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Horizon 2020


Basic overview of the Horizon 2020 structure


Horizon2020 is the 8th Framework programme for Research and Inovation of the European Union, and is strcutured in three main focus areas (pillars). These are Excellent ScienceIndustrial Leadership and Societal Challenges. Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) and ICT are mainstreamed across all of Horizon 2020. The European Commission expects to spend a total of nearly €80 billion on Horizon2020 over 7 years (2014 to 2020). This is expected to be divided as follows (please note that a part of the total amount is administration, so the numbers do not add up to a 100 per cent):

Excellent Science: 29% Four different schemes are available, largely for bottom-up funding for individual researchers or teams (see below).

Industrial Leadership: 21% Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies (LEIT). This pillar funds innovation.

Societal Challenges: 37% This pillar predominantly funds collaborative projects, following a more top-down approach with pre-defined, challenge-based topics. A minimum of three legal entities from three EU Member or Associated States must participate.

Other funding areas :

Cross-cutting activities (focus areas): Cross-programme integrated activities around major societal challenges

Spreading excellence and widening participation: Building more excellence in less developed EU regions.

Science with and for Society: Projects on gender equality in research, researcher career development, science education and the dissemination of scientific results.

Work programmes (WP)
To allow better preparation of applicants the funding opportunities under Horizon 2020 are set out in biannual work programmes (except the last WP, 2018-2020, spanning three years). The work programmes are prepared by the European Commission within the framework provided by the Horizon 2020 legislation; this involves the consultation of various stakeholders. More detailed information about the various work programmes each thematic section that can be found here. 

What are the funding instruments in the three focus areas?
The main type of funding within the areas of Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges is the "collaborative project" or the RIA action. This instrument funds research collaborations involving at least three partner organisations from three European Member States (or associated countries). Consortia including commercial partners (in particular SMEs) will generally be considered more competitive. An interdisciplinary approach, especially including social sciences and humanities aspects of the research area, is also encouraged. All beneficiaries are entitled to a reimbursement of 100% of their direct costs related to a research project, with a single flat rate for indirect costs of 25%. Research activities including personnel costs, travel, consumables, management costs and dissemination are eligible costs under the RIA scheme.

Co-ordination and Support Actions (CSAs) do not fund research as such but fund, for example, the co-ordination of research policies across Member States in a particular field.

Innovation Actions (IA) are close-to-market activities, with a stronger focus on industry and rather marginal research activities. The general reimbursement rate for IA is 70% (100% for non-for-profit entities).

The area of Excellent Science cover four different groups of funds: European Research Council (ERC) will support the most talented and creative scientists and their research teams to carry out exceptional and pioneering research, Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) will fund research collaborations similar in format to collaborative projects which open up new and promising areas of research and innovation, Marie S. Curie Actions provide a range of transnational fellowships aimed at career development through research training and exchange schemes to foster intersectoral connections, Infrastructure funding (including e-infrastructures) to develop new infrastructures and to integrate existing infrastructures across Europe. Funding within the Excellence Science pillar is mainly based on the reimbursement of actual direct costs incurred for a project. For some types of projects, such as the MSCA, funding can be based on flat rates and granted as lump sums.


This page is updated by Vibeke Irgan