Horizon 2020: News

Here you will find news and tips related to European research funding. For more information explore the tabs below.

EU newsletter

Download the latest European funding newsletter here:

Download 07: April 2018 (309kb)

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Download 05: June 2017 (119KB)

Download 04: April 2017 (301KB)

Download 03: February 2017 (316KB)

Download 02: December 2016 (227KB)

Download 01: November 2016 (223KB)

For queries relating to this newsletter, or to be added to the regular mailing list, please contact Andrew Isaac (a.d.isaac@sheffield.ac.uk)

Marie Sklodowska Cure Individual Fellowships 2016 – UK Participation and University Success The University of Sheffield has recently been awarded Marie Curie Individual Fellowships (MCIFs) in 4 of its Faculties. The UK continues to be the top destination in the MCIF scheme. 25% of all proposals in 2016 call were submitted by UK host organisations. 338 UK-led proposals were retained for funding (28% of all projects), followed by 136 projects from Spain, 106 from Germany, 103 from France, and 78 from the Netherlands. The UK success rate is 15% vs the overall scheme average of 13%. The university success rate over the last three years is 19%.
UKRO Annual Visit to the University of Sheffield 16 February 2017

At a crucial time for UK involvement in EU funding, UKRO visited the University of Sheffield to present on a number of key H2020 topics. A small number of 1:1 sessions with our European Advisor (Ailidh Woodcock) were also available on a first come first basis. 


10.00: Introduction from John Derrick
10.10: Update on H2020 developments
11.30: How to build consortia and networks in H2020
12.50: How to include and deliver impact in H2020
13.30: How to Involve Industry Partners in Horizon 2020
14.30: onwards: 10 minute 1:1 sessions with our European Advisor at UKRO


UKRO visit slides

Introduction from John Derrick

Update on H2020 developments

How to build consortia and networks in H2020

How to include and deliver impact in H2020

How to Involve Industry Partners in Horizon 2020

FAQs on UK Participation in EU Funding for Research, Innovation and Higher Education

The information in the FAQs is provided by the UK Research Office and reflects our current understanding of the UK situation with regards to Horizon 2020 and other funding programmes in research, innovation and higher education.

What has changed for UK participation since the referendum?

Key message: No immediate changes to UK participation in Horizon 2020 – read more

What happens to proposals and projects involving UK participants when the UK leaves the EU?

The UK Government will underwrite funding for EU projects beyond the date the UK leaves the EU – read more

What is the advice from the European Commission on UK participation in Horizon 2020?

The Commission has confirmed that the status of UK participants in EU funding programmes remains unchanged until the UK leaves the EU – read more

Not from the UK and have concerns over including UK partners?

The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy created a special inbox for queries and to report issues – read more

Coming to Brussels with a group and looking for an update for your researchers/research managers?

UKRO can provide an update on the UK situation at your Brussels event – read more

EU announce emails

Announce email, Nov 2016

Dear Colleague,

In recent years, EU research funding has been an increasingly important part of the University's research portfolio, helping us to grow our grant income in an increasingly challenging UK environment. Over the last five years, 17.5 per cent of the value of our new research awards has been funded by the European Commission and reached almost 25 per cent in one year during that period.

We know that despite the continued uncertainty about our status when we leave the EU, collaboration with our research partners in Europe will continue to be a key part of our international ambitions and provides a great opportunity for academics to collaborate with the best research groups in Europe.

Assurances that any projects funded before the UK formally exits the EU will be funded to completion have been welcomed by the academic community. Given this reassurance, I urge you all to continue to treat Horizon 2020 funding as 'business as usual.' By applying for Horizon 2020 funding, we can make sure we have a strong Horizon 2020 profile as the Government starts to negotiate our future status, both in terms of funding portfolio and the global reach of our research impact.

Our success to date is in part due to the integrated approach we've taken, supporting EU engagement alongside RCUK and other funders, rather than as something distinct and separate. This has ensured that we've capitalised on all opportunities, future-proofing our capabilities and enhancing our international recognition. While we intend to continue with this approach, we are ramping up our support for EU funding with three new initiatives:

- A 'How It All Works' guide to understanding European funding post-Brexit. The guide brings together in one place support and guidance from across the University to help you to navigate the current landscape and continue to be successful in securing EU funding opportunities. Look out for hard copies in your coffee rooms and other communal departmental spaces over the next few weeks. The guide can also be downloaded from the web address below.

- A newly launched EU newsletter produced by R&IS. European Research Funding News will arrive in your email in-box every 2-3 weeks, providing a handy digest of the latest EU-related news, developments, guidance and funding opportunities.

