EUR-Lex Access to European Union law

Back to EUR-Lex homepage

This document is an excerpt from the EUR-Lex website

Document 32021D0764

Council Decision (EU) 2021/764 of 10 May 2021 establishing the Specific Programme implementing Horizon Europe – the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, and repealing Decision 2013/743/EU (Text with EEA relevance)


OJ L 167I , 12.5.2021, p. 1–80 (BG, ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, GA, HR, IT, LV, LT, HU, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SK, SL, FI, SV)

In force




Official Journal of the European Union

LI 167/1


of 10 May 2021

establishing the Specific Programme implementing Horizon Europe – the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, and repealing Decision 2013/743/EU

(Text with EEA relevance)


Having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and in particular Article 182(4) thereof,

Having regard to the proposal from the European Commission,

After transmission of the draft legislative act to the national parliaments,

Having regard to the opinion of the European Parliament (1),

Having regard to the opinions of the European Economic and Social Committee (2),

Having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions (3),

Acting in accordance with a special legislative procedure,



In accordance with Article 182(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), Horizon Europe – the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation ('Horizon Europe'), established by Regulation (EU) 2021/695 of the European Parliament and of the Council (4), is to be implemented through specific programmes which define the detailed rules for their implementation, fix their duration and provide for the means deemed necessary.


Regulation (EU) 2021/695 sets out the general and specific objectives of Horizon Europe, the structure and the broad lines of activities to be carried out, while this Specific Programme implementing Horizon Europe (the 'Specific Programme') should define the operational objectives and the activities which are specific to parts of Horizon Europe. The provisions on implementation set out in Regulation (EU) 2021/695 apply fully to the Specific Programme, including those relating to ethical principles.


In order to ensure uniform conditions for the implementation of the Specific Programme, implementing powers should be conferred on the Commission to adopt work programmes for the implementation of the Specific Programme. Those powers should be exercised in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 182/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council (5).


The Board of Governors of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) set up by Commission Decision 96/282/Euratom (6) has been consulted on the scientific and technological content of the Specific Programme on the non-nuclear direct actions of the JRC.


The Specific Programme acknowledges climate change as one of the biggest global and societal challenges and reflects the importance of tackling climate change in accordance with the Union's commitment to implement the Paris Agreement adopted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (7) (the 'Paris Agreement') and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Accordingly the Specific Programme should contribute to mainstream climate actions and to the achievement of an overall target of 30 % of the Union budget expenditures supporting climate objectives. Climate mainstreaming should be adequately integrated in research and innovation (R&I) content and applied at all stages of the research cycle. Actions under the Specific Programme should contribute at least 35 % of the overall financial envelope of the Specific Programme to climate objectives. Relevant actions should be identified during the Specific Programme's preparation and implementation and reassessed in the context of the relevant evaluations and review processes. Attention should be paid to coal- and carbon-intensive areas of the Union which are in transition.


The Specific Programme's actions should address market failures or sub-optimal investment situations, boost investments in a proportionate and transparent manner, without duplicating or crowding out private financing and have a clear European added-value and public return on investments.


Reflecting the important contribution that R&I should make to address challenges in food, agriculture, rural development and the bioeconomy, and to seize the corresponding R&I opportunities in close synergy with the Common Agricultural Policy, relevant actions under the Specific Programme should be supported by EUR 8 952 000 000 in current prices for the cluster 'Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment' for the period 2021-2027.


The completion of the Digital Single Market and the growing opportunities from the convergence of digital and physical technologies require investments to be increased. Horizon Europe should contribute to those efforts with a substantial increase in spending on main digital R&I activities compared to the framework programme Horizon 2020 (8) established by Regulation (EU) No 1291/2013 of the European Parliament and the Council (9) (Horizon 2020). This should ensure that Europe remains at the forefront of global R&I in the digital field.


The types of financing and the methods of implementation under this Decision should be chosen on the basis of their ability to achieve the specific objectives of the actions and to deliver results, taking into account, in particular, the costs of controls, the administrative burden and the expected risk of non-compliance. This should include consideration of the use of lump sums, flat rates and scales of unit costs.


In order to ensure continuity in providing support in the relevant policy area and to allow implementation to start from the beginning of the MFF 2021-2027, this Decision should enter into force as a matter of urgency and should apply, with retroactive effect, from 1 January 2021.


Member States should be involved early in the process of defining missions.


Council Decision 2013/743/EU (10) should therefore be repealed,



General provisions

Article 1

Subject matter

This Decision establishes the Specific Programme implementing Horizon Europe – the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (the 'Specific Programme'), as set out in point (a) of Article 1(2) of Regulation (EU) 2021/695.

This Decision lays down the operational objectives of the Specific Programme, the budget for the period 2021-2027, the rules for implementation of the Specific Programme and the activities to be carried out under the Specific Programme.

Article 2

Operational objectives

1.   The Specific Programme shall contribute to the general and specific objectives set out in Article 3 of Regulation (EU) 2021/695.

2.   The operational objectives of the Specific Programme are the following:


to strengthen excellent basic and frontier research; to reinforce and spread excellence, including by fostering wider participation throughout the Union;


to reinforce the link between research, innovation, and, where appropriate, education and other policies, including complementarities with national, regional and Union R&I policies and activities;


to support the implementation of Union policy priorities including in particular the SDGs and the Paris Agreement;


to promote responsible R&I, taking into account the precautionary principle;


to strengthen the gender dimension across the Specific Programme;


to increase collaboration links in European R&I and across sectors and disciplines, including social sciences and humanities (SSH);


to strengthen international cooperation;


to connect to and develop research infrastructures across the European Research Area (ERA) and to provide transnational access;


to attract talent, to train and retain researchers and innovators in the ERA, including through mobility;


to foster open science and ensure visibility to the public and open access to scientific publications and research data, including appropriate exceptions;


to encourage exploitation of R&I results and actively disseminate and exploit results, in particular for leveraging private investments and policy development;


to deliver, through R&I missions, on ambitious goals within a set timeframe;


to improve the relationship and interaction between science and society, including the visibility of science in society and science communication, and to promote the involvement of citizens and end-users in co-design and co-creation processes;


to accelerate industrial transformation, including through improved skills for innovation;


to stimulate R&I activities in SMEs and the creation and scale-up of innovative companies, in particular start-ups, SMEs, and in exceptional cases small mid-caps;


to improve access to risk finance, including through synergies with the InvestEU Programme established by Regulation (EU) 2021/523 of the European Parliament and of the Council (11), in particular where the market does not provide viable financing.

3.   In pursuing the objectives referred to in paragraph 2, account may be taken of new and unforeseen needs that arise during the period of implementation of the Specific Programme. That may, if duly justified, include responses to emerging opportunities, crises and threats, as well as responses to needs relating to the development of new Union policies.

Article 3


1.   Under Article 4(1) of Regulation (EU) 2021/695, the Specific Programme consists of the following parts:


Pillar I 'Excellent Science', with the following components:


the European Research Council (ERC), as described in Annex I, Pillar I, section 1;


Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA), as described in Annex I, Pillar I, section 2;


'Research Infrastructures', as described in Annex I, Pillar I, section 3;


Pillar II 'Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness', with the following components:


cluster 'Health', as described in Annex I, Pillar II, section 1;


cluster 'Culture, Creativity and Inclusive Society', as described in Annex I, Pillar II, section 2;


cluster 'Civil Security for Society', as described in Annex I, Pillar II, section 3;


cluster 'Digital, Industry and Space', as described in Annex I, Pillar II, section 4;


cluster 'Climate, Energy and Mobility', as described in Annex I, Pillar II, section 5;


cluster 'Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment', as described in Annex I, Pillar II, section 6;


non-nuclear direct actions of the JRC, as described in Annex I, Pillar II, section 7;


Pillar III 'Innovative Europe', with the following components:


the European Innovation Council (EIC), as described in Annex I, Pillar III, section 1;


European innovation ecosystems, as described in Annex I, Pillar III, section 2;


Part 'Widening Participation and Strengthening the ERA' with the following components:


widening participation and spreading excellence, as described in Annex I, Part 'Strengthening the ERA', section 1;


reforming and enhancing the European R&I system, as described in Annex I, Part 'Strengthening the ERA', section 2.

2.   The activities to be carried out under the parts referred to in paragraph 1 are described in Annex I.

Article 4


1.   In accordance with Article 12(1) of Regulation (EU) 2021/695, the financial envelope for the implementation of the Specific Programme for the period from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2027 shall be EUR 83 397 000 000 in current prices.

2.   As a result of the programme specific adjustment provided for in Article 5 of Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2020/2093 (12) and in Annex II to Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2020/2093, the amount referred to in paragraph 1 shall be increased by an additional allocation of EUR 2 790 000 000 in constant 2018 prices for the Specific Programme.

3.   The amount referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article shall be distributed among the components set out in Article 3(1) of this Decision in accordance with Article 12(2) of Regulation (EU) 2021/695. The amount referred to in paragraph 2 of this Article shall be distributed among the components set out in Article 3(1) of this Decision in accordance with Article 12(4) of Regulation (EU) 2021/695. The arrangements set out in Article 12(5) to (9) of Regulation (EU) 2021/695 shall apply.

Article 5

Resources from the European Union Recovery Instrument

1.   In accordance with Article 13 of Regulation (EU) 2021/695 the measures referred to in Article 1(2) of Council Regulation (EU) 2020/2094 (13) shall be implemented under this Specific Programme through amounts referred to in point (a)(iv) of Article 2(2) of that Regulation, subject to its Article 3(3), (4), (7) and (9). Those additional amounts shall exclusively be allocated to actions for R&I directed at addressing the consequences of the COVID-19, in particular its economic, social and societal consequences. Priority shall be given to innovative SMEs and special attention shall be paid to their integration in collaborative projects under Pillar II 'Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness'.

2.   The indicative distribution of the amount referred to in paragraph 1 shall be:


25 % to cluster 'Health';


25 % to cluster 'Digital, Industry and Space';


25 % to cluster 'Climate, Energy and Mobility';


25 % to the EIC.


Implementation and programming

Article 6

Strategic Plan

1.   Under Article 6(6) of Regulation (EU) 2021/695, the implementation of the Specific Programme shall be facilitated by a multiannual Strategic Plan of R&I activities, also promoting consistency between the work programmes, EU priorities and national priorities. The result of the strategic planning shall be set out in a multiannual Strategic Plan, for preparing the content in the work programmes, as referred to in Article 13 of this Decision. The Strategic Plan shall cover a maximum period of four years, while retaining sufficient flexibility so that the Union can respond rapidly to new and emerging challenges, unexpected opportunities and crises.

2.   The strategic planning shall focus in particular on the pillar 'Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness' and cover also relevant activities in other pillars and in the part 'Widening Participation and Strengthening the ERA'.

The Commission shall ensure early involvement and extensive exchanges with the Member States, and extensive exchanges with the European Parliament. The Commission shall also ensure that this is complemented by consultation with stakeholders and the general public. That will contribute to a stronger engagement with citizens and civil society.

Member States may also support the strategic planning by providing an overview of national consultations and citizens' contributions that feed into the Strategic Plan.

3.   The Commission shall adopt the Strategic Plan by means of an implementing act in accordance with the examination procedure referred to in Article 14(4). That Strategic Plan shall correspond to the objectives and activities described in Annex I. That implementing act shall contain the following elements, relating to the period covered:


key strategic orientations for R&I support, including a description of expected impacts, cross-cluster issues and intervention areas covered;


identification of European Partnerships according to points (a) and (b) of Article 10(1) of Regulation (EU) 2021/695;


identification of missions according to Article 7 of this Decision and Article 8 and Annex VI of Regulation (EU) 2021/695;


areas for international cooperation, actions to be aligned with R&I activities of other nations and regions of the world at major scale, or actions to be carried out in cooperation with organisations in third countries;


specific issues, such as: the balance between research and innovation; the integration of SSH; the role of key enabling technologies and strategic value chains; gender equality, including the integration of gender dimension in the R&I content; adherence to the highest ethics and integrity standards, and priorities for dissemination and exploitation.

4.   The Strategic Plan shall take into account an analysis, conducted by the Commission, covering at least the following elements:


political, socio-economic and environmental drivers which are relevant for the Union and Member States' policy priorities;


the contribution of R&I to the realisation of Union policy objectives, while capitalising on studies, other scientific evidence and relevant initiatives at Union and national level, including Institutionalised European Partnerships according to point (c) of Article 10(1) of Regulation (EU) 2021/695;


evidence resulting from foresight activities, science and technology indicators, innovation indicators, international developments such as the implementation of the SDGs and feedback from implementation, including monitoring the implementation of specific measures with regard to widening participation and spreading excellence and participation of SMEs;


priorities with the potential to be implemented in synergy with other Union programmes;


a description of the various approaches for stakeholder consultation and citizen engagement as part of the work to develop work programmes;


complementarity and synergies with planning of the Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 294/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council (14).

5.   The strategic planning shall be complemented by a strategic coordinating process for European Partnerships, with the participation of Member States and the Commission on an equal footing. It shall function as an entry point for foresight analysis, analysis and advice on the portfolio development, possible setup, implementation, monitoring and phasing out of R&I partnerships and be guided by a comprehensive criteria framework, based on Annex III of Regulation (EU) 2021/695.

Article 7


1.   R&I missions may be established in the mission areas identified in Annex VI of Regulation (EU) 2021/695.

2.   A mission board shall be established for each mission area, unless existing advisory structures can be used, in which case the Programme Committee referred to in Article 14 shall be informed in advance.

Each mission board shall be composed of a maximum of 15 independent high-level individuals with broad expertise, including where appropriate SSH experts, from across Europe and beyond, including relevant end-users' representatives. The mission board members shall be appointed by the Commission, following a transparent identification procedure which shall include an open call for expressions of interest. The Programme Committee shall be consulted in a timely manner on the identification and selection procedures, including the criteria used. The term of office of mission board members shall be up to five years, renewable once.

3.   Mission boards shall not have decision-making powers. They shall advise the Commission on the following:


the identification and design of one or more missions in the respective mission area according to the provisions and criteria set out in Article 8 of Regulation (EU) 2021/695;


the content of work programmes and their revision as needed for achieving the mission objectives, with input from stakeholders and, where relevant, the general public;


the characteristics of project portfolios for missions;


adjustment actions, or termination, if appropriate, based on implementation assessments according to the defined objectives of the mission;


the selection of independent external experts in accordance with Article 49 of Regulation (EU) 2021/695, briefing of these independent external experts and evaluation criteria and their weighting;


framework conditions which help achieve the objectives of the mission;


communication, including on the performance and the achievements of the mission;


policy coordination between relevant actors at different levels, in particular regarding synergies with other Union policies;


key performance indicators.

The advice of the mission boards shall be made public.

4.   For each Mission area, the Programme Committee shall be involved in the preparation and life cycle of the missions, taking into account relevant issues from the national context and opportunities to enhance alignment with activities on national level. Interactions with the mission boards shall take place in a timely and comprehensive manner.

5.   The work programme provided for in Article 13 shall, for each mission identified in the Strategic Plan, include the design, the characteristics of their project portfolios and specific provisions to enable an efficient portfolio approach.

Article 8

European Research Council

1.   The Commission shall establish a European Research Council (the 'ERC') to implement the actions under Pillar I 'Excellent Science' which relate to the ERC. The ERC shall succeed the European Research Council set up by Commission Decision of 12 December 2013 (15).

2.   The ERC shall be composed of the independent ERC Scientific Council provided for in Article 9 and the ERC dedicated implementation structure provided for in Article 10.

3.   The ERC shall have a President who shall be chosen from among senior and internationally respected scientists.

The ERC President shall be appointed by the Commission following a transparent recruitment process involving an independent dedicated search committee. The recruitment process and the candidate selected shall have the approval of the ERC Scientific Council. The term of office of the ERC President shall be limited to four years, renewable once.

The ERC President shall chair the ERC Scientific Council. The ERC President shall ensure the leadership of the ERC Scientific Council and its liaison with the ERC dedicated implementation structure and shall represent the ERC Scientific Council in the world of science.

4.   The ERC shall operate according to its core principles which are scientific excellence, open science, autonomy, efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, accountability and research integrity. It shall ensure continuity with ERC actions conducted under Decision of 12 December 2013.

5.   Through its activities, the ERC shall support, in a bottom-up manner, frontier research carried out across all fields by principal investigators and their teams in competition at European level, including early-stage career researchers.

6.   The Commission shall act as the guarantor of the autonomy and integrity of the ERC and shall ensure the proper execution of the tasks entrusted to it.

The Commission shall ensure that the implementation of ERC actions is in accordance with the principles set out in paragraph 4 of this Article as well as with the overall strategy for the ERC, referred to in point (a) of Article 9(2), established by the ERC Scientific Council.

