What We Do

Horizon 2020 – EU’s 8th Framework Programme for Research and Innovation

Horizon 2020 is the current EU framework programme for research and innovation. With a budget of €75 billion, Horizon 2020 will run over seven years from 2014 – 2020. Horizon 2020 is the successor programme to FP7 (Framework Programme 7) and is the largest ever research and innovation programme in the EU. Ireland has a national target of €1.25bn of funding under Horizon 2020. Ireland’s top-performing programme area in Horizon 2020 is the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, which support the training and mobility of researchers.

Horizon 2020 has a simpler structure than previous programmes, three pillars of Excellent Science; Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenge, with less red tape making is easier to apply.

Horizon 2020 aims to help achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth for Europe (Europe 2020 Strategy) by focussing on three main areas:

Excellent Science

The first pillar focusses on basic research and has a budget of €24 billion.

The European Research Council (ERC) funds grants to individual researchers or research teams and excellence is the only criterion. This pillar funds researcher mobility under Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) research fellowship programme that supports researchers at all stages of their careers, working across all disciplines. The Excellent Science pillar also funds future and emerging technologies (FET) and large European research infrastructure.

Industrial Leadership

With a budget of €16 billion the Industrial Leadership pillar aims to support ground-breaking technologies that will underpin innovation across all sectors. The pillar is broken down into Leadership in enabling and industrial technologies (LEIT), access to risk finance and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). LEIT includes ICT; advanced manufacturing; advanced materials; biotechnology; nanotechnologies and Space. Access to risk finance is an instrument to assist innovative companies and organisations, while the SME instrument funds innovation and research in small and medium enterprises.

Societal Challenges

Seven priority societal challenges have been identified where funding in research and innovation may have a real impact of Europe’s citizens. The budget for this pillar is over €28 billion. The grand societal challenges are:

  1. Health, demographic change and wellbeing
  2. Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research and the bioeconomy
  3. Secure, clean and efficient energy
  4. Smart, green and integrated transport
  5. Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials
  6. Europe in a changing world – inclusive, innovative and reflective societies
  7. Secure societies – protecting freedom and security of Europe and its citizens.

Other areas of Horizon 2020 include: Spreading excellence and widening participation; Science with and for society; Science for policy in the Joint Research Centre (JRC); and nuclear research. In 2017 the European Commission published an interim evaluation of Horizon 2020: European Commission Evaluation of Horizon 2020 (PDF document).

Framework Programme 9

The successor programme to Horizon 2020, Framework Programme 9, will come into effect in 2021. The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has prepared a preliminary position paper on Framework Programme 9 outlining some of our national priorities for the next framework programme.