Horizon Europe (HEU) is the largest R&I programme in the world, involving 130+ countries eligible for funding. It funds research and innovation throughout the entire value chain, from frontier research to the market. Several different EU institutions, agencies and bodies are involved as granting authorities, from the relevant EU DG by topic, to REA, ERC, EIC, EIT, JRC.
The programme structure and logic is based on TRLs (Technology Readiness Levels), in order to provide a sound funding instrument for each stage of development of the research/innovation. The TRLs progress scale shapes the program segmentation in 3 Pillars (like H2020, with important elements of novelty in the II° and III° pillars).
Pillar I focusses on fundamental research and it will support the very earliest TRLs (roughly from TRL1 to TRL3), and the key role as granting authorities will be played by the European Research Council (ERC), and the research Executive Agency (REA). Typical beneficiaries are individual researchers, universities, research centres, industry. Pillar I adopts a bottom up approach, meaning that fundamental research will not be limited to pre-identified specific topics.
Pillar II will provide funding for the technological development of the idea, enabling the TRL progresses to reach the next levels, closer to innovation, heading for the market. Pillar II implementation is characterised by the segmentation into 6 “clusters” and 5 “missions”. Pillar II is the “policy-oriented” pillar, allowing the EC to concentrate resources on specific R&I topics described in the specific work programmes (top-down approach). Clusters provide finding for RIA/IA/CSA implemented by consortia of applicants, according to the traditional model adopted in the previous FPs. “Missions” are re very element of novelty of Pillar II. Applying the so-called moon shoot approach, missions are ambitious, time-bound set of actions heading to the achievement of a significant impact, in those areas where a single EU project could not achieve the expected impact. This is also why Missions are characterised by a “portfolio” approach. The second pillar will see several EC DGs as main granting authorities, together with direct actions managed by the Joint Research Centre.
The Pillar III will mainly deal with the innovation segment of the TRL scale, and it will focus on the expected market impact of the funded actions (excepted for the EIC pathfinder, which is also supporting early TRLs). The granting authorities for this part of the programme will mainly be the European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT). Pillar III will also keep funding the creation and growth of the European innovation ecosystems.
The above main structure of the programme is complemented by other programme parts (outside the “pillars”) such as “Widening Participation and Strengthening the European Research Area” and the EURATOM funding.
HEU will provide support to beneficiaries thought many types of actions: the most recurrent are the RIA, IA, CSA, ERC frontier research (starting / consolidator / advanced / synergy grants, proof of concept), training and mobility action (MSCA, i.e. IF, ITN, ETN, RISE, Co-fund), the Pathfinder, the Accelerator, European Partnerships (co-funded / co-programmed/institutionalised), PPC (Pre-commercial procurement), PPI (Public procurement of innovative solutions), prizes (inducement/recognition). Part of the HEU budget will be used for public procurement for TA to the programme implementation.
The programme is open to any type of organisation, including natural persons (for specific actions). In the previous programme (Horizon 2020), the segmentation of entity participation, in terms of EU contribution received has been:
HEU funds Research, Technology Development, Innovation, including their relevant ecosystems, R&I policy reform and governance.
Pillar I and III adopt a bottom-up approach, so applicant define the topic of their project, according to their research/innovation sector.
Pillar II has pre-defined topics for clusters and mission:
The budget of Research Framework Programmes are among the most hard to manage. The program uses all the possible form of costs foreseen by the art. 125 Reg. 1046/2018 (Financing not linked to costs, Actual, Unit, Plat Rate and Lump Sum). According to different type of actions, different forms of costs can (or must) be used. The majority of actions (RIA, IA, CSA, ERC grants) uses actual, unit, and flat rate costs. MSCA use unit costs only. Prizes and other specific calls can use Lump Sum form. However, the use of a blend of form of costs is a decision of the EC, so it is possible to find different combinations in several calls.
Peculiarities of this programme budgeting is that it is possible (depending on the call) also to declare costs related to in-kind contributors, linked third parties, sub-grantees. Indirect costs are normally 25% of eligible direct costs, not considering subcontracting and financial support to third parties (sub-grantees), costs of in-kind contributors when the contribution is not used by the beneficiary’s premises, and other specific situations where you have to manually calculate and remove a part of indirect costs (e.g. when receiving operational grants).
The budget compilation, at proposal level, can be different according to the budget model adopted for each call.
For calls run under the traditional budget scheme (forms of cost: Actual, Unit, Lump Sum) the budget doesn’t require to be detailed. Only the amount per partner, per budget category, is required under this model. The detailed breakdown of costs incurred is required only during specific checks that can be requested by the PO, and always during Audits (CFS and II° level Audits). Consequently, it may appear easy to draw an estimated budget at proposal level, but if it is not well built on detailed estimation, the following reporting could be extremely tricky, and many costs could reveal ineligible.
In Horizon Europe a novel way to manage grants has been introduced, i.e. Financing not linked to the cost of the relevant operations (art. 125 letter a – Financial Regulation), a sort of improved Lump Sum model. This form of costs, introduced in the view of simplifying the financial management of grants, will be used mainly for RIA, IA and CSA, but the actual use will depend on the results from the piloting phase run between 2018 and 2020. When a call is implemented under this scheme, the financial reporting is no more required (financial statements, financial audits, timesheets, …), but partners will receive the EU contribution related to Work Packages successfully completed before the end of each reporting period. This model can be implemented according to two different “options”. In the first one, the EC defines the lump sum amount, and the applicant is required to break it down in the proposal, per partner, per work package and per budget category. The second option foresees that the EC set the maximum EU contribution, and the applicant is required – in addition to the breakdown foreseen in option 1 – to describe and justify the methodology adopted to construct the budget. It can be estimated that a percentage of 30% of calls to be managed according to this new model, at least during the first years of programme implementation.
The programme is enterily managed through the Funding and Tender Opportunities portal.
The portal Provide any practical information to particpate to Horizon Europe, e.g official documents (work programmes, call for proposal, models of grant agreements, guidelines, templates). It is also the access point to the Participant Register, the submission facility, the System for Grant Management (SYGMA), the Project and Results área and the participation to the programme as an individual Expert.
Read carefully the entire call for proposal. Every line includes a piece of information valuable to prepare a sound proposal;
Dedicate time to understand the call scope, challenge and expected impact;
Involve you partners from the very beginning in the proposal preparation;
Ensure you have the technical and financial resources to carry out the action, if approved.
Start working on your consortium agreement terms from the very beginning of your contacts with partners. The internal rules of the game are extremely important for your project to run smoothly;
Don’t write your proposal alone. Projects are not one-man-band show. Proposals neither. Partners have to contribute to it.
Don’t underestimate the efforts and time required for the “2.Impact” section of the application form. While you are very good in writing about your science (“1. Excellence”), you may be less good or interested in figuring out and describe the benefits of your project for the world outside the academia. Get support from your team to develop this part in appropriately;
Don’t wait the last month to start your proposal preparation. It normally takes 3-6 month to write a competitive proposal;
For recurring calls (ERC, MSCA, Accelerator, Pathfinder,…) don’t rely on success on first submission. It may take more than one attempt to be awarded;
Don’t offer to the EC unrealistic technical and scientific achievements for the sole purpose to rise interest on your project. It will be evaluated by experts from the same sector, so they know the realistic ground of a project.