the relevant national or local ethics committees prior to the start of the action. Stem cell research can be performed by a participant if in accordance with relevant national legislation.

WILL IT BE EASIER TO APPLY FOR FUNDING FROM HORIZON 2020? There are a number of features in Horizon 2020 that should make it easier to apply for funding. Horizon 2020 will have broader calls for proposals compared to FP7 in order to encourage research institutions, enterprises and public authorities to develop and submit quality proposals for individual calls. Moreover, proposal submission has been simplified with the establishment of one common Participant Portal covering all programme parts and instruments. Finally, the common funding rate of 100% for all participants (or 70% for close-to-market activities) should make the process of application and eligibility check easier. This means e.g. that the relevant implementation agency will not need to go through the cumbersome process of SME verification in projects proposals where SMEs participate, a process that sometimes has delayed the signing of Grant Agreements and start of projects by several months.



WHAT WILL BE THE PROPOSAL PROCEDURE IN HORIZON 2020? Proposal procedures are expected to be similar to FP7. Everything will be done electronically via a web-based Participants Portal which is common for all parts of the programme. It is expected that all calls and requirements for proposals will be collected in one large document. This document will contain all deadlines, amounts and calls for the two year life span of the Work Programmes. The Work Programme for 2014-2015 is expected to be published in mid-December 2013 (subject to change).

HOW LONG WILL THE PERIOD BE FROM PUBLICATION OF A CALL FOR PROPOSAL TO THE DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION OF A PROPOSAL? As all call texts are published up to two years in advance it varies depending on when the deadline is. The period from the call opens to the deadline for submitting a proposal is expected to be a minimum of three months. 



HOW IS THE EVALUATION PROCES? The process of evaluation will be as in FP7: On receipt of the proposal, the department in charge of the implementation of the programme will check the proposal for eligibility in accordance with the criteria defined for the programme. All eligible proposals will then be assessed independently by at least three experts against predetermined evaluation criteria. WHAT ARE THE EVALUATION CRITERIA FOR HORIZON 2020 PROPOSALS? The evaluation criteria for proposals under Horizon 2020 are the same as in FP7 i.e. Scientific/Technology Quality, Impact and Implementation. The specific definition of the three criteria has not yet been defined but should be expected to be similar to that of FP7:

  1. S/T Quality: “Scientific and/or technological excellence (relevant to the topics addressed by the call)”: Soundness of concept, and quality of objectives;Progress beyond the state-of-the-art;Quality and effectiveness of the S/T methodology and associated work plan
  2. Impact: “Potential impact through the development, dissemination and use of project results” Contribution, at the European (and/or international] level, to the expected impacts listed in the Work Programme under the relevant topic/activity;) Appropriateness of measures for the dissemination and/or exploitation of project results, and management of intellectual property.
  3. Implementation Appropriateness of the management structure and procedures; Quality and relevant experience of the individual participants; Quality of the consortium as a whole (including complementarity, balance); Appropriateness of the allocation and justification of the resources to be committed (staff, equipment …)

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF “EXPERT EVALUATORS” AND HOW DO YOU BECOME ONE? For evaluations of proposals the Commission / Agency picks experts from lists in a database. Everyone interested in being a evaluator is free to submit their CV and a description of their fields of expertise to the database - more information in the database of independent experts for European research and innovation on the Participants Portal. It should be expected that more evaluators with expertise in innovation, close-to-market activities and business planning will be needed for Horizon 2020.



WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS REGARDING PUBLICATION OF PROJECT RESULTS IN HORIZON 2020? The normal procedure will be to give access to all publications produced in Horizon 2020 funded projects via open access repositories. This open access only apply for scientific articles and it cannot interfere with the protection of the intellectual property rights of participating enterprises. A pilot scheme for open access to research data will be established in selected non-controversial areas. This excludes the use of data in areas where sensitive personal or company data are included.

WHAT WILL BE THE DOCUMENTATION AND REPORTING REQUIREMENTS DURING THE PROJECT PERIOD? Reporting of eligible costs and project deliverables will as a general rule be carried out every 18 months during the period of project implementation. There will, however, be the possibility of doing interim reporting every 6 months. All reporting will be performed electronically through the Participant Portal .




You can find more information on the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 webpage.

Participant portal - search calls  by topic or keywords

Participant Portal FAQ section 

Participant Portal-User Manual 

Choosing the right partners 

Contact us : Iserd

Q&A Tony Levy  -

Jump to page content