- A post of EU Implementation Manager, based in R&IS. Andrew Isaac is available to coordinate the Professional Service support available to PIs when awarded large or complicated EU projects, to ensure projects are set up quickly and efficiently. Andrew will be contacting PIs who are awarded such grants but, of course, will also be happy to be contacted by recipients themselves.

We know that the challenges confronting us - whether it is climate change, an ageing population, globalisation, migration, conflict, violence and intercultural intolerance, or the growing health and wealth divide - are of such a scale that to begin to tackle them they need a combined international expertise. Horizon 2020 schemes tie this international expertise together enabling academics, governments NGOs and commercial organisations to pool talent and resources; maximising the impact of our research influence on governments and policy makers at the highest level. This is why attracting EU funding and increasing our EU engagement continues to be a clear priority for the University.

Best wishes,

John Derrick (Deputy PVC R&I)
Rob Freckleton (Faculty PVC R&I Science)
John Haycock (Faculty PVC R&I Engineering)
Chris Newman (Faculty PVC R&I Medicine Dentistry & Health)
Bob Shoemaker (Faculty PVC R&I Arts & Humanities)
Craig Watkins (Faculty PVC R&I Social Sciences)

Brexit is a funding opportunity!

Brexit is a funding opportunity!

This might sound perverse, but now is the time to pick up the phone to your partners and offer to lead a consortium for a H2020 bid. The line could be "I'm sorry my country voted for Leave, but my group wants to remain in our research partnership. There is no risk and there may be benefits from bidding now." Because:

  • The European Commission has already confirmed that any H2020 award given before Brexit will continue to completion.
  • There is no existing mechanism by which UK partners can be removed from a funded EU project - other than if they have breached the standard terms and conditions of the grant agreement.
  • Also, Commission officials will be instructing panels not to discriminate against UK participation
  • We are hearing stories of positive responses from partners, encouraging UK and Sheffield participation; what we aren't hearing are incidences of UoS researchers being asked to leave consortia
  • You might worry about reviewers taking a negative view of proposals. Remember (a) that H2020 panels are closely controlled by the officials would will be looking out for bias (b) the 'redmist' that may be clouding judgements at present will have dissipated by the time you get to review, (c) other reviewers will be wanting to show solidarity with the UK science community.
  • Some UK partners will take fright and drop out, leaving a bigger pot for us!

Do not offer to give up coordination of an application to your partners!

A UK Coordinator is a positive, demonstrating everyone's interest in preserving the European (Scientific) Union.

Why not register as an EU expert and get on some H2020 panels to learn the system?

The University has a FAQs page on Brexit. In addition, you can pose questions to eu@sheffield.ac.uk or discuss any issues with your Faculty Director of Research and Innovation, or the Research Development Team in R&IS.

University response to the outcome of the EU referendum

24 June 2016

University response to the outcome of the EU referendum

A statement from the University of Sheffield on the outcome of the EU referendum:

A University of Sheffield spokesperson said: "The University of Sheffield is carefully considering the implications of the result of the EU referendum to the University and to our staff and students. Our University is a Top 100 University globally and home to staff and students from around the world, including many from other EU nations. Scholars from these countries are central to the teaching of students and research in everything from medicine and science to engineering, social sciences and the arts and humanities.

"Naturally, a vote to leave the EU raises many important questions that require urgent answers - for universities, staff, students, prospective students, our research partners and other stakeholders. We will be working closely with other universities across the UK to seek answers to these questions as quickly and completely as possible.

"However, we should remember that leaving the EU will not happen overnight. The Lisbon Treaty foresees a two year negotiation process between the UK and other Member States, during which time the terms of the UK’s exit from the European Union will be decided. For this reason there will not be any immediate material change to the immigration status of current and prospective EU students and staff or to the UK university sector’s participation in EU programmes such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+.

"Our primary concern at this time is for those staff and students who may be affected by the outcome of the referendum, and we will continue to offer advice and support to them over the coming weeks and months."

A statement from Universities UK:

Dame Julia Goodfellow, President of Universities UK, said: “Leaving the EU will create significant challenges for universities. Although this is not an outcome that we wished or campaigned for, we respect the decision of the UK electorate. We should remember that leaving the EU will not happen overnight, there will be a gradual exit process with significant opportunities to seek assurances and influence future policy.

“Throughout the transition period our focus will be on securing support that allows our universities to continue to be global in their outlook, internationally networked and an attractive destination for talented people from across Europe. These features are central to ensuring that British universities continue to be the best in the world.

