The European Commission has adopted the main work programme of Horizon Europe for the period 2021-2022, which outlines the objectives and specific topic areas that will receive a total of €14.7 billion in funding. These investments will help accelerate the green and digital transitions and will contribute to sustainable recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and to EU resilience against future crises. They will support European researchers through fellowships, training and exchanges, build more connected and efficient European innovation ecosystems and create world-class research infrastructures. Moreover, they will encourage participation across Europe and from around the world, while at the same time strengthening the European Research Area.
Horizon Europe delivers on climate neutrality and digital leadership
More than four in ten euros – around €5.8 billion in total – will be invested in research and innovation to support the European Green Deal and the Union’s commitment to make the EU the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The funds will support projects that advance the science of climate change, and that develop solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changing climate. For example, activities will accelerate the transition towards clean energy and mobility in a sustainable and fair way, help adapt food systems and support the circular and bio-economy, maintain and enhance natural carbon sinks in ecosystems, and foster adaptation to climate change.
Making this decade Europe’s Digital Decade and laying the groundwork for new digital enterprises even further into the future are also core objectives of the programme, which will ensure a substantial increase of investment in this area. For instance, it will help maximise the full potential of digital tools and data-enabled research and innovation in healthcare, media, cultural heritage and creative economy, energy, mobility and food production, supporting the modernisation of industrial models and fostering European industrial leadership. The development of core digital technologies will be supported with around €4 billion over 2021-2022.
Finally, this work programme will direct investments of around €1.9 billion in total towards helping repair the immediate economic and social damage brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. In line with NextGenerationEU, the funding will contribute to building a post-coronavirus Europe that is not only greener and more digital but also more resilient for the current and forthcoming challenges. This includes topics that aim to modernise health systems and contribute to research capacities, in particular for vaccine development.
International cooperation for bigger impact: strategic, open, and reciprocal
International cooperation in research and innovation is essential for tackling global challenges and to enable Europe to access resources, know-how, scientific excellence, value chains and markets that are developing in other areas of the world. In May 2021, the Commission presented a Global Approach to Research and Innovation, Europe’s strategy for international cooperation in a changing world. With this, the EU aims to deliver solutions and facilitate global responses to global challenges, based on multilateralism, openness and reciprocity.
The work programme of Horizon Europe for 2021-2022 includes dedicated actions to support and strengthen cooperation through multilateral initiatives in areas such as biodiversity and climate protection, environmental observations, ocean research or global health. It also includes targeted actions with key non-EU partners, including the first ever ambitious and comprehensive ‘Africa Initiative‘.
Horizon Europe is by default open to the world. The association of non-EU countries to Horizon Europe will enlarge the geographical scope of the overall programme and will offer additional opportunities for researchers, scientists, companies, institutions or other interested establishments to participate, with generally the same conditions as those of the Member States. In order to safeguard the EU’s strategic assets, interests, autonomy or security, and in line with Article 22.5 of the Horizon Europe Regulation, the programme will limit participation in a very small number of actions. Such limitation will be exceptional and duly justified, in agreement with the Member States and in full respect of the EU’s commitments under bilateral agreements.
The first calls for proposals will open on the Commission’s Funding and Tenders Portal on 22 June. The European Research and Innovation Days on 23 and 24 June mark the occasion to discuss Horizon Europe amongst policymakers, researchers, innovators and citizens. Horizon Europe Information Days targeting potential applicants take place between 28 June and 9 July. Specific calls could be consulted from the Funding and Tenders portal.
Horizon Europe is the EU’s €95.5 billion research and innovation programme for 2021-2027 and the successor of Horizon 2020. Today’s Horizon Europe work programme is based on Horizon Europe’s Strategic Plan, which was adopted in March 2021 to set the EU’s research and innovation priorities for 2021-2024. Most of the funding is allocated based on competitive calls for proposals, set out in work programmes. New funding opportunities have already opened up since early 2021: in February the Commission launched the first European Research Council calls under Horizon Europe and in March it launched the new European Innovation Council. Furthermore, in April, it quickly mobilised €123 million for research and innovation into coronavirus variants.