Any questions? A guide to Horizon 2020

The past few weeks saw politicians make headway: now Horizon 2020 looks set to start on time in January 2014. So what is this new R&D programme about? Here Science|Business poses Frequently Asked Questions - to be updated as final details unfold


Q. When does Horizon 2020 begin?
A. The scheduled start date of 1 January 2014 looks realistic now negotiations have concluded. The legal texts are expected to be finished before the summer break, but will then need to be approved by the Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE) and by representatives of the national governments in the Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER).  The Parliament as a whole is expected to vote on the package in Strasbourg in autumn 2013.

Q. What will the programme look like?
A. Horizon 2020 comprises three main themes, or ‘pillars’ as the Commission calls them:
1. Excellence in Science – funding the best science through open competition. This will be through four programmes: the European Research Council; Research Infrastructures; Future and Emerging Technologies; and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie research grant scheme.
2. Industrial Leadership – this includes a programme to support innovative small and medium enterprises; financial instruments including debt and equity facilities to fund innovation; and a programme to encourage the development of enabling and industrial technologies;
3. Social challenges – supporting research in areas such as health, climate, food, security, transport and energy.

Q. What about the money?
A. While the EU’s seven year budget for 2014-2020, the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), has yet to be finalised, it is estimated that Horizon 2020 (including the Euratom nuclear research programme) will receive €70.2 billion. A percentage of the budget has been assigned to each programme, with the final amount to be decided once MFF is agreed upon. 

Euratom will receive approximately €2.101 billion. 

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology will receive around €2.5 billion to fund its existing Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) and the formation of five new ones.  Two of these, working on Healthy Living and on Raw Materials are due to launch in 2014, two, on Food and on Manufacturing in 2016, and a last one focussing on Urban Mobility, in 2018. 

Q. What has changed from Framework Programme Seven?
A. Horizon 2020 brings together three previously separate initiatives - Framework Programme 7 (FP7), the innovation related activities of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the EU’s contribution to the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). 

Horizon 2020 is intended to have a stronger focus on innovation and close-to-market activities than FP7. The European Research Council will get more funding, and there will also be new instruments devoted to regions with less-developed science infrastructures and to SMEs, which are intended to widen participation. 

The greatest portion of the Horizon 2020 budget, almost forty per cent, will go to research on the so-called ‘Grand Challenges’ including health and climate change. 

There is a promise that a simplified programme structure, a single set of rules, and a simplified reimbursement model will end the bureaucracy that deterred industry from taking part in previous European Union R&D programmes. 

Open access will be mandatory for published papers based on research funded under Horizon 2020. The EU says this is part of its effort to promote sharing and collaboration between scientists, to avoid duplication and generate a greater return on public investment. 

Q. What will happen under Pillar One - Excellence in Science?
A. European Research Council (ERC) grants will fund researchers at five different stages of their careers: Starting - Grants for up-and-coming research leaders; Consolidators - Grants for those with proven potential; Advanced – Grants for high-risk, pioneering projects; Synergy – Grants supporting teams of  2-4 researchers; and Proof-of-concept – Grants to demonstrate commercialisation potential.

Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) will fund collaborative research on high-risk projects with potential for real technological and social impact. There are three types of projects: FET Open – a bottom-up approach in which researchers bid for funds; FET Proactive – which will issue calls under specific themes and promote the creation of multidisciplinary research communities; and the FET Flagships - two 10-year research projects in Graphene and the Human Brain, announced in January 2013, which are set to receive €1 billion each, to carry out large scale research in these advanced areas of science.

Research Infrastructures aims to ensure all researchers in Europe have access to world-class research infrastructures, including e-infrastructures; to foster the innovation potential of research infrastructures and promote greater cooperation within Europe and internationally. 

Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions offer career development opportunities in academic and non-academic sectors through four grant categories: initial training; life-long training and career development; industrial training, such as industry-academia secondments and industrial doctorates; and world fellowships.

Q. What specific elements of Horizon 2020 will promote innovation?
A. The Enabling and Industrial Technologies programme under Pillar Two is designed to foster innovation in existing and emerging sectors. This will include information and communications technologies, nanotechnologies, advanced materials, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing and processing, and space.

The financial instruments under Pillar Two aim to improve the availability of finance for innovative companies. Loans and guarantees for high-risk projects will be made available through a debt facility operated by the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund, and venture capital and business angel investment in early and growth stages will be supported through an equity facility.

There will be a bottom-up ‘Fast Track to Innovation’ scheme with permanently open calls with a maximum of six months taken to award a grant. This will be open to all participants, but is intended to attract small consortia with close-to-market projects and small budgets. The aim is to accelerate the commercialisation and diffusion of innovation, speed up time from idea to market significantly and increase the number of SMEs, first-time applicants and applicants from the public and non-profit research sector, taking part in Horizon 2020. Proposals can be submitted at any time, and there will be three cut-off dates every year to evaluate proposals. Projects may relate to any technology field under Pillar Two or any of the social challenges under Pillar Three. The new scheme will be tested in the form of a full-scale pilot throughout 2015 with a review in 2017 to decide whether it should be scaled up or embedded into the wider programme. 

Q. What’s in Horizon 2020 for SMEs?
A. SMEs are in line for at least twenty per cent of the combined budget falling under the Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies banner in Pillar Two and Social Challenges in Pillar Three. 

Pillar Two – industrial leadership – has a dedicated SME instrument for innovative SMEs. The bottom-up initiative will run open calls divided into three phases: concept and feasibility assessment; demonstration, market replication, and R&D; and commercialisation.

Innovation Vouchers will be available to fund research and innovation activities within Phase 2, to promote the creation of start-ups and enhance research and innovation activities within existing SMEs. 