“Our first priority will be to convince the UK Government to takes steps to ensure that staff and students from EU countries can continue to work and study at British universities and to promote the UK as a welcoming destination for the brightest and best minds. They make a powerful contribution to university research and teaching and have a positive impact on the British economy and society. We will also prioritise securing opportunities for our researchers and students to access vital pan-European programmes and build new global networks.”

If you are a member of staff or a student with questions about how the outcome of the EU referendum affects you, email eu@sheffield.ac.uk. You can also visit our FAQ page, which will be updated in the coming days and weeks with the latest information.

Read the comment Life after Brexit – what next for British universities? by Professor Sir Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, 24 June 2016, published in Times Higher Education.

Brexit – making sense of EU funding in light of the UK’s EU referendum


Brexit: Making sense of EU funding in light of the UK’s EU referendum


It is impossible to avoid this issue when dealing with EU funding with many researchers concerned by the implications of a vote to leave. For many academics the uncertainty associated with Brexit (withdrawal of the UK from the EU) in terms of securing EU funding is a major source of concern and even drawback to applying for EU funds. Hence, we want to shed light on the facts behind the EU referendum with a view towards ensuring academics are not dissuaded from applying for EU funding.



What could the EU referendum mean for Horizon 2020?

If the UK votes to leave the EU the UK government would have two years to negotiate a withdrawal agreement according to the legal process for exiting the EU set out in Article 50 of the EU Treaty. This means that the earliest possible exit will be in June 2018. But, this is not the end. Establishing a new relationship would inevitably take more time than two years. The long and complex process of negotiations to define the relationship between the UK and the EU might last up to ten years.


Brexit timeline


However, being outside the EU does not necessarily hinder the UK to participate in EU programmes and its ability to collaborate on research. Non-members such as Norway, Switzerland and Israel have gained access to various EU research schemes, mainly by paying for inclusion in them and by adopting some general EU rules, such as freedom of movement.

The important question to be answered during the following negotiation process is what type of status the UK would hold if it leaves. Basically there are two main options open:

  • One Option is to become an Associated Country. In this case we will have fuller access to EU research schemes than a non-EU country, but we will have to negotiate our involvement in programmes such as Horizon 2020 on a funded basis. However, this option is only possible if all 27 Members States were to agree to grant the UK an associated member status – which might be difficult considering the prevailing discontent of the other members with the UK’s approach.
  • Another option is to engage as a Third Country. Although non-EU members can participate in Horizon 2020, a drawback of this option is that if their GDP level is above a specific threshold they don’t receive funding from the EU. Given the UK’s relative prosperity it is considered wealthy enough to fund its research itself, in a similar way to countries like USA, Canada and Australia.


Those two models are the most likely ones to occur if the UK leaves the EU. However, other approaches that define the relationship between the UK and the EU are also possible. The Global Counsel has set out five distinct models, as well as their implications, in its report BREXIT: the impact on the UK and the EU published in June 2015.

Often parallels are being drawn with the situation of Switzerland that had to negotiate its access to specific sectors of the single market, including its access to Horizon 2020, as a consequence of their referendum in 2014. Although Switzerland has since regained partial and temporary access to Horizon 2020 it still has limited access to the different pillars of Horizon 2020. Switzerland has access as an associated member state to the first pillar: Excellence Science. In terms of pillars two (Industrial Leadership) and three (Societal Challenges) it is considered a third country similar to China or the USA and thus only eligible for funding when meeting certain criteria.

However, even if the UK did succeed in securing participation in future EU research programmes through negotiations, it would lose its influence in shaping the political agenda on the European level. Currently the UK has a powerful political voice pushing for science and contributing to European guidelines and policies in research and innovation. But if the UK votes to leave the EU it will lose its influence to shape research programmes and funding allocation in science.

The impact of the vote to leave the EU in terms of the UK’s access to European research programmes is unsure and depends on the deal between the EU and UK after Brexit. Nevertheless, the coming referendum should not put off researchers to apply for EU funding. As our UKRO advisor, Blazej Thomas, assured us during his visit in March, the UK will remain a full EU member until its exit date, which will be two years after the referendum at the earliest. Moreover, it was pointed out that the date of signing the grant agreement is important and all ongoing projects will definitely not be affected in case of UK’s exit. Hence, his advice is to apply and sign the agreement now to secure funding in the future!