Article 9

ERC Scientific Council

1.   The ERC Scientific Council shall be composed of independent scientists, engineers and scholars of the highest repute and with the appropriate expertise, including both women and men in different age groups, and ensuring a diversity of research areas and a variety of geographical origins. They shall act in their personal capacity, independent of extraneous interests. The members of the ERC Scientific Council shall be appointed by the Commission, following an independent and transparent procedure for their identification agreed with the ERC Scientific Council, including an open consultation of the scientific community and a report to the European Parliament and the Council.

The term of office of the members of the ERC Scientific Council shall be limited to four years, renewable once, on the basis of a rotating system which shall ensure the continuity of the work of the ERC Scientific Council.

2.   The ERC Scientific Council shall establish:


the overall strategy for the ERC;


the work programme for the implementation of the ERC activities;


the methods and procedures for peer review and proposal evaluation on the basis of which the proposals to be funded are determined;


its position on any matter which from a scientific perspective may enhance the achievements and impact of the ERC and the quality of the research carried out;


a code of conduct addressing, among other things, the avoidance of conflicts of interest.

The Commission shall depart from the positions established by the ERC Scientific Council in accordance with points (a), (c), (d) and (e) of the first subparagraph only if it considers that this Decision has not been respected. In that case, the Commission shall adopt measures to maintain continuity in the implementation of the Specific Programme and the achievements of its objectives, setting out and duly motivating the points of departure from the ERC Scientific Council positions.

3.   The ERC Scientific Council shall act in accordance with the mandate set out in Annex I, Pillar I, section 1.

4.   The ERC Scientific Council shall act exclusively in the interest of the ERC, according to the principles set out in Article 8. It shall act with integrity and probity and carry out its work efficiently and with the greatest possible transparency.

Article 10

ERC dedicated implementation structure

1.   The ERC dedicated implementation structure shall be responsible for the administrative implementation and execution of this component of the Specific Programme, as described in Annex I, Pillar I, section 1.3.2. It shall support the ERC Scientific Council in the conduct of all of its tasks.

2.   The Commission shall ensure that the ERC dedicated implementation structure follows strictly, efficiently and with the necessary flexibility the objectives and requirements of the ERC alone.

Article 11

European Innovation Council

1.   The EIC, as established under Article 9 of Regulation (EU) 2021/695 shall include the High Level Board (the 'EIC Board') referred to in Article 12 of this Decision.

2.   The Commission shall ensure that the implementation of the EIC:


is in accordance with the principles set out in Article 9(1) of Regulation (EU) 2021/695, taking due account of the opinion of the EIC Board on the overall strategy for the EIC, referred to in point (a) of Article 12(1);


does not lead to distortions of competition contrary to the common interest.

3.   For the purpose of managing EIC blended finance, the Commission shall make use of indirect management. If that is not possible, the Commission may establish a special purpose vehicle (the 'EIC Fund'), to be managed in accordance with the applicable accountability rules.

When the Commission establishes a special purpose vehicle under the first subparagraph, it shall seek to ensure the participation of other public and private investors. If that is not possible at the initial set up, the Commission shall structure the EIC special purpose vehicle in such a way that it can attract other public or private investors in order to increase the leverage effect of the Union contribution.

4.   The Commission shall ensure effective complementarities between the EIC, the EIT and the InvestEU Programme.

Article 12

The EIC Board

1.   The EIC Board shall advise the Commission on:


the overall strategy for the EIC component under Pillar III 'Innovative Europe';


the work programme for the implementation of the EIC actions;


the criteria for assessment of the innovativeness and risk profile of the proposals and the appropriate balance of grants, equity and other forms of financing for the Accelerator;


the identification of strategic portfolios of projects;


the profile of programme managers.

2.   The EIC Board may upon request address recommendations to the Commission on:


any matter which from an innovation perspective may enhance and foster innovation eco-systems across Europe, the achievements and impact of the objectives of the EIC component and the capacity of innovative firms to roll out their solutions;


identifying in cooperation with relevant Commission services and, where appropriate, national and regional authorities and other relevant entities, such as the EIT Governing Board, possible regulatory barriers faced by entrepreneurs, in particular those awarded support under the EIC component;


emerging technology trends from EIC's portfolios, to inform the programming in other parts of the Specific Programme;


identifying specific issues where advice from the EIC Board is needed.

The EIC Board shall act in the interest of achieving the objectives of the EIC. It shall act with integrity and probity and carry out its work efficiently and with transparency. The EIC Board shall act in accordance with its mandate set out in Annex I, Pillar III, section 1.

3.   The EIC Board shall be composed of 15 to 20 independent high-level individuals drawn from various parts of Europe's innovation ecosystem, including entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, investors, public administration experts and researchers, including academic experts on innovation. The EIC Board shall contribute to outreach actions and its members shall strive to enhance the prestige of the EIC brand.

The members of the EIC Board shall be appointed by the Commission, following an open call for nominations or for expressions of interest, or both, whichever the Commission finds more appropriate, and taking into account the need for balance in expertise, gender, age and geographical distribution.

Their term of office shall be limited to two years, renewable twice, with a rolling appointments system so that members are appointed every two years.

4.   The EIC Board shall have a President who shall be a high-profile public figure linked to the world of innovation, with a solid understanding of research and development (R&D).

The EIC Board President shall be appointed by the Commission following a transparent recruitment process. The term of office of the EIC Board President shall be limited to four years, renewable once.

The EIC Board President shall chair the EIC Board, prepare its meetings, assign tasks to members and may establish dedicated sub-groups, in particular to identify emerging technology trends from the EIC's portfolios. The EIC Board President shall represent the EIC in the world of innovation. The EIC Board President shall also promote the EIC and act as an interlocutor with the Commission and, through the relevant programme committees, with Member States. The Commission shall provide for administrative support for the EIC Board President.

5.   The Commission shall establish a code of conduct addressing, among other things, the avoidance of conflicts of interest and breach of confidentiality. Members of the EIC Board shall agree to abide by the code of conduct upon assuming office.

Article 13

Work programmes

1.   The Specific Programme shall be implemented by the work programmes referred to in paragraph 2 of this Article in accordance with Article 110 of Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council (16) (the 'Financial Regulation'). Those work programmes shall set out the expected impact and shall be prepared following the strategic planning as described in Article 6 and in Annex I to this Decision. The Commission shall regularly and from an early stage inform the Committee referred to in Article 14 of the overall progress of the implementation of the indirect actions of the Specific Programme, including missions, also to allow that Committee to provide early appropriate input in the course of the strategic planning and on the preparation of the work programmes, especially on missions.

Work programmes shall set out, where applicable, the overall amount reserved for blending operations.

2.   The Commission shall adopt separate work programmes, by means of implementing acts, for the implementation of actions under the following components, as set out in Article 3(1):


the ERC, for which the work programme shall be established by the ERC Scientific Council under point (b) of Article 9(2), in accordance with the advisory procedure referred to in Article 14(3); the Commission shall depart from the work programme established by the ERC Scientific Council only when it considers that it is not in accordance with this Decision; in that case, the Commission shall adopt the work programme by means of an implementing act in accordance with the examination procedure referred to in Article 14(4); the Commission shall duly motivate that;


all clusters under the pillar 'Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness', MSCA, research infrastructures, European innovation ecosystems, widening participation and spreading excellence, and reforming and enhancing the European R&I System, in accordance with the examination procedure referred to in Article 14(4);


the EIC, for which the work programme shall be prepared following the advice of the EIC Board under point (b) of Article 12(1), in accordance with the examination procedure referred to in Article 14(4);


the JRC, for which the multi-annual work programme shall take into account the opinion provided by the Board of Governors of the JRC referred to in Commission Decision 96/282/Euratom.

3.   In addition to the requirements under Article 110 of the Financial Regulation, the work programmes referred to in paragraph 2 of this Article shall, as appropriate, contain:


an indication of the amount allocated to each action and mission and an indicative implementation timetable;


in relation to grants, the priorities, the selection and award criteria, and the relative weight of the different award criteria and the maximum rate of funding of the total eligible costs;


the amount allocated to blended finance in accordance with Articles 45 to 48 of Regulation (EU) 2021/695;


any additional obligations for beneficiaries, in accordance with Articles 39 and 41 Regulation (EU) 2021/695.

4.   The Commission shall adopt, by means of implementing acts the following measures:


the decision on the approval of the funding of indirect actions, where the estimated amount of the Union contribution under the Specific Programme is equal to or more than EUR 2,5 million, with the exception of actions under the 'ERC'; the decision on the approval of the funding of indirect actions in cluster 'Culture, Creativity and Inclusive Society' , where the estimated amount of the Union contribution under the Specific Programme is equal to or more than EUR 1 million;


the decision on the approval of the funding of actions involving the use of human embryos and human embryonic stem cells and of actions under the cluster 'Civil Security for Society' referred to in point (b)(iii) of Article 3(1).

Those implementing acts shall be adopted in accordance with the examination procedure referred to in Article 14(4).

Article 14

Committee procedure

1.   The Commission shall be assisted by a committee (17). That committee shall be a committee within the meaning of Regulation (EU) No 182/2011.

2.   The committee shall meet in different configurations as set out in Annex II, having regard to the subject matter to be discussed.

3.   Where reference is made to this paragraph, Article 4 of Regulation (EU) No 182/2011 shall apply.

4.   Where reference is made to this paragraph, Article 5 of Regulation (EU) No 182/2011 shall apply.

5.   Where the opinion of the committee is to be obtained by written procedure, that procedure shall be terminated without result when, within the time-limit for delivery of the opinion, the chair of the committee so decides or a simple majority of committee members so request.

6.   In the case of the implementing acts to be adopted under Article 6(3) where the Committee delivers no opinion, the Commission shall not adopt the draft implementing act and the third subparagraph of Article 5(4) of Regulation (EU) No 182/2011 shall apply.

7.   The Commission shall regularly inform the Committee of the overall progress of the implementation of the Specific Programme and shall provide it with timely information on all actions and components proposed or funded under Regulation (EU) 2021/695 and its externalised parts, as specified in Annex III of this Decision, including detailed information and analysis of the statistics of the individual calls.


Transitional and final provisions

Article 15


Decision 2013/743/EU is repealed with effect from 1 January 2021.

Article 16

Transitional provisions

1.   This Decision shall not affect the continuation or modification of the actions concerned under Decision 2013/743/EU, which shall continue to apply to those actions until their closure.

Where necessary, any remaining tasks of the Committee established by Decision 2013/743/EU shall be undertaken by the Committee referred to in Article 14 of this Decision.

2.   The financial envelope for the Specific Programme may also cover technical and administrative assistance expenses necessary to ensure the transition between the Specific Programme and the measures adopted under its predecessor Decision 2013/743/EU.

Article 17

Entry into force

This Decision shall enter into force on the day of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.

It shall apply from 1 January 2021.

This Decision is addressed to the Member States.

Done at Brussels, 10 May 2021.

For the Council

The President


(1)  Opinion of 17 October 2018 (not yet published in the Official Journal).

(2)   OJ C 62, 15.2.2019, p. 33 and OJ C 364, 28.10.2020, p. 124.

(3)   OJ C 461, 21.12.2018, p. 79.

(4)  Regulation (EU) 2021/695 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 April 2021 establishing Horizon Europe – the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, laying down its rules for participation and dissemination, and repealing Regulations (EU) No 1290/2013 and (EU) No 1291/2013 (OJ L 170 , 12.5.2021, p. 1).

(5)  Regulation (EU) No 182/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 2011 laying down the rules and general principles concerning mechanisms for control by the Member States of the Commission's exercise of implementing powers (OJ L 55, 28.2.2011, p. 13).

(6)  Commission Decision 96/282/Euratom of 10 April 1996 on the reorganization of the Joint Research Centre (OJ L 107, 30.4.1996, p. 12).

(7)   OJ L 282, 19.10.2016, p. 4.

(8)  Commission Communication of 14 February 2018 entitled 'A new, modern Multiannual Financial Framework for a European Union that deliver efficiently on its priorities post-2020' identifies EUR 13 billion spent in main digital activities under the Research and Innovation Framework Programme Horizon 2020.

(9)  Regulation (EU) No 1291/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 establishing Horizon 2020 - the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020) and repealing Decision No 1982/2006/EC (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 104).

(10)  Council Decision 2013/743/EU of 3 December 2013 establishing the specific programme implementing Horizon 2020 – the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020) and repealing Decisions 2006/971/EC, 2006/972/EC, 2006/973/EC, 2006/974/EC and 2006/975/EC (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 965).

(11)  Regulation (EU) 2021/523 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 March 2021 establishing the InvestEU Programme and amending Regulation (EU) 2015/1017 (OJ L 107, 26.3.2021, p. 30).

(12)  Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2020/2093 of 17 December 2020 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2021 to 2027 (OJ L 433 I, 22.12.2020, p. 11).

(13)  Council Regulation (EU) 2020/2094 of 14 December 2020 establishing a European Union Recovery Instrument to support the recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis (OJ L 433I, 22.12.2020, p. 23).

(14)  Regulation (EC) No 294/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2008 establishing the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (OJ L 97, 9.4.2008, p. 1).

(15)  Commission Decision of 12 December 2013 establishing the European Research Council (OJ C 373, 20.12.2013, p. 23).

(16)  Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 July 2018 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union, amending Regulations (EU) No 1296/2013, (EU) No 1301/2013, (EU) No 1303/2013, (EU) No 1304/2013, (EU) No 1309/2013, (EU) No 1316/2013, (EU) No 223/2014, (EU) No 283/2014, and Decision No 541/2014/EU and repealing Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 (OJ L 193, 30.7.2018, p. 1).

(17)  With a view to facilitating the implementation of the Specific Programme, for each meeting of the Programme Committee as defined in the agenda, the Commission shall reimburse, in accordance with its established guidelines, the expenses of one representative per Member State, as well as one expert/adviser per Member State for those agenda items where a Member State requires specific expertise.




Under Article 6, the implementation of the Specific Programme shall be facilitated by a multiannual strategic planning for R&I activities. This strategic planning shall focus in particular on the pillar 'Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness', including relevant activities in other pillars and in the part 'Widening Participation and Strengthening the ERA', in close coordination and synergy with the planning of the Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) established by Regulation (EC) No 294/2008.

The result of this strategic planning shall be set out in a strategic plan for realising content in the work programme.

The strategic planning aims to:

implement Horizon Europe's programme-level objectives in an integrated manner and provide focus on impact for Horizon Europe and provide coherence between its different parts;

promote synergies between Horizon Europe and other Union programmes, including the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+), the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF), the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Euratom Programme, thereby becoming a point of reference for R&I in all related programmes across the Union budget and non-funding instruments;

help to develop and realise Union policy for the relevant areas covered and complement policy development and implementation in the Member States;

reduce fragmentation of efforts and avoid duplication and overlaps between funding possibilities;

provide the framework for linking the direct research actions of the JRC and other actions supported under Horizon Europe, including the use of results and data for support to policy;

ensure a balanced and broad approach to R&I at all stages of development, which is not only limited to fostering frontier research, the development of new products, processes and services on the basis of scientific and technological knowledge and breakthroughs, but also incorporates the use of existing technologies in novel applications and continuous improvement and non-technological and social innovation;

ensure a systemic, cross-disciplinary, cross-sectoral and cross-policy approach to R&I in order to tackle challenges, while also giving rise to new competitive businesses and industries, fostering competition, stimulating private investment and preserving the level playing field in the internal market.


In the pillar 'Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness' and the pillar 'Innovative Europe', R&I shall be complemented by activities which operate close to end-users and the market, such as demonstration, piloting or proof-of-concept, excluding however commercialisation activities going beyond the R&I phase. Those activities shall also include support to demand-side activities that help accelerate the deployment and diffusion of a broad range of innovations. Emphasis shall be put on non-prescriptive calls for proposals.

Under the pillar 'Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness', building on experience in Horizon 2020, the SSH shall be fully integrated across all clusters, including specific and dedicated activities. Likewise, activities involving marine and maritime R&I shall be implemented in a strategic and integrated manner in accordance with the Union's Integrated Maritime Policy, the Common Fisheries Policy and international commitments.

Activities carried out within the Future Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagships on Graphene, the Human Brain Project and Quantum Technology, which are supported under Horizon 2020, will continue to be supported under Horizon Europe through calls for proposals included in the work programme. Preparatory actions supported under the FET Flagships part of Horizon 2020 will feed the strategic planning under Horizon Europe and inform the work on missions, co-funded and/or co-programmed European Partnerships and regular calls for proposals.

Science and technology cooperation dialogues with the Union's international partners and policy dialogues with the main regions of the world shall make important contributions to the systematic identification of opportunities for cooperation which, when combined with differentiation by country and/or region, shall support priority-setting. Early advice from the ERA-related advisory structure will continue to be sought.


