Horizon 2020 is a Programme funded by the European Commission, which allows participation of all types of organizations. It is divided into several sub-programmes and instruments that serve various purposes. In general, it aims to stimulate the technological and scientific development of Member States of the European Union, as well as of the countries associated with the Programme (Associated Countries). Nevertheless, cooperation with organizations based in other countries is also allowed.
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme consists of three pillars: Excellent Science, Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges.
Excellent Science – is designed to provide researchers with funding to advance their careers, be it in the form of funding of their mobility, or to reward their scientific achievements, but also to reinforce the scientific community in Europe. The pillar is divided into the following:
- Future and Emerging Technologies – funding for high risk research projects
- European Research Council – funding for excellent individual researchers
- Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions – instruments that allow career development of researchers in academia and in non-academic sector
- Research Infrastructures – a series of calls designed to provide funding for European research infrastructures, access to research infrastructures and the development of European e-infrastructures
Industrial Leadership – this pillar is designed to speed up innovations and technological advancements in business. Its primary objective is to support SMEs to become the leaders of tomorrow’s markets. It also aims at making Europe a better place for investments in research and innovation. It is divided into the following areas:
- Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies, which provides dedicated support for research, development and demonstration and, where appropriate, for standardisation and certification, on information and communications technology (ICT), nanotechnology, advanced materials, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing and processing and space. Emphasis will be placed on interactions and convergence across and between the different technologies and their relations to societal challenges. User needs will be taken into account in all these fields. It is further divided into:
- Nanotechnologies, Advanced Materials, Advanced Manufacturing and Processing, and Biotechnology
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Space research.
- Innovation in SMEs – provides SME-tailored support to stimulate all forms of innovation in SMEs, targeting those with the potential to grow and internationalize across the single market and beyond.
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. Together with the equity instrument of the Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises (COSME) (2014-2020) it supports the development of Union-level venture capital.
Societal Challenges is a pillar with groups of calls aimed at solving a number of societal challenges identified by the European Commission. These include:
- Health, demographic change and wellbeing
- Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research and the bioeconomy
- Secure, clean and efficient energy
- Smart, green and integrated transport
- Climate action, environment, 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.
The funding under this pillar concentrates on projects that involve international cooperation and a top down approach. This means that most calls will require a consortium of at least 3 organizations from 3 Member States of the EU to fulfill the predefined obligations of a call within its project. Moreover, the EC expects that the consortia will have an interdisciplinary profile in order to include the full chain of stakeholders, who might have their say in a given field.