Lessons from Switzerland

During the Swiss referendum in 2014, the vote was passed to limit the free circulation of Croatians into Switzerland and thus revoke access to the country’s employment market on terms equal to those of the Swiss population. As a consequence Switzerland was excluded from participating in Horizon 2020 and receiving EU funding for research. This had especially impact on the Swiss participation in European Research Council (ERC) grant applications as part of Horizon 2020. One of the conditions to receive an ERC grant is to conduct research for a certain number of months a year in an institution within an EU Member or Associated Member State. In the few months that Switzerland was expelled from Horizon 2020, the number of ERC grantees from Switzerland dropped considerably. Although the UK is now leading in number of ERC grants similar issues could be experienced if it leaves the EU.

For more information about Swiss participation in EU research schemes, see: Swiss guide to European research and innovation.



Facts and figures about EU Funding in the UK


  • The UK is one of the largest recipients of research funding in the EU. In the current EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020, the UK secured 15.4% of funds, behind only Germany.
  • It has more ERC-funded projects than any other country, accounting for 22% of all ERC-funded projects – more than 25 recipient countries put together.
  • In 2013/14, EU funding represented 9.7% of total research income for Higher Education Institutions in the UK.



Further information about Brexit and its impact on UK Research

  • Universities for Europe - campaign, led by Universities UK that shows the value of EU membership to UK universities


Studies on the role of EU membership in funding UK research



Two highly competitive ERC Advanced Grants in the Faculty of Science

Professor Roger Butlin (Department of Animal and Plant Sciences) awarded a prestigious ERC Advanced Grant

Roger Butlin


The project will provide major new insights into the speciation process, particularly revealing the requirements for progress towards complete reproductive isolation.

Professor Roger Butlin


Professor Butlin's research is concerned primarily with the origin of species, especially the evolutionary genetics of reproductive isolation. He has used insect acoustic and chemical signals as model systems to investigate the controversial process of reinforcement, particularly in parapatry, and questions such as the inheritance of signal characters and the form of female preferences. Professor Butlin is currently working on local adaptation and speciation in winkles (Littorina), in close collaboration with colleagues in Sweden, and host races of the pea aphid (Acrythosiphon) and also collaborates in related projects with Drosophila subobscura and D. montana. Other areas of research include:

  • the evolution of asexual reproduction
  • the evolution at range margins and its implications for conservation genetics
  • genetic basis of virulence in the parasistic plant Striga


What is the project about?

"In this project, I will focus on the accumulation of barriers to gene exchange and the processes underlying increasing reproductive isolation. I will use the power of natural contact zones, combined with novel manipulative experiments, to separate the processes that underlie patterns of differentiation and introgression. The Littorina saxatilis (rough periwinkle - a coastal snail) model system allows me to do this with both local replication and a contrast between distinct spatial contexts on a larger geographic scale. I will use modelling to determine how processes interact and to investigate the conditions most likely to promote coupling and reinforcement. Overall, the project will provide major new insights into the speciation process, particularly revealing the requirements for progress towards complete reproductive isolation."


What is Speciation?

It's a central process in evolution that involves the origin of barriers to gene flow between populations. Species are typically isolated by several barriers and assembly of multiple barriers separating the same populations seems to be critical to the evolution of strong reproductive isolation. Barriers resulting from direct selection can become coincident through a process of coupling while reinforcement can add barrier traits that are not under direct selection. In the presence of gene flow, these processes are opposed by recombination. While recent research using the latest sequencing technologies has provided much increased knowledge of patterns of differentiation and the genetic basis of local adaptation, it has so far added little to understanding of the coupling and reinforcement processes.


Professor Butlin's professional activities include:

  • President, European Society for Evolutionary Biology, 2013-2015
  • Darwin-Wallace Medal, 2015, awarded by the Linnean Society of London
  • Associate Editor, American Naturalist, from 2015
  • Editor in Chief, Heredity, 2009-2012


Professor Dan Tovey (Department of Physics and Astronomy) receives also a highly competitive ERC Advanced Grant

Dan Tovey

This project will address directly the two most important unanswered questions in particle physics: the Standard Model (SM) hierarchy problem and the nature of dark matter (DM).