Horizon Europe will provide dedicated support for open access to scientific publications, to knowledge repositories and other data sources. Dissemination and knowledge-diffusion actions will be supported, also from cooperation with other Union programmes, including clustering and packaging results and data in languages and formats for target audiences and networks for citizens, industry, public administrations, academia, civil society organisations and policy makers. For this purpose, Horizon Europe may make use of advanced technologies and intelligence tools.

There will be appropriate support for mechanisms, such as National Contact Points, for the communication of Horizon Europe to potential applicants.

The Commission will also implement information and communication activities relating to Horizon Europe, to promote the fact that results were obtained with the support of Union funding. They will also seek to raise public awareness of the importance of R&I and the broader impact and relevance of Union-funded R&I, for example by means of publications, media relations, events, knowledge repositories, databases, multi-channel platforms, websites or a targeted use of social media. Horizon Europe will provide support to the beneficiaries to communicate their work and its impact to society at large.


The Commission will establish comprehensive measures for the exploitation of Horizon Europe results and the knowledge produced. This will accelerate exploitation towards wide market uptake and boost the impact of Horizon Europe.

The Commission will systematically identify and record the results of the R&I activities under Horizon Europe and transfer or disseminate those results and the knowledge produced in a non-discriminatory fashion to industry and enterprises of all sizes, public administrations, academia, civil society organisations and policy-makers, in order to maximise the Union-added value of Horizon Europe.


Greater impact will be achieved through aligning actions with other countries and regions of the world within the framework of strengthened international cooperation efforts. Based on mutual benefit, partners from across the world will be invited to join Union efforts as an integral part of initiatives in support of Union action for sustainability, reinforced R&I excellence and competitiveness.

International joint action will ensure effective tackling of global societal challenges and SDGs, access to the world's best talent, expertise and resources, and enhanced supply of and demand for innovative solutions.


The use of high-quality independent expertise in the evaluation process underpins the engagement of the Specific Programme across all stakeholders, communities and interests and is a prerequisite for maintaining the excellence and relevance of the funded activities.

The Commission or funding body will ensure the impartiality of the evaluation process and avoid conflicts of interest in accordance with Article 61 of the Financial Regulation. It shall also seek geographical diversity in the composition of evaluation committees as well as of expert and advisory groups.

Exceptionally, when justified by the requirement to appoint the best available experts and/or by the limited size of the pool of qualified experts, independent experts assisting or being members of the evaluation committee may evaluate specific proposals for which they declare a potential interest. In that case, the Commission or funding body shall take all necessary remedial measures to ensure the integrity of the evaluation process. The evaluation process will be managed accordingly, including a stage involving an interaction between diverse experts. The evaluation committee will take into account the particular circumstances when identifying proposals for funding.



Scientific, economic, social and cultural progress in all its forms depends on an adequate supply of excellent researchers, the search for breakthroughs in understanding and the acquisition of knowledge at all levels, world-class facilities, including physical and knowledge infrastructures for R&I, and the means to openly disseminate and share knowledge ('open science'), methodologies and skills.

The achievement of world-leading innovation is linked to the advancements of open and excellent science. Scientific and technological paradigm shifts can be key drivers for productivity growth, competitiveness, wealth, sustainable development and social progress. Historically, such paradigm shifts have tended to originate from the public-sector science base, before going on to lay the foundations for whole new industries and sectors and for comprehensive societal progress.

Public investment in research, especially through universities and public research institutions and research facilities, often undertakes longer-term, higher-risk research and complements the activities of the private sector. In addition, it creates highly skilled human resources, knowhow and experience, new scientific instruments and methodologies, as well as the networks which transmit the latest knowledge.

European science and European-based researchers have been and continue to be at the forefront in many areas. However, this is not a position we can take for granted. The traditional challenge from countries such as the United States is now being joined by economic giants such as China and India, from the newly industrialising parts of the world in particular and from all countries where governments recognise the manifold and abundant returns which derive from investing in research.


1.1.   Rationale

Although the Union remains the largest producer of scientific publications in the world, it has, relative to its size, comparatively few centres of excellence that stand out at global level and with large areas of average and poor performance. Compared with the United States and now to some degree with China, the Union follows a 'distributed excellence model' in which resources are spread across a larger number of researchers and research institutions. Creating attractive conditions for the best researchers will help Europe to increase its attractiveness in terms of global competition for scientific talent.

The global research landscape is evolving dramatically and becoming increasingly multipolar as a result of a growing number of emerging countries, in particular China, expanding their scientific production. So whereas the Union and the United States accounted for nearly two-thirds of world expenditure on R&D in 2000, that share had fallen to less than half by 2013.

The ERC supports the best researchers, including talented researchers who are at an early stage of their career, with flexible, long-term funding to pursue ground-breaking, high-gain and high-risk research, primarily in Europe. It operates autonomously and is led by an independent ERC Scientific Council made up of scientists, engineers and scholars of the highest repute and appropriate expertise and diversity. The ERC is able to draw on a wider pool of talents and ideas than would be possible for any national scheme, reinforcing excellence through the way in which the best researchers and the best ideas compete with each other.

Frontier research funded by the ERC has a proven substantial direct impact in the form of advances at the frontiers of knowledge, opening the way to new and often unexpected scientific and technological results and new areas for research. In turn, this generates radically new ideas which drive innovation and business inventiveness and tackle societal challenges. The ERC also has a significant structural impact, improving the quality of the European research system over and above the researchers and actions it funds directly. ERC-funded actions and researchers set an inspirational target for frontier research in Europe, raising its profile and making it more attractive for the best researchers worldwide to work with and as a place to work. The prestige of hosting ERC grant-holders creates competition between Europe's universities and research organisations to offer the most attractive conditions for top researchers and can indirectly help them to assess their relative strengths and weaknesses and bring about reform.

The ERC funds a relatively small percentage of all European research, but achieves a high scientific impact from the research it funds. The average citation impact of the research supported by the ERC is comparable to that of the world's top elite research universities. The ERC's research performance is extremely high when compared with the world's largest research funders. The ERC funds a great deal of frontier research in many of the research areas that have received the highest numbers of citations, including those areas that are rapidly emerging. Although ERC funding is targeted towards frontier research it has resulted in a substantial number of patents.

There is therefore clear evidence that the ERC attracts and funds excellent researchers through its calls, and that ERC actions are producing a substantial number of the most significant and high impact research findings worldwide in emerging areas leading to breakthroughs and major advances. The work of ERC grantees is also highly interdisciplinary and ERC grantees collaborate internationally and publish their results openly across all fields of research including the social sciences, the arts and the humanities.

There is also already evidence of the longer term impact of ERC grants on careers, on training highly skilled recognised researchers and holders of doctoral degrees, on raising the global visibility and prestige of European research and on national research systems through its strong benchmarking effect. This effect is particularly valuable in the Union's distributed excellence model, because ERC-funded status can replace recognition based on the status of institutions and serve as a more accurate indicator of research quality. This allows ambitious individuals, institutions, regions and countries to seize the initiative and scale up the research profiles in which they are particularly strong.

1.2.   Areas of intervention

1.2.1.   Frontier Science

Research funded by the ERC is expected to lead to advances at the frontier of knowledge, with scientific publications of the highest quality achieving research results with high societal and economic potential impact and with the ERC setting a clear and inspirational target for frontier research across the Union, Europe and internationally. Aiming to make the Union a more attractive environment for the world's best scientists, the ERC will aim to make a measurable improvement in the Union's share of top 1 % of most highly cited publications globally and to increase the number of excellent researchers which it funds, including from outside Europe.

ERC funding shall be awarded in accordance with the following well-established principles. Scientific excellence shall be the sole criterion on which ERC grants are awarded. The ERC shall operate on a 'bottom-up' basis without predetermined priorities.

Broad Lines

Long-term funding to support excellent ideas from investigators of any age and gender and their research teams, from any country in the world, to pursue ground-breaking, high-gain and high-risk research;

Enabling starting and early-stage career researchers who have excellent ideas to make the transition to becoming independent research leaders in their own right, by providing adequate support at the critical stage when they are setting up or consolidating their own research team or programme;

New ways of working in the scientific world, including the open science approach, with the potential to create breakthrough results and facilitate the commercial and social innovation potential of funded research;

Sharing experience and best practices with regional and national research funding agencies and building links to other parts of Horizon Europe, in particular the MSCA, to promote the support of excellent researchers;

Raising the profile of frontier research in Europe and the visibility of ERC programmes to researchers across Europe and internationally.

1.3.   Implementation

1.3.1.   The ERC Scientific Council

The ERC Scientific Council is the guarantor of the quality of the activity from the scientific perspective and has full authority over decisions on the type of research to be funded.

In the context of the implementation of Horizon Europe and in order to carry out its tasks as set out in Article 9, the ERC Scientific Council will do the following:


as regards scientific strategy:


establish the overall scientific strategy for the ERC, in the light of scientific opportunities and European scientific needs;


establish the work programme and develop the ERC's mix of support measures in accordance with its scientific strategy;


establish the necessary international cooperation initiatives including outreach activities, to increase the visibility of the ERC for the best researchers from the rest of the world, in accordance with its scientific strategy;


as regards scientific management, monitoring and quality control:


ensure a world-class peer review system based on scientific excellence and on fully transparent, fair and impartial treatment of proposals by establishing positions on implementation and management of calls for proposals, evaluation criteria, peer review processes including the selection of experts, the methods for peer review and proposal evaluation and the necessary implementing rules and guidelines, on the basis of which the proposals to be funded will be determined under the supervision of the ERC Scientific Council;


make a proposal on the basis of which experts shall be appointed in the case of ERC frontier research actions;


ensure that ERC grants are implemented according to simple, transparent procedures that maintain the focus on excellence, encourage initiative and combine flexibility with accountability by continuously monitoring the quality of the operations and implementation;


review and assess the ERC's achievements and the quality and impact of the research funded by the ERC and make recommendations and guidelines for corrective or future actions accordingly;


establish positions on any other matter affecting the achievements and impact of the ERC's activities and the quality of the research carried out;


as regards communication and dissemination:


raise the global profile and visibility of the ERC by conducting communication and outreach activities, including scientific conferences, to promote the ERC's activities and achievements and the results of the projects funded by the ERC with the scientific community, key stakeholders and the general public;


where appropriate, consult with the scientific, engineering and academic community, regional and national research funding agencies and other stakeholders;


regularly report to the Commission on its own activities.

The members of the ERC Scientific Council shall be compensated for the tasks they perform by means of an honorarium and, where appropriate, reimbursement of travel and subsistence expenses.

The ERC President shall reside in Brussels for the duration of the appointment and devote in principle at least 80 % of his or her working time to ERC business. The ERC President shall be remunerated at a level commensurate with the Commission's top management and shall be provided by the ERC dedicated implementation structure with the necessary support to carry out his or her functions.

The ERC Scientific Council shall elect from amongst its members three Vice-Chairs who shall assist the ERC President in its representation and the organisation of its work. They may also hold the title of ERC Vice-President.

Support will be provided to the three Vice-Chairs to ensure adequate local administrative assistance at their home institutes.

1.3.2.   ERC Dedicated Implementation Structure

The ERC dedicated implementation structure, responsible for all aspects of administrative implementation and execution of this component of the Specific Programme, as provided for in the ERC work programme. It will, in particular, implement the evaluation procedures, peer review and selection process in accordance with the strategy established by the ERC Scientific Council and will ensure the financial and scientific management of the grants. The ERC dedicated implementation structure will support the ERC Scientific Council in the conduct of all of its tasks as set out in section 1.3.1., including the development of its scientific strategy, its monitoring of the operations and its review and assessment of the ERC's achievements as well as its outreach and communications activities. The ERC dedicated implementation structure will also provide access to the necessary documents and data in its possession and keep the ERC Scientific Council informed of its activities.

In order to ensure an effective liaison with the ERC dedicated implementation structure on strategy and operational matters, the leadership of the ERC Scientific Council and the Director of the ERC dedicated implementation structure will hold regular coordination meetings.

The management of the ERC will be carried out by staff recruited for that purpose including, where necessary, officials from the Union institutions, and will cover only the real administrative needs in order to assure the stability and continuity necessary for an effective administration.

1.3.3.   Role of the Commission

In order to fulfil its responsibilities as set out in Articles 8, 9 and 10 and in the context of its own responsibilities for budget execution, the Commission will:

ensure the continuity and renewal of the ERC Scientific Council and provide support for a standing Identification Committee for the identification of future ERC Scientific Council members;

ensure the continuity of the ERC dedicated implementation structure and the delegation of tasks and responsibilities to it, taking into account the views of the ERC Scientific Council;

ensure that the ERC dedicated implementation structure carries out the full range of its tasks and responsibilities;

appoint the Director and the members of the management of the ERC dedicated implementation structure, taking into account the views of the ERC Scientific Council;

ensure the timely adoption of the work programme, the positions regarding implementing methodology and the necessary implementing rules including the ERC rules of submission and the ERC model grant agreement, taking into account the views of the ERC Scientific Council;

regularly and in a timely manner inform and consult the Programme Committee on the implementation of the ERC activities;

as responsible for the overall implementation of Horizon Europe, monitor the ERC dedicated implementation structure and evaluate its performance.


2.1.   Rationale

Europe needs a highly-skilled and resilient human capital base in R&I that can easily adapt to and find sustainable solutions for current and future challenges, such as major demographic changes in Europe. To ensure excellence, researchers need to be mobile, collaborate and diffuse knowledge across countries, sectors and disciplines, with the right combination of knowledge and skills to tackle societal challenges and to support innovation.

Europe is a scientific powerhouse with around 1,8 million researchers working in thousands of universities, research centres and companies. However, it is estimated that the Union will need to train and employ at least one million new researchers by 2027 in order to achieve the targets being set for increased investment in R&I. That need is particularly acute beyond the academic sector (such as in industry and business, including SMEs, government, civil society organisations, cultural institutions, hospitals etc.) and requires collaboration between the different sectors to provide adequately trained new researchers. The Union must reinforce its efforts to entice more young women and men to a career in research, be more inclusive and promote a better balance between work and family life, attract researchers from third countries, retain its own researchers and reintegrate European researchers working elsewhere back to Europe. In addition, in order to spread excellence more widely, the conditions under which researchers work must be further improved throughout the ERA. In this respect, stronger links are needed in particular with the European Education Area, the ERDF and ESF+.

These challenges can best be addressed at Union level due to their systemic nature and to the cross-country effort needed to solve them.

The MSCA focus on excellent research that is fully bottom-up, and are open to any field of R&I from basic research up to market take-up and innovation services. This includes research fields covered under the TFEU and the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). If specific needs arise and additional funding sources become available, the MSCA may seek links to certain activities related to specific challenges, including identified missions, types of R&I institutions, or geographical locations, in order to respond to the evolution of Europe's requirements in terms of skills, research training, career development and knowledge sharing.

The MSCA are the main instrument at Union level for attracting researchers from third countries to Europe, thus making a major contribution to global cooperation in R&I. Evidence shows that the MSCA not only have a positive impact on individuals, organisations, and at system level, but also yield high-impact and breakthrough research results while at the same time contributing significantly to societal as well as strategic challenges. Long-term investment in people pays off, as indicated by the number of Nobel Prize winners who have been either former MSCA fellows or supervisors.

Through global research competition between scientists and between host organisations from both the academic and non-academic sectors and through the creation and sharing of high-quality knowledge across countries, sectors and disciplines, the MSCA contribute in particular to the goals of the 'Jobs, growth and investment' agenda, the EU Global Strategy and to the SDGs.

The MSCA contribute to making the ERA more effective, competitive and attractive on a global scale. This is achieved by focusing on a new generation of highly-skilled researchers and providing support for emerging talent from across the Union and beyond including by:


fostering their transition to other components of Horizon Europe, such as the ERC and EIT;


fostering the diffusion and application of new knowledge and ideas to European policies, the economy and society, including through improved science communication and public outreach measures;


facilitating cooperation between research-performing organisations and by publishing following the principles of open science and FAIR data;


having a pronounced structuring impact on the ERA, advocating an open labour market and setting standards for quality training, attractive employment conditions and open, transparent and merit-based recruitment for all researchers in line with the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers.

2.2.   Areas of Intervention

2.2.1.   Nurturing Excellence through the Mobility of Researchers across Borders, Sectors and Disciplines

The Union must remain a reference point for excellent research and therefore attractive for the most promising researchers, European and non-European alike, at all stages of their careers. This can be achieved by enabling researchers and research-related staff to move between and collaborate across countries, sectors and disciplines and thereby benefit from high-quality training and career opportunities. This will facilitate career moves between academia and other sectors as well as stimulate entrepreneurial activity.