This instrument will have its own budget and management structure and will receive seven per cent of the combined budget of Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies in Pillar Two) and Social challenges in Pillar Three, a total of approximately €2.7 billion. 

The single set of rules for Horizon 2020, with simplified and shorter procedures, is intended to increase the number of SMEs taking part.  

Q. What social challenges will Horizon 2020 target?
A. Pillar Three is broken down into seven groups of challenges:
1. Health – including diseases of the young and elderly; neurodegenerative, musculoskeletal and chronic diseases; millennium development goals; ageing and well-being; personalised medicine;
2. Food  – including bio-economy; forestry; and marine and maritime research;
3. Energy – including a new focus on gas; energy security; smart grids; energy storage; back-up and balancing technologies; carbon capture and utilisation;
4. Transport – including mobility and logistics;
5. Climate – including water management; biodiversity; raw material; eco-innovation;
6. Societies – including demography; social sciences humanities; innovation; and cultural heritage and European identity;
7. Security – a new area of research which will include fighting crime; illegal trafficking and terrorism; protection of critical infrastructures; border management; resilience to crisis and disaster; privacy on the Internet; an EU external security policy; conflict prevention and peace building; 

Scientific panels will be set up to define research and innovation priorities within the challenges and to encourage EU-wide scientific participation. The first panels will be in health.

Q. What about the reimbursement rates?
A. Universities and research and technology organisations will receive one hundred per cent of eligible costs for all projects, as well as a flat rate of twenty five per cent to cover indirect costs.
Industry participants and SMEs will receive one hundred per cent reimbursement for eligible costs of R&D activities and twenty five per cent of their indirect costs, but only seventy per cent of direct costs for close to market or co-funded activities, plus twenty five per cent indirect costs. 
The Council has introduced a bonus system that allows supplementary payments to be covered as eligible direct costs for up to €8,000 per year per person for those working full-time on a project. This will be limited to public institutions such as universities and research centres.

Q. What about research organisations with large infrastructures?
A. Universities with expensive facilities and large research organisations objected strongly during the negotiations to this flat-rate system, as it would not cover their costs. In a move to address this problem, the Commission issued guidelines on how to transfer some indirect costs to direct costs for large infrastructures.  These guidelines will take the form of an official Commission declaration. 

Q. What will be done to address the disparities in research and innovation capabilities between member states? 
A. Horizon 2020 will include a new budget line “Widening Participation”, which will receive 1.06 per cent of overall funding. This includes new activities such as teaming and twinning of research institutions in less-developed regions with well-established counterparts, and the establishment of European Research Area chairs to attract leading academics to less-developed institutions. 
Return Grants have been introduced to the Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions to attract researchers who have gone overseas back to less-developed regions.

These measures will contribute to a greater synergy between Horizon 2020 and other funding streams, especially the Structural Fund and the European Development Fund. Horizon 2020 will be linked with smart specialisation and investments under the Structural Fund. Certain regional funds will be earmarked for R&D, and it will also be possible to pool money from both sources. The Structural Fund can be used for capacity building, such as equipment, human resources development, small grants, and contribution to the funding of ERC, Marie Curie or collaborative projects. 

The Structural Fund can be used to help smooth the passage of products to market, by financing or co-financing the follow up to Horizon 2020 research projects, for example. 

Q. What’s new for energy research?
A. The budget for Social Challenge Three – which covers all aspects of energy apart from nuclear – is 7.7 per cent of the overall Horizon 2020 budget, or €5.2 billion. Of this, 85 per cent has been earmarked for renewables, energy efficiency, smart grids and storage, with approximately €787 million dedicated to encouraging market uptake – replacing the Intelligence Energy Europe Programme. 
The remaining fifteen per cent of the energy budget will be spent on research in fossil fuel technologies, including carbon capture and storage.

Q. What will happen to the FP7 Science in Society programme?
A. Science in Society will be renamed “Science with and for Society” with 0.6 per cent of the overall budget. This programme will cover activities such as making scientific careers more attractive, gender equality, science education and the accessibility and use of results.

Q. Will it be mandatory to make research data public?
A. Open access will be mandatory for any publications resulting from EU-funded research, but the costs of publication will be considered as eligible costs. Both ‘Green’ and ‘Gold’ versions of open access will be accepted; Green access involves archiving the published article in an online repository, often with an embargo period. 'Gold' open access means that a publication is immediately provided in open access mode by the scientific publisher. 

Open access to data will be encouraged but not mandatory, due to issues of intellectual property and commercialisation. 

Horizon 2020 includes a new article on "access rights for Member States" which grants countries access to research results under certain pre-conditions, especially in the field of security research. 

Q. Where has red tape been cut in Horizon 2020?
A. The time to grant will be shortened to eight months, from an average of one year under FP7. The new Financial Regulation sets a deadline of nine months, but the negotiators agreed on the shorter period of eight months for Horizon 2020, committing the Commission to inform applicants after five months and allowing three more months to sign a grant agreement. There is flexibility to exceed these time limits for the ERC, complex projects or where participants request more time for negotiations. 

The reimbursement model has also been simplified, as the full-cost reimbursement option from FP7 will not exist under Horizon 2020, and a twenty five per cent flat rate system will be implemented for indirect costs.

Q. What about ethics?
A. The rules on ethics, for example research on embryonic stem cells, remain unchanged from FP7. The rules on areas of research that cannot be funded remain exactly the same, and the principle that no funding is granted for research activities in a country where such activity is forbidden in maintained. All research must comply with ethical principles and relevant national, EU and international legislation, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the European Convention on Human Rights. The opinions of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies will be taken into account. 

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Related subjects: Horizon 2020