Structure of Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 is structured around three pillars (excellent science, industrial leadership and societal challenges) and several partnerships. Each pillar and action has its own objectives, funding and work programme(s). The complete Horizon 2020 programme (2014-2020) is funded with approximately 80 billion euros. This document tries to give some insights into the changes and important aspects of Horizon 2020, but it is by no means complete. The EU-Office has collected much more specific information that can be helpful in preparing your proposal. Research Professional has a detailed description of the Horizon 2020 work programmes.

The Excellent Science pillar includes:

  • European Research Council (13 billion) for frontier research by the best individual teams. Available grants are:
    • Starting Independent Researcher Grant for researchers 2-7 years past obtaining their PhD (1.5 million euros, deadline 25 March 2014)
    • Consolidator Grants for researchers 7-12 years past obtaining their PhD (2 million euros, deadline 20 May 2014)
    • Advanced Researcher Grants for established researchers (2.5 million euros, deadline 21 October 2014)
    • Proof of Concept Grants, only for ERC grantees (150.000 euros, deadlines 1 April and 1 October 2014)
  • Future & emerging technologies (2.7 billion euros) for collaborative research to open new fields of innovation. This includes the FET-Open scheme (deadline 30 September), FET-Proactive (deadline 1 April and 25 November 2014) and some coordination actions.
  • Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions (6.1 billion euros) for opportunities for training and career development. These actions are divided into several schemes, most importantly:
    • Innovative Training Networks for the training of PhD candidates (deadline 9 April 2014)
    • Individual Fellowships for mobility of post-doctoral researchers (deadline 11 September 2014)
    • Research & Innovation Staff Exchange for exchange of staff between sectors or with partners outside Europe (deadline 24 April 2014)
  • Research Infrastructures (2.5 billion euros) for access to world-class facilities (deadlines 15 April 2014 and later)

The Industrial Leadership pillar includes:

  • Leadership in enabling & industrial technologies (LEITs) (13.6 billion euros) with dedicated funding for ICT (deadline 23 April 2014), nanotechnologies (deadlines 26 March and later), materials (26 March 2014), biotechnology (12 March 2014), manufacturing (20 March 2014) and space research (deadlines 3 March and 26 March 2014).
  • Access to risk finance (2.8 billion euros) to leverage private finance & venture capital (deadline 15 April 2014)
  • Innovation in SMEs to foster all forms of innovation in SMEs (deadlines 12 march 2014 and later)

The Societal Challenges pillar includes seven challenges for which funding becomes available:

  • Health, demographic change & wellbeing (7.5 billion euros, deadlines 11 March, 15 April 2014)
  • Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine/maritime/inland water research and the bioeconomy (3.9 billion euros, deadlines 12 March and 26 June 2014)
  • Secure, clean & efficient energy (5.9 billion euros, deadlines 20 March 2014 and later)
  • Smart, green & integrated transport (6.3 billion euros, deadlines 18 March 2014 and later)
  • Climate action, environment, resource efficiency & raw materials (3.1 billion euros, deadlines 8 April and later)
  • Inclusive, innovative & reflective societies (1.3 billion euros, deadlines 29 April 2014 and later)
  • Secure societies (1.7 billion euros, deadlines 13 May and 28 August 2014)
  • Science with and for society (462 million euros, deadlines 12 March and 2 October 2014)
  • Spreading excellence & widening participation (816 million euros, deadline tbd)

The Partnerships under Horizon 2020 include Joint Technology Initiatives with industry:

… and Joint programmes of the Member States:

Changes, Tips & Tricks

Unfortunately, there is no golden recipe for writing your proposal, but the EU-Office can help you compose a competitive proposal efficiently. The main new items for Horizon 2020:

  • The first pillar Excellent Science is (at first sight) not very different from the respective Horizon 2020 instruments. The main changes are in details of the descriptions. Due to high application pressures we expect low success rates (down to 4% for ERC).
  • The pillar on Industrial Leadership will require an even stronger focus of the projects on SMEs and industry. Familiarize yourself with the concept of Technology Readiness Levels. The “Impact”-criterion will be more important than ever before in evaluation and ranking of your proposal. You may find requirements to link your initiative to regional funding, in which case we can provide additional information on this.
  • The pillar on Societal Challenges requires a broad approach by proposals, including significant parts of the innovation chain. Do not forget to include industry, SMEs, patient organizations, branch organizations, ethical and gender aspects, technology assessments, business models, etc. The calls under these challenges are quite broad, so you will be competing against proposals on different content. It is safe to assume that all proposals will have excellent scientific content, so your non-scientific sections (Implementation, Impact) will be where your proposal must win the competition.


The funding scheme under Horizon 2020 has changed substantially from FP7. Direct costs (salary, travel, project management, disposables, etc) are funded at 100% of the cost. Indirect costs are now funded as a flat rate of 25% of the direct costs. For most projects this means a lower contribution for the UT, but Horizon 2020 remains attractive as it still funds at a better level than most (Dutch) programmes.

Finding a call topic, submitting a proposal

The submission process will be handled from a new Participant Portal. You can search for call topics, find relevant (legal) documents and submit your proposal at this site. The same site will also be used for electronic signature of grants and project management.