An area for research and innovation

In 2000, the European Union decided to create the European Research Area (ERA), a unified area for research and innovation in Europe which would enable seamless mobility of researchers, and the sharing of knowledge for social, business and policy purposes across borders. The ERA offers support and coordination of the best research in Europe and the development of strong links with partners around the world. As a result, the EU and its Member States benefit from the strengthening of their scientific and technological bases, as well as their competitiveness.

The ERA targets five key priorities where progress needs to be made:

  • More effective national research systems
  • Optimal transnational co-operation and competition
  • An open labour market for researchers
  • Gender equality and gender mainstreaming in research
  • Optimal circulation and transfer of scientific knowledge

An important goal of the ERA is the promotion of growth and job creation which can be achieved by fostering innovation and improving Europe's research performance. Additionally, by enabling researchers to work together more effectively, ERA facilitates the research community in tackling major societal challenges, such as climate change, food and energy security, and public health.

Horizon 2020 - the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation

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.

Excellent Science

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

For an explanation of the structure of H2020 Calls, see below

Competitive Industries

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

For an explanation of the structure of H2020 Calls, see below.

Better 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 an explanation of the structure of H2020 Calls, see below

Further information about Horizon 2020 can be found on the official European website

For enquiries and applications relating to specific programmes, please contact the relevant National Contact Point (NCP). Contact details of the Irish NCPs can be found here.


The following information is required when considering an application to a Horizon 2020 call

  • type of action of the call
  • sub call code (for call identification purposes)
  • scope of the call
  • indicated budget per proposal
  • deadline for proposal submission
  • one stage or two stage call

All of this information is available in the Horizon 2020 work programmes which can be accessed through the European Commission’s Participant Portal.

The examples linked below illustrate how call information can be gathered from the Horizon 2020 work programme e.g. NMBP-11-2016: ERA-Net on Nanomedicine.

H2020-NMBP-11-2016 Example part (i)
H2020-NMBP-11-2016 Example part (ii)

Many Horizon 2020 calls require that proposals are submitted by groups of research partners (transnational consortia) that typically must include partners from a minimum of 3 member states or associated countries (MS/ACs).    

The type of action of a Horizon 2020 call determines the requirement for European/International collaboration- see table below. 

Type of Action Code Call Applicant EU Funding Rate Description

ERC Grants


1 legal entity


Frontier Research of the Highest Quality

Research and Innovation Action


≥ 3 legal entities from 3 MS/ACs


Basic and Applied Research

Innovation Action


≥ 3 legal entities from 3 MS/ACs


Planning and design of new or improved products, processes and services.

Coordination and Support Action


1 legal entity


Research Co-ordination and Support Services- Strategic Planning and Networking. (No research funded). 

MSCA Cofund



1 legal entity


Co-funding of national and international doctoral and fellowship programmes

ERA-Net Action


≥ 2 legal entities from 2 MS/ACs


Joint Programming Instrument for Research Funding Bodies

Pre-Commercial Procurement


≥ 3 legal entities from 3 MS/ACs


Instrument for Public Procurers to validate breakthrough technologies

Public Procurements of Innovative Solutions


≥ 3 legal entities from 3 MS/ACs


Instrument for Public Procurers to procure innovative goods and services