Horizon 2020: what it is and how to apply for funding
- Innovate UK
- Part of:
- Horizon 2020: the EU research and innovation funding programme
- 3 November 2015
- Last updated:
- 7 June 2017, see all updates
How organisations such as businesses and universities can access Horizon 2020 European funding support for research and innovation projects.
Horizon 2020 (H2020) is the largest ever European funding programme for research and innovation. It has a budget of 79 billion euros and will run until 2020. Its aims are to:
- ensure that Europe produces world-class science
- remove barriers to innovation
- make it easier for public and private sectors to innovate together
The Horizon 2020 programme has 3 areas of focus:
Raising the level of excellence in Europe’s science base by:
- supporting the best ideas
- developing European talent
- providing researchers with access to a research infrastructure
Stimulating the growth potential of European companies by:
- offering access to risk finance
- encouraging private investment in R&D
- engaging smaller companies by offering support for innovative SMEs
Reflecting the policy priorities of the European Commission. This covers all stages of research and innovation - from concept to market.
Notes on the EU referendum
Find out if you’re eligible to apply for Horizon 2020 funding
Horizon 2020 funding opportunities are open to everyone in an EU member state. There are also opportunities for people from some other countries. The EU calls these associated countries and third countries.
You must be a consortium of at least 3 organisations if you want to apply to run a standard research project. Each consortium member must be an organisation that has legal standing such as a registered business, partnership or charity. Different funding competitions may have other conditions.
Find out what funding is available
You can find a list of funding opportunities on the European Commission Participant Portal.
Horizon 2020 provides different types of funding schemes:
Research and innovation actions
You can apply for funding for projects that establish or explore the feasibility of new knowledge or technology. You can get funding for up to 100% of your project’s direct costs.
You can apply for funding if your project is close to market. This could include prototyping, testing, demonstrating, piloting, market replication or large-scale product validation. You can get up to 70% of your project’s direct costs if you are a business. You can get up to 100% funding if you are a not-for-profit organisation.
Coordination and support actions
You can apply for funding to cover networking and coordinating research and innovation projects. This can include standardisation, dissemination, awareness-raising, networking and support services. You can get funding for up to 100% of your project’s direct costs.
You can apply for funding if you are an SME and want to develop your growth potential. There are 3 phases and these cover the whole innovation cycle. You can also access a mentoring and coaching service.
Fast track to innovation
You can apply for funding for innovation activities that are close to market. To apply, you must be part of a consortium with 3 to 5 partners. Partners must be from at least 3 different EU member states or associated countries.
If you are in the public sector, you can act as a buyer to encourage the development of new solutions to problems. This will give you access to innovations before they go on sale to others. This will also open up market opportunities for industry and researchers.
Public procurement of innovative solutions
If you are a contracting authority, you can apply for funding to help you act as a customer for new innovations. These innovations are products or services that are not available on a large-scale commercial basis.
Marie Sklodowska Curie actions
You can apply for funding if you are a researcher. You can get funding for up to 100% of your project’s direct costs.
You can apply for funding if you are looking for support for fundamental research. You can get funding for up to 100% of your project’s direct costs
Apply for Horizon 2020 funding
To apply for funding you must first register on the European Commission Participant Portal. You will need to submit your proposal and manage your project through this portal.
Once you have submitted your proposal, the European Commission will check that you are eligible. A panel of independent experts will then assess your proposal. There is standard evaluation criteria although this can vary for each funding scheme.
There are several organisations that can help you with your proposal, see section below.
Get help to find a project partner
Some Horizon 2020 funding schemes need you to form a consortium to apply.
Here are some links to organisations that can help UK applicants find partners:
- European Commission Participation Portal partner search tool
- European Commission CORDIS partner search tool
- Enterprise Europe Network (EEN)
- Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN)
Get help with your Horizon 2020 application
If you are a UK applicant, you can get help from the following organisations.
National Contact Points (NCPs)
NCPs can give you advice on:
- choosing the best funding scheme
- administrative procedures and contractual issues
- the application process
- documents (forms, guidelines and manuals)
- finding a project partner
- reviewing your proposal
- liaising with the commission on the scope of projects
The Enterprise Europe Network (EEN)
You can get help from EEN if you are an organisation with high innovative potential and ambitions for international growth. EEN can help you with:
- going international – finding and connecting with potential business partners across Europe
- communicating with the EU
- finding other funding opportunities and local initiatives
- account management for organisations receiving Horizon 2020 funding
- becoming more innovative
The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN)
You can get help from the KTN to:
- find funding opportunities
- form partnerships
- develop your project proposals
- work with other UK stakeholders to influence Horizon 2020 work programmes
If you are in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, you can get help from the devolved administrations:
- Northern Ireland – the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment
- Scotland - the Scottish EU Funding Portal
- Wales – the Welsh European Funding Office Horizon 2020 Unit
Horizon 2020 events
You can find out about specific funding opportunities by attending a Horizon 2020 event. Future events will be listed here.
