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HORIZON 2020 (2014-2020)

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Horizon 2020: the EU Framework Programme for Research & Innovation

Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme for the 2014-2020 period with an allocated budget of nearly € 80 billion over these 7 years. It supports the Europe 2020 Strategy which emphasises research and innovation as key drivers for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, while seeking to address important societal challenges. The programme’s main goal is to contribute to the EU employment and growth strategy and to creating a robust knowledge and innovation-based economy.

The programme focuses on three key areas:

  • Excellent Science: High-level scientific research using world-class research infrastructures with the aim of attracting leading scientists to work in the EU.
  • Industrial Leadership: Strategic investment in key technologies, such as nanotechnology-microelectronics, private sector involvement, creation of innovative enterprises in order to make Europe attractive for investments in research and innovation.
  • Societal Challenges: Tackling major societal challenges such as population aging, depletion of energy resources, climate change taking into account major social concerns and focusing in applied science.

Besides the three components above, Horizon 2020 comprises two separate specific objectives:

  • Specific objective: Spreading excellence and widening participation
  • Specific objective: Science with and for society

Horizon 2020 is open to all public and private organisations working in the field of research and innovation, as well as non-EU entities and individuals interested to work in Europe. Most Horizon 2020 calls are addressed to transnational partnerships (with a varying number of partners/countries, depending on the call) and covers issues characterized by a European dimension/impact. The programme features a simple structure, limited financial controls and audits, and reduced red tape.

Programme calls are published in the EU portal (Participant Portal) and are competitive at the European level. Proposals are submitted online and evaluated by independent experts. Grant agreements are signed between the EU and organisations submitting successful proposals.

The Horizon 2020 total budget for the 2014-2020 period is nearly € 80 billion.

More specifically:

Scientific excellence

Total budget 2014-2020

€ million

European Research Council (ERC)

Research at the frontier of science by top researchers in Europe

13 095

Future and Emerging Technologies (FET)

Collaborative research to identify new areas for innovation

2 696

Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA)

Mobility and career opportunities for researchers

6 162

Research infrastructures: development & transnational access to world-class infrastructures

2 488


Industrial Leadership

Total budget 2014-2020

€ million

Leadership in enabling and industrial technologies(LEIT), (ICT, nanotechnologies, advanced materials, biotechnology advanced manufacturing and processing, space)

13 557

Access to risk finance

Leverage of private sector funding and venture capital

2 842

Innovation in SMEs

Promoting innovation in all its forms for all types of SMEs



Societal Challenges

Total budget 2014-2020

€ million

Health, demographic change and wellbeing

7 472

Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research, and the Bioeconomy

3 851

Secure, clean and efficient energy

5 931

Smart, green and integrated transport

6 339

Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials

3 081

Inclusive societies

1 310

Secure societies

1 695



Specific objectives

Total budget 2014-2020

€ million

Spreading excellence and widening participation


Science with and for society



In 2017, the European Commission performed an interim evaluation of Horizon 2020, which included a public stakeholder consultation, and announced its results in June 2017. It was found that the Programme’s original rationale for intervention, as well as the goals and challenges identified at the programme launch, are still highly relevant also in light of new political priorities. Moreover, the programme supported and allowed a swift EU response to major challenges such as the Ebola outbreak and the surge in migration flows to Europe.

The Horizon 2020 attractiveness as well as its relevance to the scientific interests of the European research and business communities is also showcased by the fact that more than 30 000 proposals are submitted yearly, with 1/3 of them presented by newcomers in the programme (proposals submitted under 7th FP were 20 000 per year).

It must be noted that the programme’s increased attractiveness led to very low success rates (11.6% against 18.5% in 7th FP); however, success rates reach a percentage of 12.3% for higher education institutions and 17% for research centres, which, combined, are allocated 65% of total funding. It was estimated that an additional amount of € 62 4 bn would have been needed to fund all high-quality proposals evaluated.

In terms of effectiveness, interim evaluation evidence suggests that progress has been made towards delivering all of the programme’s objectives. For example, under Horizon 2020 1st pillar – Excellent Science, 27 000 researchers have already been supported through the mobility programme for researchers (MSCA), while 35 000 researchers have access to European and international research infrastructures. Support to innovation and industrial leadership has been effective with some early results on company growth and additional funding leveraged for innovations brought to the market; moreover, progress has also been achieved towards addressing societal challenges. Finally, Horizon 2020 introduced significant changes towards simplification of procedures, which reduced the time required between submission of a proposal and project launching, compared to FP7.

A summary as well as a detailed presentation of Horizon 2020 can be found at:


Recent useful texts, reports, studies on Horizon 2020.

  • Horizon 2020 in full swing – three years on – key facts and figures (2014-2016) pdf


  • Results of Horizon2020 Stakeholder Consultation. Interim Evaluation of Horizon 2020


  • LAB-FAB-APP Investing in the European future we want. Report of the independent High Level Group on maximizing the impact of EU research & innovation programmes. (Lamy report)





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