Horizon 2020 (H2020)

Horizon 2020 is the most significant EU research and innovation program with nearly €80 billion available for funding (2014 – 2020). The Instrument aims to provide support for more innovative breakthroughs and discoveries to bring from the lab to the market.

What is Horizon 2020?

Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe’s global competitiveness.

Seen as a means to drive economic growth and create jobs, Horizon 2020 is backed by the support of Europe’s leaders and the Members of the European Parliament. They agreed that research is an investment for our common future and so put it at the heart of the EU’s blueprint for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and jobs.

By coupling research and innovation, Horizon 2020 is helping to achieve this with its emphasis on excellent science, industrial leadership and tackling societal challenges. The goal is to ensure Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation.

The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation will be complemented by further measures to complete and further develop the European Research Area. These measures will aim at breaking down barriers to create a genuine single market for knowledge, research and innovation.

How do I find the right call for my project?

Horizon 2020 works as an umbrella, offering a large variety of funding opportunities for research and innovation activities through specific calls for proposals that are set out in the Horizon 2020 work programme.

Whether you are already familiar with EU research funding or a completely new user, simply go to the Horizon2020 structure and budget page to find topics that belong to open or forthcoming calls. You can search in the text of the call and topic titles, call and topic identifiers, topic description and keywords and tags related to this topic.
You can also filter using the quick finder for topics related to H2020 cross-cutting priorities, like international cooperation, SME instrument, social sciences and humanities, etc.
You can also search for previous (closed) topics, as a guide.
In Horizon 2020 there are more opportunities for cooperation with and participation by researchers from non-EU countries.

Who can apply?

Any natural or legal persons (e.g. any company, big or small, research organisations, universities, non-governmental organisations, etc.) regardless of their place of establishment or residence. They must possess the operational and financial viability to carry out the research tasks that they propose.

Can non-danish projects apply?

Yes. Legal entities established in the following countries are eligible to receive funding in Horizon 2020:

  • Member States of the European Union, including their overseas departments and outermost regions.
  • Associated Countries – the following countries have stated their intention to become associated to Horizon 2020 by the time the first grant agreements are being signed. These are Albania, Bosnia and Herzigovina, Faroe Islands, North Macedonia, Iceland, Israel, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine. Check the List of H2020 Associated Countries.
  • Legal entities established in countries not listed above or international organisations will be eligible for funding when it is explicitly stated in the relevant work programme and call. In addition, they may be eligible for funding under a bilateral scientific and technological agreement or any other arrangement between the Union and an international organisation or a third country.

For third country participation see also the H2020 Online Manual section for International Cooperation.

What areas does H2020 cover?

Horizon 2020 is divided into 3 three pillars and 2 specific objectives corresponding to its main priorities:

  • Excellent Science: The Excellent Science part of H2020 supports the world-class science in Europe, by developing, attracting and retaining research talent and supporting the development of the best research infrastructures.
  • Industrial Leadership: The Industrial Leadership supports key technologies, such as microelectronics, advanced manufacturing, etc. across existing and emerging sectors. It also aims at attracting more private investment into R&I and supporting the increase of innovative SMEs in Europe.
  • Societal Challenges: The pillar of Societal Challenges supports R&I that target society and citizens (climate, environment, energy, transport, etc.). It supports the development of breakthrough solutions coming from multi-disciplinary collaborations, which include social sciences and humanities.
  • Specific objective ‘Spreading excellence & widening participation’
  • Specific objective ‘Science with and for society

What are the evaluation criteria?

Proposals are evaluated and scored against selection and award criteria – excellence, impact, and quality and efficiency of implementation. The Standard Evaluation Criteria describe in detail the criteria used for each type of action.

Experts score each award criterion on a scale from 0 to 5 (half point scores may be given):

  • 0 – Proposal fails to address the criterion or cannot be assessed due to missing or incomplete information.
  • 1 – Poor. The criterion is inadequately addressed or there are serious inherent weaknesses.
  • 2 – Fair. The proposal broadly addresses the criterion, but there are significant weaknesses.
  • 3 – Good. The proposal addresses the criterion well, but a number of shortcomings are present.
  • 4 – Very good. The proposal addresses the criterion very well, but a small number of shortcomings are present.
  • 5 – Excellent. The proposal successfully addresses all relevant aspects of the criterion. Any shortcomings are minor.

The maximum overall score is thus 15 (3×5), unless a weighting is applied.