MARINE-EO Industry Day, 12 July 2017, Lisbon, Portugal, MARINE-EO Industry Day
Industrial Innovation Information Days 2017, 3 to 4 October 2017, Brussels, Belgium Industrial Innovation Information Days 2017
Horizon 2020 Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials Information Days, 8 to 9 November 2017, Brussels, Belgium, Information Day Horizon 2020 Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials
Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge 2 Infoweek (including high-level policy events), 14 to 17 November 2017, Brussels, Belgium, Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge 2 Infoweek
Other funding opportunities
You can also access other European funding and support programmes:
EUREKA is a network of over 36 countries. It supports international collaboration for the development of innovative new products, processes and services.
There is no direct funding available in the UK for EUREKA projects. You can take part if you are a large UK business or academic organisation but you must fund this yourself.
Contact Dora Meredith, European and Global Portfolio Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are an SME and want to take part in collaborative research, you can apply to the EUREKA Eurostars programme. EUREKA Eurostars supports the development of new products, processes or services. You can apply with 2 (or more) participants from 2 (or more) Eurostars countries. An SME carrying out R&D must lead the project.
There will be two calls for proposals each year between 2014 and 2020. You will find out if your application has been successful within 14 weeks of the closing date.
Innovate UK funds successful UK applicants. You can get up to 60% of eligible project costs - up to €360,000 per UK project partner.
Only innovative intensive and research-performing SMEs are eligible for funding in the UK. You can also take part in a Eurostars project if you are a large UK business or academic organisation but you must fund this yourself or from other sources.
The ERA-NET programme provides opportunities for researchers and innovation funders in Europe to work together and co-ordinate joint activities.
Competitions consist of open calls for European consortia in selected topics or areas. Each country has its own eligibility criteria.
Currently Innovate UK is providing funding for UK partners in 3 ERA-NET competitions:
- CoBioTech, which aims to help transform the global economy from depending on fossil raw material to using more sustainable, bio-based resources
- Solar, which aims to improve Europe’s market share in solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies
- Photonic sensing, which aims to improve Europe’s market share in photonics-based sensing technologies
Sustainable urbanisation global initiative (SUGI)
This competition looks to find new understanding and solutions to the systemic management of food, water and energy in cities. It is designed to support international collaboration, requiring the participation of at least 3 different countries. There are 22 countries involved.
The UK is to provide up to 1.6 million euros in order to fund 6 to 7 UK-based businesses with maximum funding per project of up to 300,000 euros. Funding is being made available by Innovate UK, Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
Electronic components and systems for European leadership
You can apply to ECSEL if you are a business or research and technology organisation. ECSEL combines 3 technology areas:
- ENIAC nano-electronics
- ARTEMIS embedded computing systems
- European Technology Platform EPOSS (smart systems integration)
There is no UK funding available for this programme. UK companies and organisations are welcome to participate but they will have to self-fund.
For further information, see ESCEL website.
European Institute of Technology
You can also apply to the European Institute of Technology to take part in one of its knowledge and innovation communities (KIC). These KICs bring together the private sector, research organisations and higher education institutions.
Each KIC has a physical centre which acts as a hub for activities such as:
- training and education programmes
- innovation projects
- business incubation
There are 6 operational KICs:
- Climate-KIC for climate change mitigation and adaptation
- ICT Labs which look at the future of information and communication
- KIC InnoEnergy covering sustainable energy
- EIT Health covering innovation for healthy living and active ageing
- EIT Raw materials including sustainable exploration, extraction, processing, recycling and substitution
- EIT Food
There will also be a KIC in Urban Mobility in 2018.
Published: 3 November 2015
Updated: 7 June 2017
- Added latest Horizon2020 events.
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- Removed "Horizon 2020 Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials - Societal Challenge 5" as it has been cancelled
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- Link added to register for the expression of interest to become a member of the Horizon 2020 Interim Evaluation High-Level Expert Group on maximising the impact of EU Research and Innovation programmes as part of the interim evaluation of Horizon 2020
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