Broad Lines

Mobility within or outside Europe for the best or most promising researchers regardless of nationality to undertake excellent research, develop their skills as well as their career, and broaden their network in academia and other sectors (including research infrastructures).

2.2.2.   Fostering new Skills through the Excellent Training of Researchers

The Union needs a strong, resilient and creative human resource base, with the right combination of skills to match the future needs of the labour market, to innovate and to convert knowledge and ideas into products and services for economic and social benefit. This can be achieved through training researchers to further develop their core research competences as well as to enhance their transferable skills such as a creative, responsible, open-to-society and entrepreneurial mind set and an awareness of sustainable development. This will allow them to face current and future global challenges, and improve their career prospects and innovation potential.

Broad Lines

Training programmes to equip researchers with a diversity of skills relevant to current and future global challenges.

2.2.3.   Strengthening Human Resources and Skills Development across the ERA

In order to foster excellence, promote cooperation between research-performing organisations and create a positive structuring effect, high-quality training and mentoring standards, good working conditions and effective career development of researchers needs to be introduced across the ERA. If appropriate and justified by a study, support for researchers to return to their country of origin within and to the Union shall be provided within the context of the existing broad lines. This will help to modernise or enhance research training programmes and systems as well as to increase institutions' attractiveness worldwide.

Broad Lines

Training programmes to foster excellence and spread best practices across institutions, research infrastructures and R&I systems;

Inter- and transdisciplinary cooperation, production and diffusion of knowledge within the Union and with third countries.

2.2.4.   Improving and Facilitating Synergies

Synergies between R&I systems and programmes at regional, national or Union level need to be further developed. This can be achieved in particular through complementarities with other parts of Horizon Europe, such as the EIT, and also synergies with other Union programmes, notably Erasmus and the ESF+, including via a Seal of Excellence.

Broad Lines

Training programmes and similar research career development initiatives supported through complementary public or private funding sources at regional, national or Union level.

2.2.5.   Promoting Public Outreach

Awareness of the activities supported by the MSCA and public recognition of researchers need to be enhanced across the Union and beyond, in order to raise the global profile of the MSCA and to develop a better understanding of the impact of researchers' work on citizens' daily lives, and to encourage young people to embark on research careers. This can be achieved by working according to the open science principle which leads to better dissemination, exploitation and diffusion of knowledge and practices. Citizen science could also play a valuable role.

Broad Lines

Public outreach initiatives to stimulate interest in research careers, especially amongst young people of all backgrounds;

Promotion activities to raise the global profile, visibility and awareness of the MSCA;

Diffusion and clustering of knowledge through cross-project collaboration, National Contact Points projects and other networking activities such as an alumni service.


3.1.   Rationale

State of the art research infrastructures provide key services to R&I communities, playing an essential role in extending the frontiers of knowledge and laying the basis for R&I contributions to tackle global challenges and industrial competitiveness. Supporting research infrastructures at the Union level helps to mitigate scattered national and regional research infrastructures and pockets of scientific excellence, thereby strengthening the ERA as well as increasing the circulation of knowledge across silos. Scientific progress is increasingly dependent on the collaborations of research infrastructures and industry that develop the necessary instruments based on new key enabling technologies and other new technologies.

The overall aim is to endow Europe with world-class sustainable research infrastructures open and accessible to all researchers in Europe and beyond, which fully exploit their potential for scientific advance and innovation. Key objectives are to reduce the fragmentation of the R&I ecosystem, avoiding duplication of effort, and to better coordinate the design, development, accessibility and use of research infrastructures, including those financed from the ERDF. It is crucial to support open access to research infrastructures for all European researchers as well as to increase access to digital research resources, including through the European Open Science Cloud (the 'EOSC'), specifically stimulating the up-take of open science and open data practises.

It is also important to improve the long-term sustainability of research infrastructures as they are typically operational for several decades and therefore should produce plans to secure continuous and stable support.

Equally, the Union needs to tackle the rapid increase of global competition for talent by attracting third country researchers to work with European world-class research infrastructures. Increasing the competitiveness and innovation capabilities of European industry is also a major objective, supporting key technologies and services relevant for research infrastructures and their users, thus improving the conditions for supply of innovative solutions.

Past framework programmes have made a significant contribution to the more efficient and effective use of national research infrastructures, and have also developed with the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) a coherent and strategy-led approach to policy-making on pan-European research infrastructures. This strategic approach has generated clear advantages, including reducing duplication of effort with more efficient overall use of resources, as well as standardising processes and procedures. Research mobility plays an important role in facilitating the use of research infrastructures, and therefore synergies with national and European mobility schemes must be considered.

Union-supported activity will provide added value through: consolidating and optimising the existing research infrastructure landscape in Europe alongside efforts to develop new research infrastructures of pan-European importance and impact; ensuring similar sets of research infrastructures work together to address strategic issues affecting user communities; establishing the EOSC as an effective scalable and sustainable environment for data-driven research; the interconnection of national and regional research and education networks, enhancing and securing high-capacity network infrastructure for massive amounts of data and access to digital resources across borders and domain boundaries; promoting the pan-European coverage of distributed research infrastructures, among other things to enable cross-country comparison of research data, for example in the SSH and environmental fields; fostering the interoperability of research infrastructures; enhancing and reinforcing knowledge transfer and training of high-skilled human resources; fostering the use and, where relevant, upgrading of existing world-class pan-European research infrastructures across Horizon Europe; overcoming barriers preventing the best research teams from accessing the best research infrastructures services in Europe; and fostering the innovation potential of research infrastructures, focused on technology development and co-innovation as well as increased use of research infrastructures by industry.

In addition, the international dimension of European research infrastructures must be reinforced, fostering stronger cooperation with international counterparts and international participation in European research infrastructures for mutual benefit.

Activities will contribute to different SDGs such as: SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-Being; SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy; SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; SDG 13 – Climate Action.

3.2.   Areas of intervention

3.2.1.   Consolidating and Developing the Landscape of European Research Infrastructures

The establishment, operation and long-term sustainability of research infrastructures identified by ESFRI and other world-class research infrastructures of pan-European relevance is essential for the Union to ensure a leading position in frontier research, training and upskilling of researchers, the creation and use of knowledge and the competitiveness of its industries.

The EOSC should become an effective and comprehensive delivery channel for research infrastructures services and should provide Europe's research communities with the next generation of data services for harvesting, storing, processing (for example analytics, simulation, visualisation services) and sharing Big Data from science according to the FAIR principles. The EOSC should also provide researchers in Europe with access to the majority of data generated and collected by research infrastructures as well as to High Performance Computing (HPC) and exascale resources, including those deployed under the European Data Infrastructure (EDI) (1).

The pan-European research and education network will link together and enable remote access to research infrastructures and research resources, by providing interconnectivity between universities, research institutes and R&I communities at Union level as well as international connections to other partner networks worldwide.

Broad Lines

The life-cycle of pan-European research infrastructures through the design of new research infrastructures; their preparatory and implementation phase, their early-phase operation in complementarity with other funding sources, in the case of research infrastructures supported by structural funds, as well as the consolidation and optimisation of the research infrastructure ecosystem by streamlining the monitoring practice for ESFRI landmarks and other pan-European research infrastructures and facilitating service agreements, evolutions, mergers, pan-European coverage or decommissioning of pan-European research infrastructures;

The EOSC, including: scalability and sustainability of the access channel; in cooperation with the Member States and the associated countries effective federation of European, national, regional and institutional resources; its technical and policy evolution to cope with new research needs and requirements (such as usage of sensitive data sets, privacy by design); data inter-operability and compliance with the FAIR principles; and a wide user base;

The pan-European research and education network underpinning the EOSC and EDI as well as enabling the delivery of HPC/data services in a cloud-based environment capable of coping with extreme large data sets and computational processes.

3.2.2.   Opening, Integrating and Interconnecting Research Infrastructures

The research landscape will be improved through ensuring openness of key international, national and regional research infrastructures for all European researchers and integrating their services when necessary so as to harmonise access conditions, improve and enlarge service provision and encourage common development strategy of high-tech components and advanced services through innovation actions.

Broad Lines

Networks that bring together national and regional funders of research infrastructures for the co-funding of transnational access by researchers;

Networks of pan-European, national and regional research infrastructures, addressing global challenges for the provision of access to researchers as well as for the harmonisation and improvement of the research infrastructures' services.

3.2.3.   The innovation potential of European Research Infrastructures and activities for Innovation and Training

To stimulate innovation both in the research infrastructures themselves and in industries, R&D cooperation with industry will be fostered to develop Union capacities and demand for industrial supply in high-tech areas such as scientific instrumentation. In addition, the use of research infrastructures by industry, for example as experimental test facilities or knowledge-based centres, will be encouraged. The development and exploitation of research infrastructures will require their managers, researchers, engineers and technicians, as well as their users, to have appropriate skills. For this purpose, Union funding will support the training of staff managing and operating research infrastructures of pan-European interest, the exchange of staff and best practices between facilities, and the adequate supply of human resources in key disciplines, including the emergence of specific education curricula. Synergies with the MSCA will be encouraged.

Broad Lines

Integrated networks of research infrastructures for the preparation and implementation of a common strategy/roadmap for technological development and instrumentation;

Training of staff managing and operating research infrastructures of pan-European interest.

3.2.4   Reinforcing European Research Infrastructure policy and International Cooperation

Support is needed so that policy makers, funding bodies or advisory groups such as ESFRI are well-aligned as regards the development and implementation of a coherent and sustainable long-term European strategy on research infrastructures.

Similarly, enabling strategic international cooperation will strengthen the position of European research infrastructures at international level, ensuring their global networking, interoperability and reach.

Broad Lines

Survey, monitoring and assessment of research infrastructures at Union level, as well as policy studies, communication and training actions, strategic international cooperation actions for research infrastructures, and specific activities of relevant policy and advisory bodies.



The Union is confronted by many challenges, some of which are also global challenges. The scale and complexity of the problems are vast, and in order to find solutions they need to be tackled jointly at Union level and met by adequate, properly trained and skilled human resources, by the appropriate amount of financial resources and by a proportionate effort. It is precisely in this area, of the search for solutions that the Union must work together and be smart, flexible and joined-up, for the benefit and well-being of all our citizens.

Greater impact can be obtained through aligning actions with other nations and regions of the world within international cooperation, along the lines indicated by the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the SDGs and the Paris Agreement. Based on mutual benefit, partners from across the world will be invited to join Union efforts as an integral part of R&I for sustainable development.

R&I is a key driver of sustainable and inclusive growth and technological and industrial competitiveness. It will contribute to finding solutions to today's problems and those of tomorrow, in order to reverse as quickly as possible the negative and dangerous trend that currently links economic development with the increasing use of natural resources and increasing social challenges. This will turn the challenges into new business opportunities and into rapid benefits for society.

The Union will benefit as both user and producer of knowledge, technologies and industries, showcasing how modern industrialised, sustainable, inclusive, creative, resilient, open and democratic society and economy can function and develop. The growing economic, environmental and social examples of the sustainable economy of the future will be fostered and boosted, be they for: health and well-being for all; resilient, creative and inclusive societies; societies strengthened by civil security; available clean energy and mobility; a digitised economy and society; a transdisciplinary and creative industry; space-related, marine or land-based solutions; a well-functioning bioeconomy, including food and nutrition solutions; or sustainable use of natural resources, protection of the environment, climate change mitigation and adaptation. These elements of the sustainable economy will all generate wealth in Europe and offer higher quality jobs. Industrial transformation will be crucial, as well as developing Union innovative industrial value chains.

New technologies affect virtually all policy areas. For each separate technology there is often a combination of social and economic opportunities, such as opportunities for efficiency, quality and improvement of the government and consequences for employment and education, but also possible risks for safety, privacy and ethics. Technology policy therefore requires an integral weighing of interests, and cross-sectoral cooperation and strategy formulation.

R&I under this pillar of Horizon Europe is grouped into integrated, non-siloed broad clusters of activities. Rather than addressing sectors, the investments aim to achieve systemic changes for our society and economy along a sustainability vector. Such changes will only be achieved if all actors, both private and public, engage in co-designing and co-creating R&I, bringing together end-users, scientists, technology experts, producers, innovators, businesses, educators, policy-makers, citizens and civil society organisations. Therefore, none of the clusters is intended for only one set of actors, and all activities will be implemented primarily by collaborative R&I projects selected on the basis of competitive calls for proposals.

In addition to addressing global challenges, activities in the clusters will also develop and apply key enabling and emerging technologies, whether or not digital-based, as part of a common strategy to promote the Union's industrial and social leadership. Where appropriate, this will use Union space-enabled data and services. All Technology Readiness Levels up to 8 will be covered by this pillar of Horizon Europe without prejudice to Union competition law.

Actions will generate new knowledge, develop technological and non-technological solutions, bring technology from lab to market, develop applications including pilot lines and demonstrators, and include measures to stimulate market uptake and boost private sector commitment to and incentives for standardisation within the Union. Technologies require a critical mass of European researchers and industry to establish world-leading eco-systems that include state-of-the-art technology infrastructures for example for testing. Synergies with other parts of Horizon Europe and the EIT, as well as with other programmes, will be maximised.

The clusters will boost the quick introduction of first-of-its-kind innovation in the Union through a broad range of embedded activities, including communication, dissemination, exploitation and standardisation, as well as support to non-technological innovation and innovative delivery mechanisms, helping to create innovation-friendly societal, regulatory and market conditions such as the innovation deals. Pipelines of innovative solutions originating from R&I actions will be established and targeted at public and private investors, as well as other relevant Union and national or regional programmes. Synergies will be developed with Pillar III of Horizon Europe in that perspective.

Gender equality is a crucial factor in obtaining sustainable economic growth. It is therefore important to integrate a gender perspective in all global challenges.


1.1.   Rationale

The European Pillar of Social Rights asserts that everyone has the right to timely access to affordable, preventive and curative health care that is safe and of good quality. This underlines the Union's commitment to the SDGs which call for universal health coverage for all and at all ages by 2030, leaving no-one behind and ending preventable deaths.

A healthy population is vital for a stable, sustainable and inclusive society, and improvements in health are crucial in reducing poverty, dealing with an ageing European society, fostering social progress and prosperity, and increasing economic growth. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a 10 % improvement in life expectancy is associated with a rise in economic growth of 0,3-0,4 % a year. Average life expectancy in the Union has increased by 12 years since the establishment of the Union, as a result of tremendous improvements in the quality of life, environment, education, health and care of its citizens. In 2015, average life expectancy at birth was 80,6 years in the Union compared to 71,4 years globally. In the past years, this has increased in the Union by an average of 3 months annually. Social and gender-specific differences in life expectancy can be observed between specific groups and across European countries.

Health R&I has played a significant part in this achievement but also in improving productivity and quality in the health and care industry. However, the Union continues to face novel, newly-emerging or persisting challenges that threaten its citizens and public health, the sustainability of its health care and social protection systems, and the competitiveness of its health and care industry. Major health challenges in the Union include: inequalities in access to and affordability of health and care; lack of effective health promotion and disease prevention; rise of non-communicable diseases; increased cases of cancer; increase in mental illness; the spread of antimicrobial drug-resistance and the emergence of infectious disease epidemics; increased environmental pollution; persistence of health inequalities among and within countries disproportionally affecting people that are disadvantaged or in vulnerable stages of life; detection, understanding, control, prevention and mitigation of health risks, including poverty-related aspects, in rapidly-changing social, urban, rural and natural environments; demographic change, including ageing-related issues, and the increasing costs for European health care systems; and the increasing pressure on the European health and care industry to remain competitive in and by developing health innovation vis-a-vis emerging global players. In addition, vaccine hesitancy may decrease immunisation coverage among certain population groups.

These health challenges are complex, interlinked and global in nature and require multidisciplinary, technical and non-technical, cross-sectorial and transnational collaborations. R&I activities will build close connections between fundamental, translational, clinical, epidemiological, ethical, environmental and socio-economic research, as well as with regulatory sciences. They will address areas of unmet clinical needs such as rare or hard-to-treat diseases (including cancers such as paediatric and lung cancer). These activities will harness the combined skills of academics, practitioners, regulatory bodies and industry, and foster their collaboration with health services, social services, patients, policy-makers and citizens in order to leverage public funding and ensure the uptake of results in clinical practice as well as in health care systems, taking into account the competencies of Member States regarding the organisation and financing of their health systems. Full advantage will be taken of genomic and other multiomics frontier research, as well as the progressive introduction of personalised medicine approaches, relevant for addressing a variety of non-communicable diseases and the digitalisation in health and care.