Professor Dan Tovey

Professor Tovey's research is focused on searching for new elementary particles created in collisions at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva. His main interest is the search for production of new particles predicted by supersymmetry (SUSY) theory. SUSY could answer key questions about the famous Higgs boson, discovered at the LHC in 2012, and also explain the origin and nature of the mysterious 'dark matter' observed indirectly to exist throughout the universe by astronomers. In order to answer both these questions SUSY predicts the existence of new particles which could be observed at the LHC. Dan and his team work on the ATLAS experiment, one of the two largest experiments at the LHC, and over the next four years they will sift through the latest data from ATLAS to find first evidence for these particles. A discovery would revolutionise physics and our understanding of the universe on both the largest and smallest scales. In addition to conducting this search, in 2016 and 2017 Dan will also be overseeing and guiding the entire scientific programme of the experiment as ATLAS Physics Coordinator, elected by the 175 institutes from 38 countries comprising the ATLAS Collaboration.


What is the project about?

"This project will address directly the two most important unanswered questions in particle physics: the Standard Model (SM) hierarchy problem and the nature of dark matter (DM).

The SM was recently completed with the discovery of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in 2012. We know, however, that the SM cannot be the end of the story for fundamental physics, because it suffers from two major flaws: a lack of stability for the mass of the Higgs boson (the hierarchy problem), and a lack of a candidate for the invisible DM particles known to make up most of the matter in the universe.

I will address both of these key problems of modern physics by searching at the LHC for new beyond the SM (BSM) partner states for the SM top quark decaying to new DM particles. The greatly increased quantities of data and world-record collision energies generated by the LHC in the next three years will provide an unprecedented opportunity to find such top partners. Confirmation of their existence would solve the hierarchy problem by providing a mechanism for stabilising the mass of the Higgs boson, while first observation of DM at the LHC would revolutionise our understanding of cosmology and provide a key pointer to the physics of the very early universe. Many leading BSM physics models predict the existence of both top partners and DM, and so this interdisciplinary project provides a unique opportunity to take the next major step forward in developing a unified theory of nature. I will focus on top partners which decay to a top quark and a DM particle, with the former decaying purely to jets and the latter escaping the detector unseen. I will use novel kinematic techniques developed by me to identify and characterise this signal in LHC data, and also accurately measure for the first time the dominant SM background process of associated production of top quarks and a Z boson, which is of great theoretical interest in its own right."


Three new Marie Curie - Innovative Training Network (ITN) awards for Sheffield

Endre Kiss-Toth (Medicine), Alex Tartokovskii (Physics and Astronomy), and Nick Williams (Chemistry) were successful in obtaining a Marie Curie ITN award


Endre Kiss Toth

Principal Investigator: Dr Endre Kiss-Toth

Department: Infection, Immunity & Cardiovascular Disease

Project Title: TRAIN - Tribbles Research and Innovation Network

Further information about the project




Principal Investigator: Professor Alexander Tartakovskii

Department: Physics and Astronomy

Project Title: 4PHOTON - Novel Quantum Emitters monolithically grown on Si, Ge and III-V substrates



Nick Williams

Principal Investigator: Professor Nick Williams

Department: Department of Chemistry

Project Title: MMBIO - Molecular Tools for Nucleic Acid Manipulation for Biological Intervention


The tips and advices stem from a recent visit to the University from our UK Research Office (UKRO) adviser Blazej Thomas. Blazej visited in March 2016 and ran a number of special interest sessions on Horizon 2020. We offer below a summary of the main points and take away messages from each session.

What are the lessons learned from first Horizon 2020 calls for proposals?

Lessons learned from first Horizon 2020 calls


Be the first
Approach potential partners early on as the best organizations tend to be committed to consortia early and can be bound by consortium agreements that bar their participation in other proposals.

Show understanding of wider EU policies
Ensure EU added value by showing links to specific EU policies and strategies when writing applications. Explain how your project contributes to urgent EU policies such as job creation, growth, Europe’s global competitiveness and cultural heritage and show how your project and outcomes will contribute to implementing, furthering or even revising these policies. The EU has policies for pretty much everything so making these links is crucial.

The growing importance of impact
Each thematic call spells out the expected impact, a section which has gained more importance in Horizon 2020. As such, you should carefully consider the tangible outcomes of your project in terms of innovative products, services, policy recommendations and the like, with clear reference to what the call says it expects. This is all the more important in two-stage proposals where the impact section is often evaluated first. If it does not reach the threshold this may result in the proposal being rejected before the excellence section is even looked at. The IPR Helpdesk hosts regularly webinars on impact and innovation in Horizon 2020.

Consider the various levels of impact

  1. International level: How your work helps tackle global societal challenges.
  2. European level: How the project contributes to the objectives of EU strategies and plans, how it helps address fragmentation of research agendas across Europe, and how it helps build lasting partnerships .e.g. between academia and industry.
  3. Institutional level: How the project fits with the institution's wider plans and strategic direction.

