Horizon 2020 – The European Union´s New Framework Program for Research and Innovation

bridges vol. 35, October 2012 / Letter from Brussels

By Adrian Csik

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Adrian CsikThe proposal for "Horizon 2020" (H2020), the EU´s new instrument for funding, fostering, and stimulating European research and innovation, which will run from January 2014 to the end of 2020, was published by the European Commission on November 30, 2011. Negotiations on the proposal started in February 2012 under the Danish Council Presidency and will have to conclude in the second half of 2013. Although it is mostly referred to as "the framework program," we are actually talking about a whole legislative package consisting of the main regulation on Horizon 2020, the Specific Program (laying down the implementation modalities and the content, in terms of the broad lines of activities), the so-called Rules for Participation (setting the legal framework), and a separate proposal for the part of Horizon 2020 corresponding to the Euratom Treaty.

The Union´s research framework programs have been a success story since the mid-1980s. However, there have been quite relevant changes since the start of the current program (the 7th Framework Program, FP7). The lifetime of the research framework program was extended from four to seven years, streamlining it with the period of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), and the budget was dramatically increased compared to the 6th Program. Continuing the seven-year duration, the proposed budget for H2020 has again been raised. Nevertheless, the Commission speaks about "a break from the past," which is meant with respect to content. Not only the new name but also its structure, approach, and scope, are supposed to indicate that the proposal is not just an 8th Framework Program. Horizon 2020 brings together for the first time all existing Union research and innovation funding: the Framework Program for Research, and the innovation-related activities of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Program and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

Divided into three pillars (1) Excellent Science, 2) Industrial Leadership, and 3) Societal Challenges), H2020 addresses the search for the best ideas and the best talents, cooperation between academia and businesses, and solutions to the "Grand Challenges" mankind is facing, such as questions of health, demographic change, safety, climate change, and future energy for the planet. The main focus – and core novelty – is a seamless approach from fundamental research to innovation, overcoming the famous "European paradox": a continent with brilliant ideas and concepts, but suffering from the lack of ability or even inability to transform these into concrete results – namely, products and services on the markets. Having been heavily criticized by its participants and other stakeholders involved under the current FP7, the rules for implementation have been radically simplified in the European Commission´s proposal.

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Regarding the crucial issue of budget, the scientific community will have to show patience. Only after the successful conclusion of negotiations on the entire EU budget for 2014-2020, can detailed discussions of the Horizon 2020 budget within the program start, probably in the first half of next year. The budget, as proposed by the EU Commission, is close to €80 billion (see table below for details). All stakeholders hope that, in spite of these times of budget restraints and austerity, the outcome will send a clear signal to researchers, industry, and society about the role of research and innovation in the next decade.


The indicative breakdown for Horizon 2020 in constant 2011 prices (in million Euros), i.e., using 2011 as the reference year. Note that the figures in the Horizon 2020 proposals are presented in current prices (using a fixed deflator of 2 percent a year), which allow for inflation and are therefore higher.

EU REGULATION (2014-2020) million Euros 
I Excellent science, of which 24 598 
1. The European Research Council  13 268 
2. Future and Emerging Technologies  3 100 
3. Marie Curie actions on skills, training, and career development  5 752 
4. European research infrastructures (including e-Infrastructures)  2 478 
II Industrial leadership, of which: 17 938 
1. Leadership in enabling and industrial technologies*  13 781 of which 436 is for EIT 
2. Access to risk finance** 3 538 
3. Innovation in SMEs  619 
III Societal challenges, of which:  31 748 
1. Health, demographic change, and well-being;  8 033 of which 254 is for EIT 
2. Food security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research, and the bioeconomy;  4 152 of which 131 is for EIT 
3. Secure, clean, and efficient energy  5 782 of which 183 is for EIT 
4. Smart, green, and integrated transport  6 802 of which 215 is for EIT 
5. Climate action, resource efficiency, and raw materials  3 160 of which 100 is for EIT 
6. Inclusive, innovative, and secure societies  3 819 of which 121 is for EIT 
European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)  1 360 + 1440*** 
Non-nuclear direct actions of the Joint Research Centre 1 962 
I. Indirect actions

This includes:

- Fusion research and development

- Nuclear fission, safety, and radiation protection

1 009
II. Direct actions of the Joint Research Centre 656
TOTAL HORIZON 2020 79 271****


Being aware of this difficult economic and political background and the drastically changed circumstances since the launch of the current FP7 in 2007, research and innovation have been placed at the center of the Europe 2020 strategy to promote smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth. It is therefore expected that this new instrument, starting on January 1, 2014, and running until the year 2020, will essentially contribute to overcoming the crisis, improving Europe´s competitiveness in the world and, last but not least, be in the interests of the well-being of all citizens.

*Including €7939 million for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) including: €1588 million for photonics and micro-and nanoelectronics; €3797 million for nanotechnologies, advanced materials, and advanced manufacturing and processing; €509 million for biotechnology; and €1536 million for space. As a result, €5894 million will be available to support Key Enabling Technologies.

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** Around €1000 million of this amount may go towards implementation of the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan) projects. Around one third of this may go to SMEs.

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*** The total amount will be made available through allocations as foreseen in Article 6(3) of the Horizon 2020 Regulation. The second allocation of €1440 million will be made available pro rata from the budgets of Societal Challenges and Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies, on an indicative basis and subject to the review set out in Article 26(1) of the Horizon 2020 Regulation.

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**** An amount of €729 million is foreseen in the MFF proposal to cover the period 2019-2020 for the Euratom program. This will be the subject of a Commission proposal at an appropriate time.

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The author, Adrian Csik, has been serving as science counselor at the Permanent Representation of Austria to the European Union in Brussels since January 2012.