Horizon Europe: What Are the EU’s Priorities for Research and Innovation?

ambitie van Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe (2021-2027) is the EU’s largest funding programme and will make available approximately €95.5 billion for research and innovation projects in the coming years. The EU’s ambition is great, as attested to by the fact that this budget is 30% higher than the previous Horizon 2020 programme. However, to whom will this financial support be allocated, and precisely what are the opportunities for you? What are the EU’s priorities, and which topics and areas do they wish to advance? In this blog we provide valuable insights into the strategic plan underpinning Horizon Europe.

The Three Pillars of Horizon Europe

The budget for innovation and research is divided into three “pillars”:

  • Pillar 1 – Excellent Science
  • Pillar 2 – Global challenges and European industrial competitiveness
  • Pillar 3 – Innovative Europe

“Pillar 1 – Excellent Science” encompasses the research programmes that were also included in Horizon 2020: European Research Council (ERC); Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA); and Research Infrastructures. The EU has allocated a total of €25.8 billion for this pillar. The ERC enables talented young researchers to carry out ground-breaking research on economic and societal challenges, whilst the MSCA stimulate the exchange of personnel between universities and businesses, and the development of training networks.

The largest portion of the Horizon budget is intended for projects within “Pillar 2 – Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness”. Here, the five missions of Horizon Europe are developed into six clusters of topics. Each cluster has its own work programme, an overview of which is provided in the figure below. The first calls pertaining to the clusters of Pillar 2 have already been published.Horizon Europe SchemeAn interesting programme included in “Pillar 3 – Innovative Europe” is the European Innovation Council (EIC). EIC is intended for projects that move from pilot to final implementation within the scope of Horizon Europe. With a total budget of €10 billion, the EIC offers support for innovative start-ups and SMEs. The EU is strongly committed to this, because it has been observed that Europe lags behind when it comes to translating research into innovation and entrepreneurship. As a result, the EU does not generate enough fast growing companies, whilst conversely, it does indeed have a strong foundation in fundamental research. Within Horizon Europe, these research results should more often lead to innovative products and services.

Finally, in addition to the three pillars, Horizon Europe has allocated €4.5 billion to widen the European Research Area (ERA) and Euratom, whilst a further €3.5 billion is intended for the InvestEU fund.


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