Become an expert evaluator
Register on the Participant Portal as an expert evaluator as this will enable you to know the selection and assessment criteria. Previous calls have shown that there is a direct link between being an evaluator and success in applications.

Go Global
International cooperation (with third countries) is a cross-cutting issue in Horizon 2020. Although not all topics require the inclusion of third countries, having one or two organisations from third countries in the consortium increases the proposal's chance of being funded.


Some figures from first calls

  • There was a very high level of interest and participation in Horizon 2020. The average subscription was around 7 times the available budget with 60.000 expert evaluators registered.
  • In the 2014/15 calls 22,485 participants were part of 5.273 successful projects with an average EU contribution of nearly €1.75M per project.
  • The UK performed exceptionally well in these calls, ranked 2nd (behind Germany) by participation and contribution. The UK was also awarded the most ERC awards.

More statistics on Horizon 2020

Read the Horizon 2020 First Result publication






How to build consortia and networks?

Tips on building consortia and networks

The revised 2016‐17 Work Programme places even more emphasis on having the right kinds of partnerships in place, particularly in terms of academic/non-academic. Therefore, it is now more important than ever to work with the appropriate partners.


How to find the right partners?

  • Obviously, use your existing contacts and those you might have worked with on past projects for appropriate partners. Working with people you know often leads to fewer problems down the line. Talking to colleagues at conferences and workshops might also bring out those interested.
  • The European Commission’s CORDIS web-site contains a list of successful projects from previous calls. Lead partners in these calls may well be interested in continuing with further projects and will be experienced partners to approach.
  • Some National Contact Points for particular thematic areas such as Health provide partner search tools so it is certainly worth contacting them. They also regularly run information sessions and brokerage events to help partners find consortia so getting on their mailing list is a good idea.
  • And last but not least you can also scan the many available Social Media platforms such as LinkedIn, who have partner search groups for specific calls.


What to consider when building consortia?

  •  Aim for large and diverse consortia since the Commission favours ambitious projects.
  • Contact potential partners as soon as possible to avoid them already participating in another consortium.
  • Make sure your partners match the expertise required by the various research activities proposed in your project.
  • Take the evaluation criteria into account and consider what the added value of the partnership would be. Make a strong case, though, for how the partnership will work in practice – the implementation side of things. What will the division of projects and tasks be and how will the partners interact with each other.
  • Where mentioned in the call text embed the social sciences and humanities – in the latest calls there is more of an emphasis on this so, if your topic requires SSH expertise you must include partners from those disciplines to increase your chances of success.
  • The most important consideration though will in all cases be to go with the best people and organisations.
  • Where to apply for funding to support consortium‐building activities?
  • Perhaps check first if internal funding is available to facilitate the building of partnerships.
  • Use COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) – a funding mechanism to fund especially activities to establish and coordinate international networks. You could either propose a new network yourself or request to join a pre-existing network.


Priority order for proposals with same overall score

  1. Excellence score
  2. Impact score
  3. Size of EU budget allocated to SMEs
  4. Gender balance - demonstrating efforts to consider this, recognising of course that this is more difficult in certain fields.


UKRO Factsheet about Building a Consortium


What does international cooperation in Horizon 2020 mean?

International Cooperation in Horizon 2020

In the context of Horizon 2020, international co-operation (INCO) refers to collaboration with any legal entity based in the so-called 'third countries', that is, countries that are neither EU Member States nor Associated Countries. However, there is no specific programme dedicated to international cooperation within Horizon 2020, which differs from FP7 where International Co-operation came under the Capacities Programme. Instead, collaborative projects involving international partners are encouraged across the whole of Horizon 2020.



International cooperation in Horizon 2020 pursues three main objectives:

  • Strengthening the Union’s excellence and attractiveness in research and innovation as well as its economic and industrial competitiveness
  • Tackling common societal challenges.
  • Supporting the Union’s external and development policy objectives (United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, etc.)


Approach towards international cooperation in Horizon 2020

International cooperation in research and innovation pursues a dual approach of openness complemented by targeted international cooperation activities.

  • General openness: Above the minimum requirements for participation (3 MS/AC), researchers and institutions from third countries can participate in an EU R&I project (more information General rules for participation).

- research and innovation projects with obligatory or recommended participation of third countries

- joint initiatives involving the Union and international partners (coordinated calls, contribution of Union to third country/international organisations, ERA-Net/Art185)

  • In addition - horizontal activities promote the strategic development ofinternational cooperation - policy dialogues, networking activities, etc. (the former "INCO projects" - now located in Societal Challenge 6 "Europe in changing world - inclusive, innovative and reflective societies.