R&I will foster strategic collaboration at Union and international level in order to pool the expertise, capacities and resources needed to create scope, speed and economies of scale, as well as to exploit synergies, avoid duplication of effort and share the expected benefits and financial risks involved. Synergies in health R&I in Horizon Europe shall be promoted, in particular with the EU4Health Programme established by Regulation (EU) 2021/522 of the European Parliament and of the Council (2).

Digital health solutions have created many opportunities to solve the problems of care services and to address other emerging issues of an ageing society. Full advantage should be taken of the opportunities that digitalisation in health and care can provide without jeopardising the right to privacy and data protection. Digital devices and software have been developed to diagnose, treat and facilitate patients' self-management of illness, including chronic diseases. Digital technologies are also increasingly used in medical training and education and to enable patients and other healthcare consumers to access, share and create health information.

The R&I activities of this cluster will develop the knowledge base, exploit existing knowledge and technologies, consolidate and create the R&I capacity and develop the solutions needed for a more effective promotion of health and the integrated prevention, diagnosis, monitoring, treatment, rehabilitation and cure of diseases and long-term and palliative care. Results of research will be translated as recommendations for action and communicated to the relevant stakeholders. Improving health outcomes will in turn result in increased well-being and life expectancy, healthy active lives, improved quality of life and productivity, more healthy life years and sustainability of health and care systems. In accordance with Articles 18 and 19 of Regulation (EU) 2021/695 and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, ethics, protection of human dignity, gender and ethnical aspects and the needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable people will receive special attention.

Addressing major health challenges will support the Union's commitment to the United Nation's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its commitment in the context of other UN organisations and international initiatives, including the global strategies and plans of action of the World Health Organization (WHO). Addressing such challenges will contribute to the Union's policy goals and strategies, notably to the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Union's Digital Single Market, the Union's Cross-border Healthcare, and the European One Health Action Plan against antimicrobial resistance, and to the implementation of the relevant Union regulatory frameworks.

Activities will contribute directly to the following SDGs in particular: SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-Being; SDG13 – Climate Action.

1.2.   Areas of Intervention

1.2.1.   Health throughout the Life Course

People in vulnerable stages of life (perinatal, birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, pregnancy, mature and late adulthood), including people with disabilities or injuries, have specific health needs that require better understanding and tailored solutions, taking gender and ethical aspects into consideration. This will enable the reduction of related health inequalities and the improvement of health outcomes, facilitating active and healthy ageing throughout the life course, including through a healthy start to life and a lifelong healthy diet which reduces the risk of mental and physical diseases later in life. Prevention and communication will consider the characteristics of specific audiences.

Broad Lines

Understanding the early development and the aging process throughout the life course;

Pre-natal and neo-natal, maternal, paternal, infant and child health, as well as the role of parents, family and educators;

Health needs of adolescents, including factors influencing mental health;

Health consequences of disabilities and injuries;

Research on measures to plan, implement and monitor rehabilitation throughout the life course and especially early individual rehabilitation programmes (EIRP) for children affected by disabling pathologies;

Healthy ageing, independent and active life, including social participation for elderly people and people with disabilities;

Health education and health literacy, including digital.

1.2.2.   Environmental and Social Health Determinants

Improved understanding of health drivers and risk factors determined by the social, cultural, economic and physical environment in people's everyday life and at the workplace, including the health impact of digitalisation, human mobility (such as migration and travel), pollution, nutrition, climate change and other environmental issues, will contribute to: identifying, preventing and mitigating health risks and threats; reducing death and illness from exposure to chemicals and environmental pollution; supporting safe, environmental-friendly, healthy, resilient and sustainable living and working environments; promoting healthy lifestyles and consumption behaviour; and to developing an equitable, inclusive and trusted society. This understanding will also be based on population-based cohorts, human biomonitoring and epidemiological studies.

Broad Lines

Technologies and methodologies for assessing the hazards, exposure and health impact of chemicals, indoor and outdoor pollutants and other stressors related to climate change, workplace, lifestyle or the environment and of the combined effects of several stressors;

Environmental, occupational, socioeconomic, cultural, genetic and behavioural factors impacting physical and mental health and well-being of people and their interaction, with special attention to vulnerable and disadvantaged people, age-specific and gender-specific issues where relevant, and including the impact on health of the design of buildings, products and services;

Risk assessment, management and communication, supported by transdisciplinary approaches, where relevant, and improved tools for evidence-based decision-making, including replacement of and alternatives to animal testing;

Capacity and infrastructures to securely collect, share, use, re-use and combine data on all health determinants, including human exposure, and to ensure their connection with databases on environmental parameters, lifestyles, health status and diseases, at Union and international level;

Health promotion and primary prevention interventions, including occupational aspects.

1.2.3.   Non-Communicable and Rare Diseases

Non-communicable diseases, including cancer and rare diseases, pose a major health and societal challenge and call for improved understanding and taxonomy, as well as more effective approaches, including personalised medicine (also called 'precision medicine') approaches, in prevention, diagnosis, monitoring, treatment, rehabilitation and cure as well as improved understanding of multi-morbidities.

Broad Lines

Understanding the mechanisms underlying the development of non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases;

Longitudinal population studies to support understanding health and disease parameters and help stratifying populations in support of the development of preventive medicine;

Diagnostic tools and techniques for earlier and more accurate diagnosis and for timely patient-adapted treatment, enabling delay or reversal of the progression of disease;

Prevention and screening programmes, in accordance with or going beyond WHO, UN and Union recommendations;

Integrated solutions for self-monitoring, health promotion, disease prevention and management of chronic conditions and multi-morbidities, including neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases;

Treatments, cures or other therapeutic interventions, including both pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments;

Palliative care;

Areas of high unmet clinical need such as rare diseases, including paediatric cancers;

Assessment of comparative effectiveness of interventions and solutions, including based on real-world data;

Implementation research to scale up health interventions and support their uptake in health policies and systems;

Development of research and improvement of information, care and treatment, including personalised medicine, for rare diseases.

1.2.4.   Infectious Diseases, including poverty-related and neglected diseases

Protecting people against cross-border health threats is a major challenge for public and global health, calling for effective international cooperation at Union and global level. This will involve understanding and prevention of, preparedness for, early detection of and research response to outbreaks, treatment and cure of infectious diseases, including poverty-related and neglected diseases, and also tackling antimicrobial resistance following the European One Health Action Plan.

Broad Lines

Understanding infection-related mechanisms;

Drivers for the emergence or re-emergence of infectious diseases and their spread, including transmission from animals to humans (zoonosis), or from other parts of the environment (water, soil, plants, food) to humans, as well as the impact of climate change and of the evolution of ecosystems on the dynamics of infectious diseases;

Prediction, early and rapid detection, control and surveillance of infectious diseases, healthcare-associated infections and environmental related factors;

Combating antimicrobial resistance, including epidemiology, prevention and diagnosis, as well as the development of new antimicrobials and vaccines;

Vaccines, including vaccine platform technologies, diagnostics, treatments and cures for infectious diseases, including co-morbidities and co-infections;

Addressing low vaccine uptake, understanding vaccine hesitancy and building vaccine confidence;

Effective health emergency preparedness, response and recovery measures and strategies, involving communities, and their coordination at regional, national and Union level;

Barriers to the implementation and uptake of medical interventions in clinical practice as well as in the healthcare system;

Trans-border aspects of infectious diseases and specific challenges in low- and middle-income countries, such as AIDS, tuberculosis and tropical diseases, including malaria, but also challenges in relation to migratory flows, and in relation to increased human mobility in general.

1.2.5.   Tools, Technologies and Digital Solutions for Health and Care, including personalised medicine

Health technologies and tools are vital for public health and have contributed to a large extent to the important improvements achieved in the quality of life, health and care of people in the Union. It is a key strategic challenge to design, develop, deliver, implement and evaluate suitable, trustworthy, safe, user-friendly and cost-effective tools and technologies for health and care, taking due account of the needs of people with disabilities and the aging society. These include key enabling technologies from new biomaterials to biotechnology as well as single cell methods, multiomics and systems medicine approaches, artificial intelligence (AI) and other digital technologies, offering significant improvements over existing technologies, as well as stimulating a competitive and sustainable health-related industry that creates high-value jobs. The European health-related industry is a critical economic sector in the Union, accounting for 3 % of gross domestic product (GDP) and 1,5 million employees. Relevant stakeholders need to be involved as early as possible, and the non-technological dimension taken into account, in order to ensure acceptability of new technologies, methodologies and tools. These stakeholders include citizens, informal health care providers and health care professionals.

Broad Lines

Tools and technologies for applications across the health spectrum and any relevant medical indication, including functional impairment;

Integrated tools, technologies, medical devices, medical imaging, biotechnology, nanomedicine and advanced therapies (including cellular and gene therapy), and digital solutions for human health and care, including AI, mobile solutions and telehealth; at the same time addressing, where relevant, cost-efficiency production aspects at an early stage in order to optimise the industrialisation stage and the potential of innovation to become an affordable medicinal product;

Piloting, large-scale deployment, optimisation, and innovation procurement of health and care technologies and tools in real-life settings including clinical trials, implementation research including diagnostics based on personalised medicine;

Innovative processes and services for the development, manufacturing and rapid delivery of tools and technologies for health and care;

The safety, efficacy, cost-effectiveness, interoperability and quality of tools and technologies for health and care as well as their ethical, legal and social impact, including social acceptance issues;

Regulatory science and standards for health and care technologies and tools;

Health data management, including data interoperability, integration, analytical and visualisation methods, decision-making processes, building on AI, data mining, Big Data technologies, bioinformatics and high-performance computing technologies to foster personalised medicine including prevention, and to optimise the health journey.

1.2.6.   Health Care Systems

Health systems are a key asset of the Union social systems, accounting for 24 million employees in the health and social work sector in 2017. It is a main priority of Member States to render health systems safe and secure, accessible to all, integrated, cost-effective, resilient, sustainable and trusted with timely and relevant services, as well as to reduce inequalities, including by unleashing the potential of data-driven and digital innovation for better health and person-centred care building on open and safe European data infrastructures. New opportunities such as 5G deployment, the concept of 'digital twins' and the Internet of Things will advance the digital transformation of health and care.

Broad Lines

Supporting the knowledge base for reforms in health systems and policies in Europe and beyond;

New models and approaches for health and care, including personalised medicine approaches, management and organisational aspects, and their transferability or adaptation from one country or region to another;

Improving health technology assessment;

Evolution of health inequality and effective policy response;

Future health workforce and its needs, including digital skills;

Improving timely, reliable, safe and trustworthy health information and use or reuse of health data, including electronic health records, with due attention to data protection, including the misuse of personal life-style and health information, security, accessibility, interoperability, standards, comparability and integrity;

Resilience of health systems in absorbing the impact of crises and accommodating disruptive innovation;

Solutions for citizen and patient empowerment, self-monitoring and interaction with health and social care professionals, to enable more integrated care and a user-centred approach, while considering equal access;

Data, information, knowledge and best practice from health systems research at Union-level and globally, building on existing knowledge and databases.


2.1.   Rationale

The Union stands for a unique way of combining economic growth with SDGs and social policies, with high levels of social inclusion and shared values embracing democracy, human rights, gender equality and the richness of diversity. This model is constantly evolving and needs to deal with the challenges from, among other things, globalisation, technological change and rising inequalities.

The Union must promote a model of inclusive and sustainable growth while reaping the benefits of technological advancements, enhancing trust in and promoting innovation of democratic governance, fostering education, combatting inequalities, unemployment, marginalisation, discrimination and radicalisation, guaranteeing human rights, fostering cultural diversity and European cultural heritage and empowering citizens through social innovation. The management of migration and the integration of migrants will also continue to be priority issues. The role of R&I in social sciences, humanities, and arts, as well as in the cultural and creative sectors, in responding to these challenges and achieving the Union's goals is fundamental. In particular SSH aspects are included in all intervention areas of this cluster.

The magnitude, the complexity and the intergenerational and transnational character of the challenges call for multi-layered Union action. Addressing such critical social, political, cultural and economic issues only at national level would carry the danger of inefficient use of resources, fragmented approaches and dissimilar standards of knowledge and capacity.

R&I activities in this cluster will be overall aligned with the Union's priorities on Democratic Change; Jobs, Growth and Investment; Justice and Fundamental Rights; Migration; A Deeper and Fairer European Monetary Union; Digital Single Market. They will respond to the commitment of the Rome Agenda to work towards 'a social Europe' and 'a Union which preserves our cultural heritage and promotes cultural diversity'. It will also support the European Pillar of Social Rights, and the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration. Synergies with the Justice Programme established by Regulation (EU) 2021/693 of the European Parliament and of the Council (3) and with the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme established by Regulation (EU) 2021/692 of the European Parliament and of the Council (4), which support activities in the area of access to justice, victims' rights, gender equality, non-discrimination, data protection and promotion of European citizenship, as well as with the Creative Europe Programme and Digital Europe Programme established by Regulation (EU) 2021/694 of the European Parliament and of the Council (5), Erasmus, Erasmus+ and ESF+, will be exploited.

Activities will contribute directly to the following SDGs in particular: SDG 1 – No Poverty; SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-Being; SDG 4 – Quality Education; SDG 5 – Gender Equality; SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth; SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; SDG 10 – Reducing Inequalities; SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities; SDG 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

2.2.   Areas of Intervention

2.2.1.   Democracy and Governance

Trust in democracy and established political institutions seems to be receding. Disenchantment with politics is increasingly articulated by anti-establishment and populist parties and a resurgent nativism. This is compounded by socio-economic inequalities, high migration flows and security concerns, among others. Responding to present and future challenges requires new thinking on how democratic institutions at all levels must adapt in a context of greater diversity, global economic competition, rapid technological advancements and digitisation, with citizens' experience of democratic discourses, practices and institutions being crucial.

Broad Lines

The history, evolution and efficacy of democracies, at different levels and in different forms; the role of education, cultural and youth policies as cornerstones of democratic citizenship;

The role of social capital and access to culture in strengthening democratic dialogue, civic participation, and open and trusting societies;

Innovative and responsible approaches to support the transparency, accessibility, responsiveness, accountability, trustworthiness, resilience, effectiveness and legitimacy of democratic governance in full respect of fundamental and human rights and of the rule of law;

Strategies to address populism, racism, polarisation, corruption, extremism, radicalisation, terrorism and to include, empower and engage citizens;

Analysis and development of social, economic and political inclusion and inter-cultural dynamics in Europe and beyond;

Better understand the role of journalistic standards and user-generated content in a hyper-connected society and develop tools to combat disinformation;

The role of multi-cultural, including spiritual, identities, in relation to democracy, citizenship and political engagement, as well as Union founding values such as respect, tolerance, gender equality, cooperation and dialogue;

Support research to understand identity and belonging across communities, regions and nations;

The impact of technological and scientific advancements, including Big Data, online social networks and AI on democracy, privacy and the freedom of speech;

Deliberative, participatory and direct democracy and governance and active and inclusive citizenship, including the digital dimension;

The impact of economic and social inequalities on political participation and democratic governance, and research on the extent to which it can contribute to reversing inequalities and combatting all forms of discrimination, including gender, leading to a more resilient democracy;

Human, social and political dimensions of criminality, dogmatism and radicalisation, in relation to those engaged or potentially engaged in such behaviour as well as to those affected or potentially affected;

Combatting disinformation, fake news and hate speech, and their impact in shaping the public sphere;

The Union as an international and regional actor in multilateral governance, including new approaches to science diplomacy;

Efficiency of justice systems and improved access to justice based on judicial independence and principles and on respect of human rights, with fair, efficient and transparent procedural methods both in civil and criminal matters.

2.2.2.   Culture, Cultural Heritage and Creativity

The European cultural and creative sectors build bridges between arts, culture, spiritual beliefs and experiences and cultural heritage, business and technology. Furthermore, cultural and creative industries play a key role in reindustrialising Europe, are a driver for growth and are in a strategic position to trigger innovative spill-overs in other industrial sectors, such as tourism, retail, media and digital technologies and engineering. Cultural heritage forms an integral part of the cultural and creative sectors and is the fabric of our lives, meaningful to communities, groups and societies, giving a sense of belonging. It is the bridge between the past and the future of our societies. A better understanding of our cultural heritage and how it is perceived and interpreted is vital to creating an inclusive society in Europe and worldwide. It is also a driving force of European, national, regional and local economies and a powerful source of inspiration for creative and cultural industries. Accessing, conserving, safeguarding and restoring, interpreting and harnessing the full potential of our cultural heritage are crucial challenges now and for future generations. Cultural heritage, tangible and intangible, is the major input and inspiration for the arts, traditional craftsmanship, the cultural, creative and entrepreneurial sectors that are drivers of sustainable economic growth, new job creation and external trade. In this sense, both innovation and resilience of cultural heritage need to be considered in collaboration with local communities and relevant stakeholders. Cultural heritage may also serve as an agent of cultural diplomacy and as a factor of identity building and cultural and social cohesion.

