Inside the mind of Horizon Europe…

November 25, 2022

The ins and outs of Europe’s most ambitious funding plan

If you wanted to submit a proposal about a European project related to the food sector, which cluster should you look for? How has COVID-19 affected the orientation of the projects funded by the EU? What are the impacts or “destinations” as they are named now, related to each cluster, thus thematic area or group of the Horizon Europe funding scheme? Learn some basic definitions and facts about the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation that will grant 95,5 billion euros to organisations and researchers across Europe for collaborative projects in a number of areas (including €5.4 billion from NGEU – Next Generation Europe – the programme of EU for Recovery from COVID-19 crisis).

What is Horizon Europe?

Europe accounts for 6% of the world population and spends only 1,5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on research and development, coming at the 5th position after the USA, Japan, China and South Korea (figures from 2018-2019). This means that Europe can do a lot better at transforming its knowledge and skills into leadership in innovation and entrepreneurship. Here comes Horizon Europe, as the 9th in a series of funding programmes of the European Commission for research and innovation. It was officially announced by the EU on 2nd of February 2021 and will cover projects’ funding until 2027. It has built upon the knowledge and the results of the previous funding programme, Horizon 2020 and it is considered the most ambitious funding scheme up to now. The main visions of this programme is to tackle climate change, help to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, boost the EU’s competitiveness and growth, facilitate collaboration, support the creation and better diffusion of excellent knowledge and technologies, and of course, create jobs. Horizon Europe also includes a number of innovative policies and tools in order to maximize its results and reinforce its qualitative characteristics. We can consider that Horizon Europe includes six key novelties in its core. It aims to support breakthrough innovation with the use of two new funding tools from the European innovation Council, to create more impact through mission-orientation and citizens’ involvement, to implement a new approach to partnerships across the EU, to reinforce openness in science, to strengthen international cooperation with partnerships with countries outside EU and to encourage participation and spread the excellence. More specifically the EU missions that are included as a novelty in the aforementioned refer to 5 specific areas of action such as adaptation to climate change, including societal transformation, cancer, healthy oceans, seas, coastal & inland waters, climate-neutral & smart cities and soil health & food. 

Horizon Europe structure | Pillars, Clusters & Destinations (or impacts) 

The programme is structured into three main pillars, Pillar I: “Excellent Science”, Pillar II: “Global Challenges & European Industrial Competitiveness, Pillar III: “Innovative Europe” and another thematic area named “Widening Participation and Strengthening the European Research Area” with two subsections, “Widening participation & spreading excellence” and “Reforming & Enhancing the European R&I system” . While Pillar I covers fundamental research funded by the European Research Council and Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (programme for doctoral education and postdoctoral training ), Pillar III is dedicated to improving Europe’s innovation ecosystem and to commercialising innovation with the use of the “European Innovation Eco Systems”, the European Innovation Council and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. Under Pillar II EU funding is provided to tackle global challenges and to boost Europe’s industrial competitiveness. That’s where the clusters come in. 

Clusters are the six different thematic areas of Horizon Europe. They represent the boosting key technologies and solutions underpinning EU policies & Sustainable Development Goals. These 6 clusters are: 

  • Cluster 1: Health 
  • Cluster 2: Culture, Creativity & Inclusive Society 
  • Cluster 3: Civil Security for Society 
  • Cluster 4: Digital, Industry & Space 
  • Cluster 5: Climate, Energy & Mobility 
  • Cluster 6: Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture & Environment

The funding in each cluster

Each cluster receives a specific budget according to its individual tasks. We see that the lion’s share goes to Cluster 4 with € 15.349 billion that address the progress in digital and industrial technologies, including in space, that shape all sectors of the economy and society. Second in the budget hierarchy comes Cluster 5 with € 15.123 billion, money that will be dedicated to accelerate the green and digital transitions and associated transformation of the European economy, industry and society with a view to achieving climate neutrality in Europe by 2050. Cluster 6 comes with a budget of €8.952 that aims to enhance and balance environmental, social and economic goals and to set human economic activities on a path towards sustainability. Health in Cluster 1 comes fourth with 8.246 billion that will try to improve and protect the health and well-being of citizens of all ages by generating new knowledge, developing innovative solutions and prevent, diagnose, monitor, treat and cure diseases. In the last two positions come Cluster 2 on Culture, Creativity and Inclusive Societies with € 2.280 billion and Cluster 3 on Civil Security for Society with € 1.596 billion. More specifically, Cluster 2 aims to meet EU goals and priorities on enhancing democratic governance and citizens participation, on the safeguarding and promotion of cultural heritage, and to respond to and shape multifaceted social, economic, technological and cultural transformations. Cluster 3 will support the implementation of EU policy priorities related to security, including cybersecurity, disaster risk reduction and resilience.

Destinations or impacts

Clusters are then broken down into individual expected impacts around overarching theme. These expected impacts are also referred to as destinations, i.e. the specific directions and ultimate points of arrival Horizon Europe aims to achieve. Ultimately, the destinations in each cluster set out what the European Commission hopes to achieve by supporting research and innovation activities within and across individual clusters. 