The bilateral S&T agreements with third countries are seen as an important instrument in the EU's strategic approach to international cooperation in research and innovation.

Areas for targeted international cooperation activities across Horizon 2020 will be identified by an analysis of

  • Research and innovation excellence
  • Framework conditions/ Acess to markets
  • Contributions to international commitments
  • Frameworks of cooperation and lessons learnt



Horizon 2020 is open to participation from across the world, however, there is a revision to the list of countries which receive automatic funding. In general there the distinction between three country grouping (more information Eligibility for funding):

  • Enlargement and neighbourhood countries, and EFTA - will generally be funded
  • Developing countries - will generally be funded
  • Industrialised countries and emerging economies - funded only in exceptions

Some facts and numbers of INCO

  • In the 2014-15 Work Programmes approximately 21% of topics were specifically marked as INCO relevant. In the 2016-17 Work Programmes the number of topics flagged as INCO relevant increased to approximately 30%.
  • In FP7 the most active international partners in FP7 were: Russia, followed by the USA, China and India. In the 2014 calls the most active international partners were the USA followed by South Africa, Canada and China.
  • The participation of third countries in Horizon 2020 dropped from approximately 5% in FP7 to 2% in Horizon 2020.

What are the INCO Roadmaps and how can they help in international cooperation?

  • In September 2014, the Commission published the INCO Roadmaps for some third countries and regions of the world that are a helpful tool if you plan to cooperate with third countries as they show the exact calls in which international collaboration is explicitly required.
  • They define research priorities that will be pursued together by the EU and its international partners.
  • So far roadmaps exist for the following partners and regions: Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Russia, South Africa, USA, European Neighbourhood Countries (Eastern Partnership and Southern Neighbourhood).

Further information

  • The INCO-Wiki is an Online Encyclopaedia on International Cooperation compiling all relevant information on International Cooperation activities in Horizon 2020.
  • Download the Incontact FAQs on international cooperation in Horizon 2020 (version 6 - 25 January 2016). The questions and answers address the most important issues with regard to the chances of participation in the different programme areas, the eligibility for funding and additional sources of information.


Factsheet on International Cooperation in Horizon 2020


What are the opportunities for Social Sciences & Humanities research in Horizon 2020?

Opportunities for Social Sciences & Humanities research in Horizon 2020

The European Commission have prioritised the integration of social sciences and humanities (SSH) research into each of the three pillars of Horizon 2020. Within the first pillar- Excellent Science - SSH research takes 17% of the European Research Council budget and 12% of Marie Curie Skłodowska Actions. SSH also plays a major role in the Societal Challenges. This is perhaps especially true within Societal Challenge 6 – Inclusive, Innovative and Reflective societies.

Looking back at the role of SSH in the 2014-15 Work Programmes 37% of all topics were flagged as SSH relevant with the highest proportion of SSH relevant topics to be found in the Societal Challenges Work Programmes (48% in ”Climate action“, 34% in ”Security“ and even 80% in “Inclusive, Innovative and Reflective Societies”). However, despite the emphasis on the inclusion of SSH in Horizon 2020 approximately 30% of all SSH flagged topics were missing partners with relevant expertise, showing the strategic importance of embedding these disciplines in projects. Countries that show the highest shares of SSH coordinators are Germany (19%), the Netherlands and the UK (13%). A full report on the Integration of Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) in Horizon 2020 is available here.

The relatively low participation of SSH in EU funding reflects the often neglected importance of SSH partners in collaborative research projects. To counteract this development the European Commission has introduced some practical measures to integrate SSH in order to increase their participation in EU funding:

  • Topics with strong SSH-relevance are "flagged" in the Participant Portal.
  • The expert advisory groups of each Societal Challenge include SSH researchers.
  • The evaluation panels of the Societal Challenges need to include experts with SSH competences.
  • The call text and evaluation criteria have been adjusted to include SSH perspectives, for example in the ‘scope’ section and in the description of the specific challenge.

Although the Commission introduced these measures to better integrate SSH in its Work Programmes, the calls under Horizon 2020 are purposefully less prescriptive than FP7, meaning it might not always be evident as to how to successfully embed SSH in projects. A way of over-coming this is to have SSH researchers involved in the project’s construction from the outset, so that their integration is more natural.