Broad Lines

Heritage studies and sciences, with cutting-edge technologies and innovative methodologies, including digital ones;

Access to and sharing of cultural heritage, with innovative patterns and uses and participatory management models;

Research for the accessibility of cultural heritage through new technologies, such as cloud services, including, but not limited to a European cultural heritage collaborative space, as well as encouraging and facilitating transmission of know-how and skills; this will be preceded by an impact assessment;

Sustainable business models to strengthen the financial foundation of the heritage sector;

Connect cultural heritage with emerging creative sectors, including interactive media, and social innovation;

The contribution of cultural heritage to sustainable development through conservation, safeguarding, developing, and regeneration of cultural landscapes, with the Union as a laboratory for heritage-based innovation and sustainable cultural tourism;

Conservation, safeguarding, enhancement, restoration and sustainable management of cultural heritage and languages including the use of traditional skills and crafts or cutting edge technologies including digital;

Influence of cultural memories, traditions, behavioural patterns, perceptions, beliefs, values, sense of belonging and identities; the role of culture and cultural heritage in multi-cultural societies and patterns of cultural inclusion and exclusion.

2.2.3.   Social and Economic Transformations

European societies are undergoing profound socio-economic and cultural transformations, especially as a result of globalisation and technological innovations. At the same time there has been an increase in income inequality in most European countries (6). Forward-looking policies are needed, with a view to promoting sustainable and inclusive growth, gender equality, well-being and reversing inequalities, boosting productivity (including advancements in its measurement), socio-spatial inequalities and human capital, understanding and responding to migration and integration challenges and supporting intergenerational solidarity, intercultural dialogue and social mobility. Accessible, inclusive and high quality education and training systems are needed for a more equitable and prosperous future.

Broad Lines

Knowledge base for advice on investments and policies, especially in relation to education and training, for value-added skills, productivity, social mobility, growth, social innovation and job creation; the role of education and training in tackling inequalities and underpinning inclusion, including school-failure prevention;

Social sustainability beyond GDP-only indicators, especially new economic and business models and new financial technologies;

Statistical and other economic tools for a better understanding of growth and innovation in a context of sluggish productivity gains or structural economic changes;

New governance models in emerging economic areas and market institutions;

New types of work, the role of work, upskilling, trends and changes in labour markets and income in contemporary societies, and their impact on income distribution, work-life balance, working environments, non-discrimination, including gender equality, and social inclusion;

Greater understanding of the societal changes in Europe and their impact;

The effects of social, technological and economic transformations on access to safe, healthy, affordable and sustainable housing;

Tax and benefits systems together with social security and social investment policies, with a view to reversing inequalities in a fair and sustainable way and addressing the impact of technology, demographics and diversity;

Inclusive and sustainable development and growth models for urban, semi-urban and rural environments;

Understanding human mobility and its impact in the context of social and economic transformations, considered in the global and local scales for better migration governance, respect of differences, long-term integration of migrants including refugees and impact of related policy interventions; respect of international commitments and human rights and issues of development aid and cooperation; greater, improved access to quality education, training, labour market, culture, support services, and active and inclusive citizenship especially for the vulnerable, including migrants;

Tackling of major challenges concerning European models for social cohesion, immigration, integration, demographic change, ageing, disability, education, poverty and social exclusion;

Advanced strategies and innovative methods for gender equality in all social, economic and cultural domains, and to deal with gender biases and gender-based violence;

Education and training systems to foster and make the best use of the Union's digital transformation, and to manage the risks from global interconnectedness and technological innovations, especially emerging online risks, ethical concerns, socio-economic inequalities and radical changes in markets;

Modernisation of public authorities' governance and management systems to engage citizens and meet their expectations regarding service provision, transparency, accessibility, openness, accountability and user-centricity.


3.1.   Rationale

European cooperation has contributed to an era of unprecedented peace, stability and prosperity on the European continent. However, Europe must respond to the challenges arising from persistent threats to the security of our increasingly complex and digitalised society. Terrorist attacks and radicalisation, as well as cyber-attacks and hybrid threats, raise major security concerns and put particular strain on societies. New, emerging security threats caused by new technologies of the near future also require attention. Future security and prosperity depend on improving the ability to protect Europe against such threats. These cannot be dealt with purely by technological means, but require knowledge about people, their history, culture and behaviour, and include ethical considerations regarding the balance between security and freedom. Moreover, Europe must ensure its non-dependence on security-critical technologies and support the development of breakthrough security technologies.

European citizens, state institutions, Union bodies and the economy need to be protected from the continued threats of terrorism and organised crime, including firearms trafficking, drug trafficking and trafficking in human beings and of cultural goods. Human and social dimensions of criminality and violent radicalisation require better understanding so as to improve public policies in terms of security. Strengthening protection and security through better border management, including maritime and land borders, is also key. Cybercrime is on the increase and related risks are diversifying as the economy and society digitalise. Europe needs to continue its efforts to improve cybersecurity, digital privacy, personal data protection and combat the spread of false and harmful information in order to safeguard democratic, social and economic stability. Further efforts are required to limit the effects on lives and livelihoods of extreme weather events which are intensifying due to climate change, such as floods, storms, heat waves or droughts leading to forest fires and land degradation, as well as other natural disasters, such as earthquakes. Disasters, whether natural or human-made, can put at risk important societal functions and critical infrastructures, such as communication, health, food, drinking water, energy supply, transport, security and government.

This cluster requires both technical research and research into the human factors involved in improving disaster resilience including, where appropriate, testing applications, training and cyber hygiene and education. More efforts are needed to evaluate the results of security research and promote their uptake.

This cluster will seek synergies, in particular with the following programmes: Internal Security Fund, Integrated Border Management Fund and the Digital Europe Programme. It will also seek improved R&I cooperation between intergovernmental agencies and organisations including through exchange and consultation mechanisms, for example in the intervention area 'Protection and Security'.

Security research is part of the wider comprehensive Union response to security threats. It contributes to the capability development process by enabling the future availability of technologies, techniques and applications to fill capability gaps identified by policy-makers and practitioners and civil society organisations. Already, funding to research through the Union's previous framework programme has represented around 50 % of total public funding for security research in the Union. Full use will be made of available instruments, including the Union Space Programme established by Regulation (EU) 2021/696 of the European Parliament and of the Council (7) (EGNOS and Galileo, Copernicus, Space Situational Awareness and Governmental Satellite Communications). Whereas R&I activities under the Specific Programme will have an exclusive focus on civil applications, coordination with Union-funded defence research will be sought in order to strengthen synergies, recognising that there are areas of dual-use technology. Duplication of funding is avoided. Cross-border collaboration contributes to developing a European single security market and improving industrial performance, underpinning the Union's autonomy. Due attention will be given to the human understanding and perception of security.

Security research responds to the commitment of the Rome Agenda to work towards 'a safe and secure Europe', contributing to a genuine and effective Security Union.

Activities will contribute directly to the following SDG in particular: SDG 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

3.1.1.   Disaster-Resilient Societies

Disasters may arise from multiple sources, whether natural or human-made, including those from terrorist attacks, climate-related and other extreme events (including from rising sea levels). Those sources include in particular forest fires, heat waves, floods, droughts, desertification, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic events, water crises, space weather events, industrial and transport disasters, and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) events, as well as those from resulting cascading risks. The aim is to prevent and reduce the loss of life, harm to health and the environment, trauma, and economic and material damage caused by disasters, as well as to ensure food, medicine supply and services and water security, in addition to improving the understanding and reduction of disaster risks and enhancing post-disaster recovery. This implies covering the full spectrum of crisis management: from prevention and training to crisis management and post-crisis management and resilience.

Broad Lines

Technologies, capabilities and governance for first responders for emergency operations in crisis, disaster and post-disaster situations and the initial phase of recovery;

The capacities of society to better prevent, manage and reduce disaster risk, including through nature-based solutions, by enhancing forecasting capabilities, prevention, preparedness and response to existing and new risks and domino effects, impact assessment and a better understanding of the human factor in risk management and risk communication strategies;

More effectively support the build-back-better philosophy of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 through better understanding of post-disaster recovery and research into more effective post-disaster risk assessment;

Interoperability of equipment and procedures to facilitate cross-border operational cooperation and an integrated Union market.

3.1.2.   Protection and Security

There is a need to protect citizens from and respond to security threats from criminal activities including terrorist activities and hybrid threats; to protect people, public spaces and critical infrastructure, from both physical (including Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive materials (CBRN-E)) attacks and cyber-attacks; to fight terrorism and violent radicalisation, including through understanding and tackling terrorist ideas and beliefs; to prevent and fight serious crime, including cybercrime, and organised crime (such as piracy and counterfeiting of products); to support victims; to trace criminal financial flows; to develop new forensic capabilities; to support the use of data for law enforcement and to ensure the protection of personal data in law enforcement activities; to strengthen border protection capabilities, to support air, land and sea Union border management for flows of people and goods; and to understand the human factor in all these security threats and in their prevention and mitigation. It is essential to maintain flexibility to rapidly address new and unforeseen security challenges that may arise.

Broad Lines

Innovative approaches and technologies for security practitioners (such as police forces, fire brigades, medical services, border and coast guards, customs offices), in particular in the context of digital transformation and interoperability of security forces, operators of infrastructure, civil society organisations, and those managing open spaces;

Analysis of cross-border crime phenomena, advanced methods of fast, reliable, standardised and privacy enhanced data-sharing and collection as well as best practices;

Human and socio-economic dimensions of criminality and violent radicalisation, in relation to those engaged or potentially engaged in such behaviour as well as to those affected or potentially affected, including understanding and tackling terrorist ideas and beliefs and crimes based on gender, sexual orientation or racial discrimination;

Analysis of security aspects of new technologies such as DNA-sequencing, genome editing, nanomaterials and functional materials, AI, autonomous systems, drones, robotics, quantum computing, cryptocurrencies, 3D printing and wearables, blockchain, as well as improving awareness of citizens, public authorities and industry to prevent the creation of new security risks and to reduce existing risks, including from those new technologies;

Improved foresight and analysis capabilities for policy making and at strategic level on security threats;

Protection of critical infrastructures as well as open and public spaces from physical, digital and hybrid threats, including the effects of climate change;

Monitoring and combatting disinformation and fake news with implications for security, including developing capabilities to detect the sources of manipulation;

Technological development for civil applications with the scope to enhance, where appropriate, interoperability between civil protection and military forces;

Interoperability of equipment and procedures to facilitate cross-border, intergovernmental and inter-agency operational cooperation, and develop an integrated Union market;

Developing tools and methods for effective and efficient integrated border management, in particular to increase reaction capability and improved capacity to monitor movements across external borders to enhance risk detection, incident response and crime prevention;

Detection of fraudulent activities at border crossing points and throughout the supply chain, including identifying forged or otherwise manipulated documents and detecting trafficking in human beings and illicit goods;

Ensuring the protection of personal data in law enforcement activities, in particular in view of rapid technological developments, including confidentiality and integrity of information and traceability and processing of all transactions;

Developing techniques for identifying counterfeit products, for enhancing protection of original parts and goods and for controlling transported products.

3.1.3.   Cybersecurity

Malicious cyber activities not only threaten our economies, but also the very functioning of our democracies, our freedoms and our values. Cyber threats are often criminal, motivated by profit, but they can also be political and strategic. Our future security, freedom, democracy and prosperity depend on improving our ability to protect the Union against cyber threats. The digital transformation requires improving cybersecurity substantially, to ensure the protection of the huge number of Internet of Things devices expected to be connected to the internet and the safe operation of network and information systems, including for power grids, drinking water supply and distribution, vehicles and transport systems, hospitals, finances, public institutions, factories and homes. Europe must build resilience to cyber-attacks and create effective cyber deterrence, while making sure that data protection and the freedom of citizens are strengthened. It is in the Union's interest to ensure that it develops and retains essential cybersecurity strategic capacities in order to secure the Digital Single Market and, in particular, to ensure the protection of critical networks and information systems and to provide key cybersecurity services. The Union must be in a position to autonomously secure its digital assets and to compete on the global cybersecurity market.

Broad Lines

Technologies across the digital value chain (from secure components and quantum-resistant cryptography to self-healing software and networks);

Technologies, methods, standards and best practices to address cybersecurity threats, anticipating future needs, and sustaining a competitive European industry, including tools for electronic identification, threat detection and cyber hygiene, as well as training and education resources;

An open collaboration for a European cybersecurity competence network and competence centre.


4.1.   Rationale

To ensure industrial competitiveness and the capacity to address the global challenges ahead, the Union must increase its technological sovereignty and its scientific, technological and industrial capacities in the key areas that underpin the transformation of our economy, the work place and society.

Union industry provides one out of five jobs and two thirds of private sector R&D investments in the Union and generates 80 % of Union exports. A new wave of innovation, involving a merging of physical and digital technologies, will trigger huge opportunities for Union industry and improve the quality of life for Union citizens.

Digitisation is a major driver. As it continues at a rapid pace across all sectors, investment in priority areas ranging from trustworthy AI to next generation internet, high performance computing, photonics, quantum technologies, micro-electronics or nano-electronics and robotics becomes essential for the strength of our economy and the sustainability of our society. Investing, producing and using digital technologies provides a major boost to Union economic growth, amounting to an increase of 30 % of the Union's GDP between 2001 and 2011. In this context, the role of SMEs remains fundamental in the Union, both in terms of growth and jobs. Digital uptake among SMEs promotes competitiveness and sustainability.

Key enabling technologies (8) underpin the blending of the digital and the physical worlds, central to this new global wave of innovation. Investing in research, development, demonstration and deployment of key enabling technologies, and ensuring a secure, sustainable and affordable supply of raw and advanced materials, will secure Union strategic autonomy and help Union industry to significantly reduce its carbon and environmental footprints.

Specific future and emerging technologies will also be pursued as appropriate.

Space is of strategic importance; around 10 % of the Union's GDP depends on the use of space services. The Union has a world-class space sector, with a strong satellite manufacturing industry and a dynamic downstream services sector. Space provides important tools for monitoring, communication, navigation and surveillance and opens up many business opportunities, especially in combination with digital technologies and other sources of data. The Union must make the most of these opportunities by fully exploiting the potential of its space programmes Copernicus, EGNOS and Galileo, and by protecting space and ground infrastructures against threats from space.

The Union has the unique possibility of being a global leader and increasing its share of world markets, by showcasing how digital transformation, leadership in key enabling and space technologies, the transition to a low-carbon, circular economy and competitiveness can reinforce each other through scientific and technological excellence.

To make the digitised, circular, low-carbon and low-emission economy a reality, action is needed at Union level because of the complexity of value chains, the systemic and multi-disciplinary nature of the technologies and their high development costs, and the cross-sectoral nature of the problems to be addressed. The Union must ensure that all industrial players, and society at large, can benefit from advanced and clean technologies and digitalisation. Developing technologies alone will not suffice. A societal understanding of these technologies and evolutions is crucial for engaging end users and generating behavioural change.

Industrially-oriented infrastructures, including pilot lines, will help Union businesses, and in particular SMEs, deploy these technologies and improve their innovation performance and may also be facilitated by other Union programmes.

A strong engagement of industry and civil society is essential for setting priorities and developing R&I agendas, increasing the leverage of public funding through private and public investments, and ensuring a better uptake of results. Societal understanding and acceptance, including consideration of the design of products, goods and services, are key ingredients for success, along with a new agenda for industry-relevant skills and standardisation.

Bringing together activities on digital, key enabling and space technologies, as well as a sustainable supply of raw materials, will allow for a more systemic approach, and a faster and more profound digital and industrial transformation. It will ensure that R&I in these areas feed into, and contribute to, the implementation of the Union's policies for industry, digitisation, environment, energy and climate, circular economy, raw and advanced materials and space.

Complementarity will be ensured with activities under other Union programmes, and in particular the Digital Europe Programme and the Union Space Programme, while respecting the delineation between programmes and avoiding overlaps.

Activities will contribute directly to the following SDGs in particular: SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth; SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production; SDG – 13 Climate Action.

4.2.   Areas of Intervention

4.2.1.   Manufacturing Technologies

Manufacturing is a key driver of employment and prosperity in the Union, producing over three quarters of the Union's global exports and providing over a 100 million direct and indirect jobs. The key challenge for Union manufacturing is to remain competitive at a global level with smarter and more customised products of high added value, produced at much lower energy and material resource costs as well as with a reduced carbon and environmental footprint. Creative and cultural inputs as well as perspectives from social sciences and humanities on the relation between technology and people in production will be vital to help generate added value. The impact on work life and employment will be studied as well.