Cluster 1 – Health | 6 Destinations or impacts:

  1. Staying healthy in a rapidly changing society
  2. Living and working in a health-promoting environment
  3. Tackling diseases and reducing disease burden
  4. Ensuring access to innovative, sustainable and high-quality health care
  5. Unlocking the full potential of new tools, technologies and digital solutions for a healthy society
  6. Maintaining an innovative, sustainable and globally competitive health-related industry

Cluster 2 – Culture, Creativity & Inclusive Society | 4 Destinations or impacts:

  1. Democratic governance is reinvigorated by improving the accountability, transparency, effectiveness and trustworthiness of rule-of-law based institutions and policies
  2. Full potential of cultural heritage, arts and cultural and creative sectors
  3. Social and economic resilience and sustainability
  4. Inclusive growth through evidence- based policies for employment, education, social fairness and inequalities, including in response to the socio-economic challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Cluster 3 – Civil Security for Society | 4 Destinations or impacts:

  1. Enhanced disaster risk reduction
  2. Improved air/land/sea border management & maritime security
  3. Tackling crime and terrorism, and threats to infrastructures
  4. Increased cybersecurity and a more secure online environment

Cluster 4 – Digital, Industry & Space | 6 Destinations or impacts:

  1. Global leadership in clean & climate-neutral industrial value chains, circular economy and climate-neutral digital systems and infrastructures 
  2. Industrial leadership and increased autonomy in key strategic value chains with security of supply in raw materials 
  3. Globally attractive, secure and dynamic data-agile economy
  4. Open strategic autonomy in digital technologies and in future emerging enabling technologies
  5. Open strategic autonomy in developing, deploying and using global space-based infrastructures, services, applications and data  
  6. A human-centered and ethical development of digital and industrial technologies

Cluster 5 – Climate, Energy & Mobility | 6 Destinations or impacts:

  1. Transition to a climate neutral society enabled through advanced climate science and responses for climate mitigation and adaptation
  2. Clean and sustainable transition of the energy and transport sectors towards climate neutrality facilitated by innovative cross-sectoral solutions
  3. More efficient, clean, secure and competitive energy supply through new solutions for smart grids and energy systems based on more performant renewable energy solutions
  4. Efficient and sustainable use of energy, accessible for all is ensured through a clean energy system and a just transition
  5. Towards climate-neutral and environmentally friendly mobility through clean solutions across all transport modes while increasing global competitiveness of the EU transport sector
  6. Safe, seamless, smart, inclusive, resilient, climate neutral and sustainable mobility services for people and goods thanks to user-centric technologies and services including digital technologies and advanced satellite navigation services

Cluster 6 – Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture & Environment | 6 Destinations or impacts:

  1. Climate neutrality and adaptation to climate change 
  2. Preservation and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems
  3. Sustainable and circular management of natural resources; tackling pollution; bioeconomy
  4. Food and nutrition security for all from sustainable food systems from farm to fork
  5. Balanced development of rural, coastal and urban areas 
  6. Innovative governance models enabling sustainability, environmental observation

You can read more analytical information about each destination of each cluster here:

Horizon Europe in EU (for 2021)

Horizon Europe statistics from Horizon Europe Dashboard for 2021 show us that the lion’s share of the budget went to projects related to health under Pillar II – “Global Challenges & European Industrial Competitiveness” and the subsection “Widening participation & spreading excellence”. Specifically, projects under Pillar II took €87,86 million and projects under the thematic “Widening participation & spreading excellence” took €155,1 million. The Pillar I – “Excellent Science” took the least of the money with €1,07 million budget for the funding of various projects.

Horizon Europe in Cyprus 

According to information from RIF (Research and Innovation Foundation in Cyprus), in 2021, Cyprus drew €319.4 million from the Horizon 2020 funding programme (the previous one from Horizon Europe) and €25.4 million from Horizon Europe. During 2021, the National Contact Points established in Cyprus in order to provide free counselling and support to researchers and organisations who want to submit their project’s proposal for funding, previewed over 50 such proposals overall.
The new funded projects with Cypriot participation from Horizon 2020 for the year 2021, were 71 with 86 participants and €30,22 million from the E.U. Respectively, under Horizon Europe, 345 proposals were submitted (41 of them with the role of the coordinator) from 492 participants with 170,4 million applied funding, while finally 71 projects were funded (5 of them with the role of the coordinator from Cyprus) with 89 participants and 25,4 million funding.

In the below graph, we can see the amount of funding for each thematic area of Horizon Europe’s projects for 2021 in Cyprus.

We see that in the top 5 positions of funding there are projects that relate to the Pillar II: “Global Challenges & European Industrial Competitiveness” and more specifically to the 5 out of the 6 clusters of the programme, clusters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. In the next two positions comes funding for projects under the thematic area named “Widening Participation and Strengthening the European Research Area” and in last positions come projects funded under the Pillar I: “Excellent Science” and Pillar III: “Innovative Europe”. 

Additionally according to data from Horizon Europe Dashboard, Cyprus will be granted for the whole Horizon Europe programme (for all years), €50,04 million (net EU contribution) with 174 total participants, with the University of Cyprus coming first in the funding scale with €8.465.379,00

Also, for the whole funding period (2012-2027) the participation under Pillar I – “Excellent Science” is 6,65 million with 27 participants, Pillar II – “Global Challenges & European Industrial Competitiveness” with €33,35 million and 115 participants, Pillar III – “Innovative Europe” with €1,02 million and 6 participants and the thematic area “Widening Participation and Strengthening the European Research Area” with €9,02 million and 26 participants

You can read more about each cluster with all the analytical information related to their aim, anticipated impacts, budget, target groups in the articles that will follow in our blog section.
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