How does the evaluation process work?

Once the application is submitted and the deadline passed, independent experts evaluate proposals following this 3-steps process:

  • Phase 1 — Individual evaluation: experts work individually. Each expert gives a score for each criterion, with explanatory comments, and prepares an ‘individual evaluation report (IER)’.
  • Phase 2 — Consensus group: after carrying out an individual evaluation, an expert will join other experts who have evaluated the same proposal in a consensus group, to agree on a common position, including comments and scores.
  • Phase 3 — Panel review: after the consensus phase a panel of experts reach an agreement on the scores and comments for all proposals within a call and, if necessary, propose a new set of marks or revise comments. Finally, the panel ranks the proposals having a qualifying score and give a priority order for proposals with the same score

The Commission then produces a ranked list of proposals, including all proposals with scores above the qualifying score. Some proposals may be put on a reserve list of “proposals that may be offered funding if a higher-scoring project does not go ahead or additional funds become available”. When a proposal is placed on the reserve list, the coordinator is informed. The Commission may also specify a date after which grant agreement is unlikely to be offered.

The Commission will notify proposal coordinators if their proposal has been rejected.

What is required in the Application and how can I apply?

As H2020 offers a variety of different opportunities, each call for proposals has its own requirements, deadlines and required documents.

All proposals must be submitted electronically using the electronic submission system of the Participant Portal. Access to the electronic submission system is available after selecting a topic and a type of action of your preferred call for proposal.

Who? Proposals must be created and submitted by a representative/contact person of the coordinating organisation, but certain types of action differ from this standard.

How? The electronic submission system is an online wizard that guides you step-by-step through the preparation of your proposal. The proposal itself consists of 2 main parts:

  • Administrative forms (structured information of the basic administrative data, declarations of partners, organisations and contact persons, etc.)
  • Technical annex, which is the detailed description of the planned research and innovation project outlining work packages, costs, etc.

Further mandatory or optional annexes (e.g. supporting documents for ethics issues, detailed budget table for lump sum pilot projects) can be required by the call and the given topic, as shown in the submission system.

How does the application process work?

Proposal submission: If you wish to respond to a call, you must submit a proposal before the deadline. The Horizon 2020 Online Manual has clear instructions to guide you through the process. The system is simpler than ever – no more paper! All proposals are submitted online.

Find your partners: many calls require a team of at least three partners. If you need help to identify a potential partner with particular competences, facilities or experience, use the partner search options.

Evaluation by experts: once the deadline has passed, all proposals are evaluated by a panel of independent specialists in their fields. The panel checks each proposal against a list of criteria to see if it should receive funding.

Grant agreement: once a proposal passes the evaluation stage (five months’ duration), applicants are informed about the outcome. The European Commission then draws up a grant agreement with each participant. The grant agreement confirms what research & innovation activities will be undertaken, the project duration, budget, rates and costs, the European Commission’s contribution, all rights and obligations and more. The time limit for signing the grant agreements is generally three months.

Can a project be resubmitted in the first H2020 application is unsuccessful?

Yes, projects can be resubmitted.

What will come after H2020 in 2021?

The Commission is working on a proposal for the framework programme that will succeed Horizon 2020, called Horizon Europe. This will be done in the context of the EU’s proposal for the next 7-year EU budget, the Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF).

The Commission’s proposal for Horizon Europe is an ambitious €100 billion research and innovation programme to succeed Horizon 2020. For more information please visit Horizon Europe.

Can 1st Mile help me with the application process?

Yes, 1st Mile has a long-dated expertise in submitting winning applications to the H2020 call.

1st Mile doesn’t have strict criteria in selecting projects eligible for funding, i.e. size, number of employees, stage of development, turnover, number of previous attempts in getting the funding. Instead, 1st Mile individually assesses the project and its participants, always keeping in mind the ability of the company to deliver information/input for the application. The more the company is able to deliver the technical input required, the easier it will be for 1st Mile to get the required information for applying.

How much of my time does 1st Mile require to apply for a H2020 call?

When 1st Mile and the applying company start a collaboration, the applying company should consider, on average, 2 working weeks of commitment. This is the time needed to get all the requested input, prepare company CVs, gather partners, have meetings. 1stMile’s time commitment depends a lot on the company; the easier it is to gather the information, the least time is required to finish an application.

For more information on the H2020, please visit the H2020 Online Manual.