Examples from across the Societal Challenges topics which explicitly require SSH involvement

Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing - SSH research to provide the economic and social analysis necessary for reforming public health systems;

Smart, green and integrated transport - SSH research to analyse the socio-economic aspects of transport, prospective studies and technology foresight;

Climate action and resource efficiency - SSH research to tackle cultural, behavioural, socio-economic and institutional change in order to move to a more self-reliant and resource efficient economy;

Leadership in enabling and industrial technologies - the arts and humanities to be an essential source for creativity in development of services and product design;

Industrial leadership - SSH to be a source of creativity in development of services and products that strengthen the cultural and social aspects of innovation.

Integration of SSH Research in the Climate Challenge

Societal Challenge 5, 'Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials', is one of the areas of Horizon 2020 for which the integration of Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) research is particularly relevant. For research and innovation dealing with global change and sustainability to create real impacts, changes in behaviour, habits and attitudes as well as the way our economy works are imperative.

The implementation of SSH integration is proving to be rather difficult in practice, particularly in Societal Challenge 5. The outcomes of the first calls for proposals reveal that in this area, a good or fair integration of SSH researchers in funded proposals to topics for which this was deemed necessary based on the call text was only around 30% and the lowest across all Horizon 2020 programmes.

Amongst the projects that have successfully adopted the SSH-embedding approach are the projects:

GREEN-WIN investigates barriers to the implementation of climate change and sustainability solutions, looking for example at cognitive, financial and economic barriers and identifying enabling environments.

REFRESH does research into the drivers in the production of food waste, develops technical solutions for re-use and investigates the social acceptability of these.

Further information

  • If you are interested in opportunities for SSH under Horizon 2020 Net4Society is an international network of National Contact Points for Inclusive, Innovative and Reflective Societies which provide a range of information and advice to help find and develop relevant opportunities.
  • To simplify the search for suitable topics, the European Commission (EC) flags all the topics with SSH relevance in each Work Programme. A handy guide summarises these opportunities.


How to collaborate with SMEs in Horizon 2020?

Collaborating with SMEs in Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 covers the entire innovation cycle, from basic research to introducing the product to market and, as such, requires the involvement of a range of different actors, not just research organisations and universities. Pretty much any organisation in the world can participate in the programme but, for the Commission, SMEs are especially important given their role in helping translate great ideas into products and services that will lead to jobs and economic growth. SMEs also constitute the backbone of the European economy accounting for 99% of all enterprises, 67% of employment, and 58% of gross added value.

Although the inclusion of SMEs is a cross-cutting initiative, it is especially important in the Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies (LEIT), and Societal Challenge pillars. Yet they can also have major strategic value for Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions, particularly Individual Fellowships (IF) and ITNs whereby the involvement of the non-academic sector is essential. These initiatives aim to ensure that researchers become more entrepreneurial and innovative by spending time outside the academic environment and benefiting from exposure to the non-academic sector, especially industry (where relevant). A reason for the increased emphasis on innovation and collaboration with industry results from the Commission’s assessment that 1/3 of all knowledge is 'produced' in Europe - but we are not particularly good in turning these into innovations. For this to change, we need a new generation of researchers who will be able to connect the dots between research and innovation.

Horizon 2020 brought new approaches to encourage the involvement of SMEs

This includes a more pronounced emphasis on innovation as well as a new funding instrument that is dedicated solely to SMEs - the SME Instrument.

Another new opportunity for SMEs under Horizon 2020 is the Fast Track to Innovation (FIT) Pilot that aims to speed up the time from idea to market and give innovation the last push before introduction to market. FIT supports projects undertaking innovation from the demonstration stage through to market uptake with a continuously open call and three cut off dates.

Some more facts about FIT projects

FTI projects must...

  • be business-driven and clearly demonstrate a realistic potential for quick deployment and market take-up of innovations.
  • relate to any objective under LEIT (Pillar 2), or Societal Challenges (Pillar 3) i.e. specific call, or topic.
  • be trans-disciplinary in nature and include cross-sector elements.

FIT consortia...

  • Must involve participants from industry (broadly defined).
  • May also include universities, research and technology organisations, and further innovation actors. Actors that can play a key role in the commercialisation process, such as cluster organisations, end-users industrial associations, incubators, investors, or the public sector, are encouraged to take part.
  • First-time industry applicants (registering on Participant Portal for the first time) and SMEs are particularly welcome (important during evaluation)
  • Must have between 3 and 5 beneficiaries (MS/AC only).

Further information

  • Presentation "Horizon 2020 for SMEs" by Jean David Malo, Head of Unit - SMEs, Financial Instruments and State Aid, DG Research and Innovation.