Understanding EU funding: a guide to the Horizon 2020 pillars

Excellent Science

Activities under this pillar span the breadth of Europe's needs regarding advanced science and technology. The aim is to reinforce and extend the excellence of the Union’s science base and to consolidate the European Research Area in order to make the Union’s research and innovation system more competitive on a global scale.

European Research Council

The European Research Council programme provides attractive and flexible funding to enable talented and creative individual researchers and their teams to pursue the most promising avenues at the frontier of science, on the basis of Union-wide competition.

University guidance and support  ERC website

Marie Curie Actions

Marie Curie Actions provides excellent and innovative research training, as well as attractive career and knowledge-exchange opportunities through cross-border and cross-sector mobility of researchers to best prepare them to face current and future societal challenges.

University guidance and support Marie Curie website

Future and Emerging Technologies

This scheme supports collaborative research in order to extend Europe’s capacity for advanced and paradigm-changing innovation. It fosters scientific collaboration across disciplines on radically new, high-risk ideas and accelerates development of the most promising emerging areas of science and technology, as well as the Union-wide structuring of the corresponding scientific communities.

FET website

Research Infrastructures

This programme aims to develop European research infrastructure for 2020 and beyond, fostering innovation potential and human capital, and complementing this with the related Union policy and international cooperation.

Research Infrastructures website

Industrial Leadership

This pillar aims to speed up development of the technologies and innovations that will underpin tomorrow's businesses and help innovative European SMEs to grow into world-leading companies. The goal is to make Europe a more attractive location to invest in research and innovation, by promoting activities where businesses set the agenda. It provides major investment in key industrial technologies to maximise the growth potential of European companies by providing them with adequate levels of finance.

Enabling and Industrial Technologies

This programme provides dedicated support for research, development and demonstration and, where appropriate, standardisation and certification, on information and communications technology (ICT), nanotechnology, advanced materials, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing and processing and space. Emphasis is placed on interactions and convergence across and between the different technologies and their relations to societal challenges.

Enabling and Industrial Technologies

Access to Risk Finance

Access to Risk Finance aims to overcome deficits in the availability of debt and equity finance for R&D and innovation-driven companies and projects at all stages of development.

Access to Risk Finance

Innovation in SMEs

This scheme provides tailored support to stimulate all forms of innovation in SMEs, targeting those with the potential to grow and internationalise across the single market and beyond.

Innovation in SMEs

Societal Challenges

Collaborative research is at the core of the Societal Challenges pillar. The Commission has identified seven pressing challenges which require collaboration to be addressed. This collaboration will not only span countries, but disciplines and sectors too. Consortia usually require at least three partners from at least three different EU members or associated countries; successful consortia tend to be much larger to address the impacts required in a call. This means that:

  • Projects are often problem-solution orientated and expect real impact to occur across Europe as a result of the project and its outcomes.
  • Calls can include requests for demonstration sites, “living labs” and pilot schemes to include real cities, communities and industry.
  • Applied research is expected to lead to change within individuals, local governance and national authorities.
Funding calls under the Societal Challenges are thematic in nature, with clear steering as to what the research questions and impact should be.

University guidance and support

Health and Wellbeing

This challenge aims to provide better health for all, with a particular focus on keeping older people active and independent for longer, and supporting the development of new, safer and more effective interventions.

Health and Wellbeing

Food Security

A challenge to address the need to produce more food, fibre and other bio-based products with minimised inputs, environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions, and with enhanced ecosystem services, zero waste and adequate societal value.

Food Security

Energy

The Energy challenge is designed to support the transition to a reliable, sustainable and competitive energy system.

Energy

Transport

This challenge aims to boost the competitiveness of the European transport industries and achieve a European transport system that is resource-efficient, climate-and-environmentally-friendly, safe and seamless for the benefit of all citizens, the economy and society.

Transport

Climate

Activities in this challenge are helping to increase European competitiveness, raw materials security and improve wellbeing. At the same time they are assuring environmental integrity, resilience and sustainability with the aim of keeping average global warming below 2° C and enabling ecosystems and society to adapt to climate change and other environmental changes.

Climate

Societies

This challenge is about undertaking the research and innovation activities needed to protect our citizens, society and economy as well as our infrastructures and services, our prosperity, political stability and wellbeing.

Societies

Events and deadlines

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News and tips

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Glossary of terms

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