Horizon 2020 is the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation for 2014-2020. It is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe’s global competitiveness. Horizon 2020 has a budget of circa €80 billion. The Programme aims to contribute to the creation of growth and jobs in Europe in response to the economic crisis and is expected to address peoples’ concerns about their livelihoods, safety and environment. In turn, this will strengthen the EU’s global position in research, innovation and technology.

What are the main characteristics of Horizon 2020?
Horizon 2020 combines three separate programmes: the Research Framework Programme (FP), innovation-related aspects of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). Horizon 2020 has a number of key novelties that make it fit for purpose to promote growth and tackle societal challenges. These include:

  • A market-driven approach providing seamless and coherent funding from idea to market;
  • A major simplification through a simpler programme architecture;
  • A single set of rules with a simplified funding process;
  • Less paperwork in preparing proposals, fewer controls and audits, with the overall aim to reduce the average time to grant by 100 days;
  • A single point of access for participants:

How is Horizon 2020 Structured?
Horizon 2020 will be composed of three main pillars, with mutually reinforcing priorities which have clear EU added value. These are:

  1. Excellent Science;
  2. Industrial Leadership;
  3. Societal Challenges.

Other relevant horizontal activities may be found in the accordions below.

  1. Excellent Science

As world class science is considered to stimulate and establish a basis for upcoming technologies, jobs and wellbeing, the need to develop, attract and retain highly talented researchers is essential. The main objective of this programme is thus to reinforce and extend the excellence of the Union’s science base in order to further the European Research Area and make the European research and innovation system more competitive.

  • European Research Council (ERC) – funding for individual researchers and their teams for ground-breaking frontier research projects across all fields of science;
  • Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) – collaborative research across disciplines in radically new, high-risk ideas and accelerate development of the most promising emerging areas of science and technology;
  • Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions (MSCA) – providing training, career development and knowledge-exchange opportunities through mobility programmes for researchers and research staff;
  • Research Infrastructures (RI) – aims to ensure European researchers get access to world-class research infrastructures.


  1. Industrial Leadership

This pillar will address ‘innovation goals’ and funding opportunities for industry and SMEs to facilitate the transition from research into marketable products and services. This pillar also aims to foster private investment in research and innovation by improving access to risk finance and to encourage and pave the way for innovative SMEs all over Europe by targeting their needs through SME-tailored actions and instruments. The focus is on 3 specific objectives:

  • Leadership in Enabling & Industrial Technologies – support is provided for research, development and demonstration and where appropriate, for standardisation and certification on Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Nanotechnology, advanced materials, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing and processing (NMBP), and Space;
  • Access to Risk Finance – aims to overcome deficits in the availability of debt and equity finance for R&D and innovation-driven companies and projects at all stages of development;
  • Innovation in SMEs – will provide SME-tailored support to stimulate all forms of innovation in SMEs, targeting those with the potential to grow and internationalise across the single market and beyond.


  1. Societal Challenges

This pillar deals with concerns shared by citizens in Europe and reflects the policy priorities of the Europe 2020 strategy that cannot be achieved without innovation. Resources and knowledge across various fields will be brought together through a challenge-based approach, and solutions will result from multidisciplinary collaborations. Activities from research to market, with a new focus on innovation-related aspects will be covered. Promising solutions will be tested and verified by demonstration activities and scale-up studies.

Horizon 2020 will address 7 societal challenges:

  • Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing;
  • Food security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research and the bio-economy;
  • Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy;
  • Smart, Green and Integrated Transport;
  • Climate Action, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials;
  • Europe in a changing world: Inclusive, Innovative and Reflective Societies;
  • Secure Societies – Protecting Freedom and Security of Europe and its Citizens.


Besides the three main pillars under Horizon 2020, various other programmes or instruments offer funding opportunities for public or private research organisations or enterprises.

  • Science with and for Society (SWAFS) – aims to build capacities and develop innovative ways of connecting science to society by making science more attractive to young people, raise the appetite of society for innovation and opens up research and innovation activities further.


  • Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation – aims at maximising investment in research and innovation to enable the European Research Area to function in a more streamlined and homogeneous way by allowing the individual strengths of each Member State to be optimised.


  • Fast Track to Innovation Pilot – provides funding for close to the market, business driven projects for small consortia of 3-5 entities in any field. The objective is to encourage companies to participate in H2020 especially those that have never participated before.


  • European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) – contributes to the competitiveness of Europe, its sustainable economic growth and job creation by promoting and strengthening synergies and cooperation among businesses, education institutions and research organisations.


  • Joint Research Centre (JRC) – the Commission’s science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.


  • Euratom – a complementary research programme for nuclear research and training.