Broad Lines

Breakthrough manufacturing technologies such as biotechnological production, additive manufacturing, industrial, collaborative, flexible and intelligent robotics, human integrated manufacturing systems, also promoted via a Union network of industrially-oriented infrastructures, which provide services to accelerate technological transformation and uptake by Union industry;

Breakthrough innovations using different enabling technologies across the value chain; examples include converging technologies, AI, digital twin, data analytics, control technologies, sensor technologies, industrial, collaborative and intelligent robotics, human-centred systems, biotechnological production, advanced batteries and hydrogen, including renewable based hydrogen, and fuel cell technologies, advanced plasma and laser technologies;

Skills, workspaces and businesses fully adapted to the new technologies, in accordance with European social values;

Flexible, high-precision, zero-defect, low-pollution and low-waste, sustainable and climate-neutral cognitive plants, in accordance with the circular economy approach; smart and energy-efficient manufacturing systems meeting customer needs;

Breakthrough innovations in techniques for exploring construction sites, for full automation of on-site assembly and prefabricated components.

4.2.2.   Key Digital Technologies, including Quantum Technologies

Maintaining and autonomously developing strong design and production capacities in essential digital technologies such as micro-electronics and nano-electronics, microsystems, photonics, software and cyber-physical systems, and their integration, as well as advanced materials for these applications, will be essential for a competitive citizen-centred and social Union.

Broad Lines

Micro-electronics and nano-electronics, including design and processing concepts, components and manufacturing equipment responding to the specific requirements of digital transformation and global challenges, in terms of performance functionality, energy and material consumption and integration;

Efficient and secure sensing and actuating technologies and their co-integration with computational units as the enabler of industry and the Internet of Things, including innovative solutions on flexible and conformable materials for human-friendly interacting objects;

Technologies as complements or alternatives to nano-electronics, such as integrated quantum computing, transmission and sensing as well as neuromorphic computing components and spintronics;

Computing architectures and accelerators, low-power processors for a wide range of applications including neuromorphic computing powering AI applications, edge computing, digitisation of industry, Big Data and cloud computing, smart energy and connected and automated mobility;

Computing hardware designs delivering strong guarantees of trusted execution, with built-in privacy and security protection measures for input and output data, quantum computing as well as processing instructions and adequate human machine interfaces;

Photonics technologies enabling applications with breakthrough advances in functionality, integration and performance;

System and control engineering technologies to support flexible, evolvable and fully autonomous systems for trustworthy applications interacting with the physical world and humans, including in industrial and safety critical domains;

Software technologies enhancing software quality, cybersecurity and reliability with improved service life, increasing development productivity, and introducing built-in AI and resilience in software and their architecture;

Emerging technologies expanding digital technologies.

4.2.3   Emerging Enabling Technologies

Key enabling technologies have demonstrated their potential to stimulate innovation in and across many sectors (9). To facilitate the development of new enabling technologies and feed the innovation pipeline, transformative research themes must be identified and supported from an early exploratory stage to demonstrations in pilot applications. Furthermore, emerging, often interdisciplinary, communities need to be assisted to reach the critical mass enabling them to systematically develop and mature promising technologies. The goal is to bring emerging enabling technologies to levels of maturity that allow inclusion into industrial R&I roadmaps.

Broad Lines

Support for future and emerging trends in key enabling technologies;

Support for emerging communities involving a human centred-approach from the outset;

Assessing the disruptive potential of new emerging industrial technologies, and their impact on people, industry, society and the environment, building interfaces with industrial roadmaps;

Broaden the industrial basis for adopting technologies and innovation with breakthrough potential, including development of human resources and in the global context.

4.2.4.   Advanced Materials

The Union is a global leader in advanced materials and associated processes, which make up 20 % of its industry base and form the root of nearly all value chains through the transformation of raw materials. To remain competitive and meet citizens' needs for sustainable, safe and advanced materials, the Union must invest in research for novel materials, including bio-based materials, resource efficient innovative building materials, improve the durability and recyclability of materials, reduce the carbon and environmental footprint, and drive cross-sectoral industrial innovation by supporting new applications in all industry sectors. Furthermore, advanced materials have a tremendous impact regarding citizens' needs.

Broad Lines

Materials (including polymers, bio-, nano-, two-dimensional, smart and multi-materials (including lignocelluloses), composites, metals and alloys) and advanced materials (such as quantum, responsive, photonic and superconducting materials) designed with new properties and functionalisation and meeting regulatory requirements (while not leading to increased environmental pressures during their whole life-cycle, from production to use or end-of-life);

Integrated materials processes and production following a customer-oriented and ethical approach, including pre-normative activities and life-cycle assessment, sourcing and management of raw materials, durability, reusability and recyclability, safety, risk assessment for human health and environment and risk management;

Advanced materials enablers like characterisation (for example for quality assurance), modelling and simulation, piloting and upscaling;

A Union innovation ecosystem of technology infrastructures (10), networked and accessible to all relevant stakeholders, identified and prioritised in agreement with Member States, which provide services to accelerate technological transformation and uptake by Union industry, notably by SMEs; this innovation ecosystem will cover all key technologies necessary to enable innovations in the field of materials;

Solutions based on advanced materials for cultural heritage, design, architecture and general creativity, with a strong user orientation, for adding value to industrial sectors and the creative industries.

4.2.5.   Artificial Intelligence and Robotics

Making any object and device intelligent and connected is one of the megatrends. Researchers and innovators developing AI and offering applications in robotics and other areas will be key drivers of future economic and productivity growth. Many sectors including health, manufacturing, ship-building, construction, service industries and farming will use and further develop this key enabling technology in other parts of Horizon Europe. AI developments must be conducted openly across the Union, ensure the safety and societal and environmental soundness of AI-based applications, and consider ethical aspects from the outset, as well as assessing the risks and mitigating its potential for malicious use and unintended discrimination such as gender, racial or disability bias. AI must be developed within a well-coordinated framework which respects the Union's values, ethical principles and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Horizon Europe will be complemented by activities set out under the Digital Europe Programme.

Broad Lines

Enabling AI technologies such as explainable AI, ethical AI, human-controlled AI, unsupervised machine learning and data efficiency and advanced human-machine and machine-machine interactions;

Safe, smart, collaborative and efficient robotics and complex embodied and autonomous systems;

Human-centric AI technologies for AI-based solutions;

Developing and networking the research competences in the area of AI across Europe under an open collaborative perspective while also developing the capacity for closed testing;

The employment of AI and robotics to support people affected by disability, and inclusion of marginalised individuals;

Technologies for open AI platforms including software algorithms, data repositories, agent-based systems, robotics and autonomous systems platforms.

4.2.6.   Next Generation Internet

The internet has become a key enabler of the digital transformation of all sectors of our economy and society. The Union needs to take the lead in driving the next generation internet towards a human-centric ecosystem in accordance with our social and ethical values. Investing in technologies and software for the next generation internet will improve Union industrial competitiveness in the global economy. Optimising Union-wide take-up will require large-scale cooperation across stakeholders. Ethical norms regulating next generation internet should be also considered.

Broad Lines

Technologies and systems for trusted and energy-efficient smart network and service infrastructures (including connectivity beyond 5G, software defined infrastructures, Internet of Things, systems of systems, cloud infrastructures, next generation optical networks, quantum, cognitive clouds and quantum internet, integration of satellite communications), enabling real-time capabilities, virtualisation and decentralised management (ultrafast and flexible radio, edge computing, shared contexts and knowledge) to ensure scalable, efficient, reliable and trustworthy network performance suited for massive service deployment;

Next generation internet applications and services for consumers, industry and society building on trust, fairness, interoperability, better user control of data, transparent language access, new multi modal interaction concepts, inclusive and highly personalised access to objects, information and content, including immersive and trustworthy media, social media and social networking as well as business models for transactions and services over shared infrastructures;

Software-based middleware, including distributed ledger technologies such as blockchains, working in highly distributed environments, facilitating data mapping and data transfer across hybrid infrastructures with inherent data protection, embedding AI, data analytics, security and control in internet applications and services predicated on the free flow of data and knowledge.

4.2.7.   Advanced Computing and Big Data

HPC and Big Data have become indispensable in the new global data economy, where to out-compute is to out-compete. HPC and Big Data analytics shall be encouraged throughout the Union and are critical to support policy making, scientific leadership, innovation and industrial competitiveness, and to maintain national sovereignty while respecting ethical issues. These activities will be complemented by activities under the Digital Europe Programme.

Broad Lines

HPC: next generation of key exascale and post-exascale technologies and systems (such as low-power microprocessors, software, system integration); algorithms, codes and applications, and analytic tools and test-beds; industrial pilot test-beds and services; supporting R&I for, and preferably participation by all Member States in, a world-class HPC infrastructure, including the first hybrid HPC/Quantum computing infrastructures, and supporting R&I for shared services in the Union;

Big Data: Extreme-performance data analytics; 'Privacy by design' in the analysis of personal and confidential Big Data; technologies for full-scale data platforms for re-use of industrial, personal and open data; data management, interoperability and linking tools; data applications for global challenges; methods for data science;

Reduced carbon footprint of information and communications technology (ICT) processes, covering hardware, architecture, communication protocols, software, sensors, networks, storage and data centres, and including standardised assessments.

4.2.8.   Circular Industries

Europe is at the forefront of the global transition towards a circular economy. Europe's industry should become a circular industry: the value of resources, materials and products should be maintained much longer compared to today, even opening up new value chains. The engagement of citizens is crucial.

Primary raw materials will continue to play an important role in the circular economy and attention must be paid to their sustainable sourcing, usage and production. Safe and sustainable materials cycles shall be ensured. In addition, entirely new materials, including bio-based materials, products and processes should be designed for circularity. Building a circular industry will have several advantages for Europe: it will lead to a secure, sustainable and affordable supply of raw materials, which will in turn protect the industry against scarcity of resources and price volatility. It will also create new business opportunities and innovative, more resource- and energy-efficient ways of production. R&D focused on developing less hazardous substances will be encouraged and stimulated.

The objective is to develop affordable breakthrough innovations and deploy a combination of advanced technologies and processes so as to extract maximum value from all resources.

Broad Lines

Industrial symbiosis with resource flows between plants across sectors and urban communities; processes and materials, to transport, transform, re-use and store resources, combining the valorisation of by-products, waste, waste-water and CO2;

Valorisation and life-cycle assessment of materials and product streams with use of new alternative feedstocks, resource control, material tracking and sorting (including validated testing methods and tools for risk assessment for human health and environment);

Eco-designed products, services and new business models for enhanced life-cycle performance, durability, ability to upgrade, and ease of repair, dismantling, reuse and recycling;

Effective recycling industry, maximising potential and safety of secondary materials and minimising pollution (non-toxic material cycles), quality downgrading, and quantity dropouts after treatment;

Elimination or, if no alternative, safe handling of substances of concern in the production and end-of-life phases; safe substitutes, and safe and cost-efficient production technologies;

Sustainable supply and substitution of raw materials, including critical raw materials, covering the whole value chain.

4.2.9.   Low-Carbon and Clean Industries

Industrial sectors, including energy-intensive industries such as steel, contribute millions of jobs and their competitiveness is key for the prosperity of our societies. However, they account for 20 % of global greenhouse gas emissions and have a high environmental impact (particularly in terms of air, water and soil pollutants).

Breakthrough technologies to achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gases, pollutants and the Union's energy requirements, often combined with the technologies for circular industry discussed above, will lead to strong industrial value chains, revolutionise manufacturing capacities and improve the global competitiveness of industry; and at the same time make key contributions to our targets for climate action and environmental quality.

Broad Lines

Process technologies, including heating and cooling, digital tools, automation and large-scale demonstrations for process performance and resource and energy efficiency; substantial reductions in or avoidance of industrial emissions of greenhouse gases and pollutants, including particulate matter;

CO2 valorisation from industry and other sectors;

Conversion technologies for the sustainable utilisation of carbon sources to increase resource efficiency and reduce emissions, including hybrid energy systems for the industry and energy sector with a decarbonisation potential;

Electrification and use of unconventional energy sources within industrial plants, and energy and resource exchanges between industrial plants (for instance via industrial symbiosis);

Industrial products that require low or zero carbon emissions production processes throughout their life-cycle.

4.2.10.   Space, including Earth Observation

Union space systems and services reduce costs and improve efficiency, offer solutions to societal challenges, increase societal resilience, help to monitor and fight climate change and foster a competitive and sustainable economy. Union support has been instrumental in helping to realise these benefits. R&I activities should also support the evolution of the Union Space Programme which must remain at the forefront of technology development.

The Union will support synergies between space and key enabling technologies (such as advanced manufacturing, Internet of Things, Big Data, photonics, quantum technologies, robotics and AI); foster a thriving, entrepreneurial and competitive upstream and downstream space sector, including industry and SMEs; boost the application of space technologies, data and services in other sectors and help secure technological non-dependence in accessing and using space in a strategic, safe and secure manner; and promote capacity-building measures. Activities will be generally roadmap-based, taking account of the European Space Agency (ESA) harmonisation process and relevant Member State initiatives, and will be implemented with ESA and the European Union Agency for the Space Programme, in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2021/696. However, the space part of this cluster will also support bottom-up calls to allow the emergence of future space technologies.

There is a need for the wider deployment, exploitation and update of new technologies and continued R&I to address gaps in earth observation on land and sea and in the atmosphere (such as in relation to healthy oceans and seas, and ecosystem protection), benefiting from Copernicus and other relevant European programmes as essential sources and coordinating through the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) and its European component EuroGEO.

Broad Lines

European Global Navigation Satellite Systems (EGNOS and Galileo): innovative applications, global uptake including international partners, solutions improving robustness, authentication, integrity of services, development of fundamental elements such as chipsets, receivers and antennas, sustainability of supply chains, at cost-effective and affordable conditions, new technologies (such as quantum technologies, optical links, reprogrammable payloads), towards sustained exploitation of services for impact on societal challenges; next generation systems development for new challenges such as security or autonomous driving;

European Earth Observation system (Copernicus): leveraging the full, free and open data policy, develop innovative applications, European and global uptake, including non-space actors and international partnerships; research needed to maintain, improve and expand core services and research for space data assimilation and exploitation, robustness and evolution of services, sustainability of supply chains, sensors, systems and mission concepts (such as high altitude platforms, drones, light satellites); calibration and validation; sustained exploitation of services and impact on societal challenges; Earth observation data processing techniques, including Big Data, computing resources and algorithmic tools; next generation systems development for challenges, such as climate change, polar and security; extension of the Copernicus product and service portfolio;

Space situational awareness: developments to support robust Union capacity to monitor and forecast the state of the space environment (such as space weather), including radiation hazards, space debris and near-Earth objects; development of sensor technologies and new service concepts, such as space traffic management, applications and services to secure critical infrastructure in space and on Earth;

Secure satellite communications for Union governmental actors: solutions supporting the Union's autonomy for governmental users including associated user equipment and architectural, technological and system solutions for space and ground infrastructure;

Satellite communications for citizens and businesses: integration of cost-effective advanced satellite communications in the terrestrial networks to connect assets and people in underserved areas, as part of 5G-enabled ubiquitous connectivity, Internet of Things, and contributing to the next generation internet infrastructure; enhancing the ground segment and user equipment, standardisation and interoperability, and preparation of quantum key communication by satellite to ensure Union industrial leadership;

Non-dependence and sustainability of the supply chain: increased technology readiness levels in satellites and launchers; associated space and ground segments, and production and testing facilities in complementarity with ESA; to secure Union technological leadership and autonomy, improved supply chain sustainability at cost-effective and affordable conditions, reduced dependence on non-Union critical space technologies and improved knowledge of how space technologies can offer solutions to other industrial sectors and vice-versa;

Space systems: in-orbit validation and demonstration services, including rideshare services for light satellites; space demonstrators in areas such as hybrid, smart or reconfigurable satellites, in-orbit servicing, manufacturing and assembly, energy supply using diversified sources; new industrial processes and production tools; ground systems; breakthrough innovations, and technology transfer, in areas such as recycling, green space, sustainable and peaceful use of space resources, AI, robotics, digitisation, cost-efficiency and miniaturisation;

Access to space: innovative technologies for increasing the technical compatibility and economic efficiency of European space launch systems, with regard to the launch of Union satellites: low cost production processes, launcher reusability technologies and concepts for cost reduction; concepts for future launcher ground segments and adaptations of existing ground infrastructures (such as digitalisation and advanced data management); innovative space transportation services and concepts, including launch systems dedicated to light satellites (such as micro launchers), in complementarity with ESA;

Space science: exploitation of scientific data delivered by scientific and exploration missions, combined with the development of innovative instruments in an international and interdisciplinary environment; contribution to precursor scientific missions for the evolution of the Union Space Programme.


