Horizon 2020 General overview

Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness. The framework programme, consisting of multiple support mechanisms with an available budget of €79bn, provides opportunities for industry and academia to draw down Research and Innovation funding.

The emphasis through Horizon 2020 is on excellent science, industrial leadership and tackling societal challenges. The principal goals are 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.

Horizon 2020 provides a simpler application process than previous framework programmes, which helps new projects to get off the ground quickly and so achieve results faster. Horizon 2020 offers Irish businesses and researchers significant opportunities to finance research and technology and build networks and partnerships for innovation.

Horizon 2020 will raise the level of excellence in Europe's science base and secure Europe's long-term competitiveness by fostering a steady stream of world-class research. It will support the best ideas and support infrastructural capability within Europe, making Europe an attractive location for the world's best researchers.

  • European Research Council: The ERC will continue to support the most talented and creative individuals and their teams to carry out frontier research of the highest quality
  • Research Infrastructures: Ensure Europe has world-class research infrastructures (including e-infrastructures) accessible to all researchers in Europe and beyond
  • Future and Emerging Technologies: Collaborative research will be funded to open up new and promising fields of research and innovation
  • Marie-Skłodowska-Curie Actions: MSCA will enable researchers to access opportunities for excellent training and career development

This priority area seeks to strengthen Europe’s industrial leadership in innovation and make Europe a more attractive location for investment by promoting activities where businesses set the agenda. It will provide major investment in key industrial technologies, offer greater access to capital and help innovative SMEs to grow into world-leading companies.

  • Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies (LEIT): the development of technologies underpinning innovation will be supported across a range of sectors, including ICT and Space. Horizon 2020 will also promote the development of capabilities in Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) including micro- and nano-electronics, photonics, nanotechnologies, advanced materials, biotechnology, and advanced manufacturing and processing.
  • Access to Risk Finance: To support and facilitate access to sources of debt and equity financing by innovative companies of all sizes and also by research centres and universities, public-private partnerships, special-purpose companies or projects, and joint ventures.
  • Innovation in SMEs: To optimise the Research, Development & Innovation environment for SMEs, including through the establishment and facilitation of a range of support services, with the aim of strengthening the innovation capacity of SMEs and creating value on the market and/or into society

Horizon 2020 will help address major concerns shared by citizens in Europe and elsewhere. A challenge-based approach will bring together resources and knowledge across different fields, technologies and disciplines, including social sciences and the humanities, as well as the private sector. It will tackle societal challenges by helping to bridge the gap between research and the market by, for example, helping innovative enterprise to develop their technological breakthroughs into viable products with real commercial potential. It will include establishing links with the activities of the European Innovation Partnerships (EIP). Funding is focused on the following challenges:

  • Health, demographic change and well-being
  • European Bioeconomy Challenges, including food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research
  • Secure, clean and efficient energy
  • Smart, green and integrated transport
  • Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials
  • Europe in a changing world: Ensuring inclusive, innovative and reflective societies
  • Secure societies: Protecting freedom and security of Europe and its citizens

For enquiries and applications relating to specific programmes, please contact the relevant National Contact Point.

In certain circumstances, SFI support the hosting of a Brussel’s Conference to create opportunities for Ireland and Irish researchers in the European Research Area.

Horizon 2020 How to apply