5.1.   Rationale

The intersection of R&I on climate, energy and mobility will address in a highly integrated and effective way one of the most important global challenges for the sustainability and future of our environment, economy and way of life.

To meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement, the Union will need to transition to climate neutral, resource-efficient and resilient economies and societies. This will entail profound changes in technology, processes, products and services, and to the ways in which businesses and consumers behave. Transformation of the energy market will take place through interaction of technology, infrastructure linking the markets, market forces as well as policy and regulatory frameworks, including new forms of governance. Pursuing efforts to limit the global temperature increase to 1,5 °C requires rapid progress in decarbonising the energy, transport, buildings, industrial and agriculture sectors. New impetus is needed to accelerate the pace of developing next-generation breakthroughs as well as demonstrating and deploying cost-efficient innovative technologies and solutions, using also the opportunities provided by digital, bio and space technologies, as well as key enabling technologies and advanced materials. This will be pursued through an integrated approach encompassing decarbonisation, resource efficiency, improved recovery, reuse and recycling, reduction of air pollution, access to raw materials and circular economy in Horizon Europe.

Progress in these sectors, but also across the spectrum of Union industry including energy infrastructures, transport, agriculture and forestry, tourism, buildings, industrial processes and product use, waste management and recycling (11), will require continued efforts to better understand the mechanisms and dynamics of climate change and the associated impacts across the economy and society, exploiting synergies with regional and national activities, other Union types of actions and international cooperation, including through mission innovation.

Over recent decades, considerable advances have been made in climate science, in particular in observations, data assimilation and climate modelling. However, the complexity of the climate system and the need to support implementation of the Paris Agreement, the SDGs and Union policies necessitate a reinforced effort to fill the remaining knowledge gaps and to further enhance the spatial and temporal granularity of climate science while ensuring adequate interaction with citizens and other stakeholders.

The Union has established a comprehensive policy framework in the Energy Union strategy, with binding targets, legislative acts and R&I activities aiming to lead in developing and deploying efficient energy production systems based on renewable and alternative energy (12).

Transport, including vehicles, ensures the mobility of people and goods necessary for an integrated European single market, territorial cohesion and an open and inclusive society. At the same time, transport can have significant effects on human health, congestion, land, water, climate, air quality and noise as well as on safety, resulting in numerous premature deaths and increased socio-economic costs. Demand for goods and mobility will continue to grow. Therefore, innovation will have to bridge growing demand with cleaner and more efficient mobility and transport systems that also need to be safe, smart, secure, silent, reliable, accessible, inclusive and affordable, offering a seamless integrated door-to-door service to all.

Both sectors are major drivers of Europe's economic competitiveness and growth. Transport is a fundamental sector for and of the economy with the Union being a world leader in vehicle, rail, aircraft and vessel design and manufacturing. It embraces a complex network of around 1,2 million private and public companies in the Union, employing around 10,5 million people. The sector is also important for the Union's international trade: in 2016, 17,2 % of the Union's total exports of services were transport-related. At the same time, the Union has over 2 million people working in the field of renewables and energy efficiency, and is in second place worldwide in terms of patenting of innovative clean energy technologies.

The issues faced by the energy and transport sectors go beyond the need for emission reduction. Effective solutions are needed to respond to changes in user behaviour and mobility patterns, globalisation, increasing international competition and an older, more urban and increasingly diverse population. At the same time, the increasing penetration of digital and space-based technologies, automated vehicles, AI, robotics, new market entrants, disruptive business models and the need for increased system resilience against multifaceted hazards (including cyber threats) bring substantive transformation and create challenges and opportunities for the competitiveness of the European transport and energy sectors.

The ability of cities to function will become dependent on technology, and the liveability of cities will evolve around mobility, energy and resource efficiency, spatial planning and competition in space use. Developments will also be posing a challenge to the sustainability of existing social models and social participation, aspects of inclusion and accessibility as well as affordability.

Finding new ways to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy-based and energy efficient technologies (including through intermediate carriers such as power-to-gas and hydrogen) and other non-technological solutions for the decarbonisation of the European economy requires increased demand for innovation. This can be stimulated through the empowerment of citizens and the greening of public procurement, as well as by socio-economic and public sector innovation, and will lead to approaches broader than technology-driven innovation. Socio-economic research covering areas including user needs and patterns, foresight activities, environmental, regulatory, economic, social, cultural and behavioural aspects, business cases and models and pre-normative research for standard-setting and market uptake innovation, will also facilitate actions fostering regulatory, financing and social innovation skills, as well as engagement and empowerment of market players, consumers and citizens. A better coordination, complementarity and synergy between national and European R&I efforts by promoting information exchange and cooperation among Member States, industries and research institutions will build on the achievements of, for example, the SET-Plan and the Strategic Transport Research and Innovation Agenda (STRIA). Complementarity between this cluster and the Union's Emissions Trading System Innovation Fund will be ensured.

Activities under this cluster contribute in particular to the goals of the Energy Union, the Paris Agreement commitment as well as to those of the Digital Single Market, the Jobs, Growth and Investment agenda, the strengthening of the Union as a global actor, the new Industrial Strategy for Europe, the EU's Bioeconomy Strategy and Action Plan, the Circular Economy Action Plan, the European Battery Alliance Initiative, the Raw Materials Initiative, the Security Union and the Urban Agenda, as well as the Common Agricultural Policy of the Union as well as Union legal provisions to reduce noise and air pollution.

Activities will contribute directly to the following SDGs in particular: SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation; SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy; SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities; SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production; SDG 13 – Climate Action.

5.2.   Areas of Intervention

5.2.1.   Climate Science and Solutions

Effective implementation of the Paris Agreement must be based on science, requiring continuous improvement of our knowledge on the climate-earth system, as well as the mitigation and adaptations options available, allowing for a systemic and comprehensive picture of challenges and climate-responsible opportunities for the Union's economy and society. On this basis, science-based solutions for a cost-effective transition to a climate-neutral, climate-resilient and resource-efficient society will be developed, considering behavioural, regulatory, socio-economic and governance aspects.

Broad Lines

Knowledge base on the current functioning and future evolution of the earth-climate and living system, as well as associated impacts, risks and climate-responsible opportunities; effectiveness of different climate mitigation and adaptation solutions;

Integrated climate-neutral pathways, mitigation actions and policies covering all sectors of the economy, compatible with Earth system analyses, the Paris Agreement and the SDGs;

Climate models, projections and techniques that aim to improve predictive capacity and climate services for businesses, public authorities and citizens, including cross-cutting aspects with air quality improvement;

Adaptation pathways and support policies for vulnerable ecosystems, urban areas, critical economic sectors and infrastructure in the Union (whether local, regional or national), including improved risk assessment tools; water cycle and adaptation to climate change, such as flooding and water scarcity.

5.2.2.   Energy Supply

The Union aims to be a world leader in affordable, secure and sustainable energy technologies, improving its competitiveness in global value chains and its position in growth markets. Diverse climatic, geographical, environmental and socio-economic conditions in the Union, as well as the need to ensure climate resilience, energy security and access to raw materials, dictate a broad portfolio of energy solutions, including of a non-technical nature. As regards renewable energy technologies, costs need to decrease further, performance must improve, integration into the energy system must be improved, breakthrough technologies need to be developed, in particular to benefit from advances in photonics, and hybrid solutions (such as for desalination) should be explored. As regards fossil fuels, decarbonising their usage is essential in order to meet climate objectives.

Broad Lines

Renewable energy and energy conservation technologies and solutions for power generation, heating and cooling, sustainable transport fuels and intermediate carriers, at various scales and development stages, adapted to geographic and socio-economic conditions and markets, both within the Union and worldwide;

Disruptive renewable energy technologies for both existing and new applications and for breakthrough solutions, including their environmental, economic and social impact;

Technologies and solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel-based approaches as well as from bio- and waste-to-energy-based approaches producing power, heating, cooling or biofuels including through carbon capture, utilisation and storage, and studies of socio-economic and ecological feasibility.

5.2.3.   Energy Systems and Grids

The expected growth of variable electricity production and a shift towards more electric heating, cooling and transport dictate the need for new approaches to management of energy grids. In addition to decarbonisation, the goal is to ensure energy affordability, security, climate resilience and stability of supply, achieved through investments in innovative network infrastructure technologies, increased flexibility of dispatchable power generation, in particular from renewable sources, and innovative system management, as well as by facilitating actions fostering regulatory and social innovation, skills, and engaging and empowering market players, consumers and communities. Energy storage in different forms will play a key role in providing services to the grid, and also improve and reinforce network capacities and system flexibility. Exploiting synergies between different networks (such as electricity grids, heating and cooling networks, gas networks, transport recharging and refuelling infrastructure, hydrogen, including its infrastructure, and telecom networks) and actors (such as industrial sites, network operators, data centres, self-producers, consumers and renewable energy communities) as well as demand-response and developing and integrating European and international standards will be crucial for enabling the smart, integrated operation of the relevant infrastructures.

Broad Lines

Technologies and tools for networks to integrate renewables, storage solutions and new loads such as electro-mobility and heat pumps as well as the electrification of industrial processes;

Multidisciplinary approaches to regionally-dependent climate change-related impact on energy security, including adaptation of existing technologies, as well as transition into the new energy supply paradigms;

Pan-European energy network approaches to reliable energy supply, transmission and distribution;

Integrated approaches to match renewable energy production and consumption at local level including on islands or remote regions, based on new services and community initiatives;

Generation and network flexibility, interoperability and synergies between the different energy sources, networks, infrastructures and actors, also exploiting specific technologies;

Technologies, services and solutions empowering consumers to be active market players.

5.2.4.   Buildings and Industrial Facilities in Energy Transition

Buildings and industrial facilities play an increasingly active role in their interaction with the energy system. They are crucial elements in the transition to a carbon-neutral society based on renewable energy and increased energy efficiency.

Buildings are an important factor for the quality of life of citizens. Integrating different technologies, appliances and systems and linking various energy uses, buildings, along with their inhabitants and users, represent a very high potential for climate change mitigation, energy generation, energy savings, storage, system flexibility and efficiency improvements.

Industries, and especially those that are energy-intensive, could further improve energy efficiency, reduce their energy consumption and favour the integration of renewable energy sources. The role of industrial facilities in the energy system is changing due to the need to reduce emissions, based on direct or indirect electrification, which is also a source of materials for production processes (such as hydrogen). Industrial and manufacturing complexes where many different processes take place in close proximity can optimise the exchange of flows of energy and other resources (such as raw materials) between them.

Broad Lines

Improve sector coupling: processes, systems and business models supporting flexibility and efficiency of electricity and heat flows between an industrial plant or industrial clusters and the energy and transport systems;

Tools and infrastructure for process control of production plants to optimise energy flows and materials in interaction with the energy system;

Relevant processes, design and materials, including low- and zero- emission industrial processes;

Flexibility and efficiency of electricity, feedstock and heat in industrial plants and the energy system;

Improved or new processes, design and materials to efficiently use, produce or store energy (including heat and cold) in sectors not covered by the cluster 'Digital, Industry and Space';

Strategies and low emission technologies for revitalising coal- and carbon-intensive areas in transition;

Smart buildings and large mobility hubs (such as ports, airports, logistic centres) as active elements of wider energy networks and of innovative mobility solutions;

Buildings' life-cycle design, construction, operation including heating and cooling, and dismantling, taking into account circularity, energy and environmental performance, as well as indoor environmental quality, for energy and resource efficiency, well-being of and health impact on inhabitants, climate resilience, carbon footprint and recycling; development and optimisation of novel advanced materials to increase the energy, carbon and environmental performance of buildings over their life-cycle;

New business models, approaches and services for renovation financing, enhancement of construction skills, engagement of buildings' occupants and other market actors, addressing energy poverty and pre-normative activities;

Energy performance of buildings' monitoring and control technologies for optimising energy consumption and production of building, as well as their interaction with the overall energy system;

Tools and smart appliances for energy efficiency gains in buildings;

Renovation processes of existing buildings towards 'Nearly Zero Energy Buildings' and innovative technologies, including social aspects such as citizen empowerment and consumer awareness and engagement.

5.2.5.   Communities and Cities

It is estimated that by 2050 more than 80 % of the Union's population will live in urban areas, consuming the lion's share of available resources, including energy. Such urban areas will be particularly vulnerable to the impact of adverse meteorological change made worse by climate change and of natural disasters, both now and, increasingly, in the future. A key challenge is to significantly increase the overall energy and resource efficiency, as well as the climate-resilience, of Europe's communities and cities through a systematic and holistic approach, targeting building stock, energy systems, mobility, climate change and migration, as well as water, soil, air quality, waste and noise, taking into account Europe's cultural heritage, sustainable tourism management, social sciences, humanities and arts aspects, including lifestyle. Synergies with ERDF-funded urban policy and actions should be investigated and exploited.

Broad Lines

City/district energy/mobility systems towards the Union-wide deployment of carbon-neutral positive-energy districts and zero-emission mobility and logistics by 2050, boosting the global competitiveness of integrated Union solutions;

Systemic urban planning, infrastructure systems and services including mutual interfaces and interoperability, standardisation, nature-based solutions and the use of digital technologies and space-based services and data, taking into account the effects of projected climate change and integrating climate resilience and the influence on air and water quality;

Quality of life for citizens; safe, flexible, accessible and affordable energy and multi-modal mobility; urban social innovation and citizen engagement; cities' circular and regenerative capacity; urban metabolism; and reduced environmental footprint and pollution;

Global cities' research agenda; mitigation, adaptation and resilience strategy development, spatial planning and other relevant planning processes.

5.2.6.   Industrial Competitiveness in Transport

The shift towards clean technologies, connectivity and automation will depend on the timely design and manufacture of aircraft, vehicles and vessels developing new breakthrough technologies and concepts, integrating different technologies and accelerating their introduction and marketability. Increasing comfort, efficiency and affordability, while minimising life-cycle impact on the environment, human health and on energy use, remain objectives of paramount importance. Innovative, highly capable transport infrastructure is essential for the proper functioning of all transport modes in view of increased mobility demand and rapidly changing technology regimes. An integrated approach to infrastructure and the development of aircraft, vehicles and vessels deserves particular attention in order to provide high quality mobility services and to minimise the environmental, economic and social impact of energy.

Broad Lines

Merging of physical and digital aircraft, vehicle and vessel design, development and demonstration, manufacturing, operations, standardisation, certification and regulation and integration (including integration between digital design and digital manufacturing);

Aircraft, vehicle and vessel concepts and designs, including their spare parts and software and technology updates, software solutions; using improved materials and structures, recycling and reusing materials; efficiency, energy storage and recovery, safety and security features considering users' needs, with less impact on climate, environment and health, including noise and air quality;

On-board technologies and sub-systems, including automated functions, for all modes of transport taking account of relevant infrastructure interface needs and exploring technological synergies between modes; multi-modal transport systems; safety- and accident-avoidance systems and enhancing cybersecurity; leveraging progress in information technologies and in AI; developing the human-machine interface;

New materials, techniques and methods of construction, operation and maintenance of infrastructures, ensuring reliable network availability, intermodal interfaces and multimodal interoperability, workforce safety, and full life-cycle approach;

Addressing issues of merging physical and digital infrastructure design and development, infrastructure maintenance, regeneration and upgrading transport integration, interoperability and intermodality, resilience to extreme weather events, including adaptation to climate change.

5.2.7.   Clean, Safe and Accessible Transport and Mobility

Reaching the Union's air quality, climate and energy goals, including net-zero emissions by 2050, as well as improving noise reduction, will require a rethink of the whole mobility system including users' needs and behaviours, vehicles, fuels and infrastructures, as well as new mobility solutions. It will also require the deployment of low-emission alternative energies and market uptake of zero-emission aircrafts, vehicles and vessels. In addition to the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, transport contributes significantly to poor air quality and noise in Europe with negative consequences for the health of citizens and ecosystems. Building on progress made in relation to electrification and the use of batteries and fuel cells for cars, buses and light-duty vehicles, accompanied by adequate standards, it is essential to accelerate R&I as regards low-emission solutions for other road applications (such as long-distance coaches, heavy-freight vehicles and lorries) and other transport sectors such as aviation, rail, maritime and inland navigation. Transport safety research aims to reduce accident rates, fatalities and casualties for each mode of transport and for the whole transport system by furthering knowledge and awareness and by developing technologies, products, services and solutions that reconcile safety, efficiency, user-friendliness and climate change.

Broad Lines

Electrification of all transport modes, including new battery, fuel cell and hybrid technologies for aircraft, vehicle and vessel powertrains and auxiliary systems, fast charging or refuelling, energy harvesting and user-friendly and easily accessible interfaces with the charging or refuelling infrastructure, ensuring interoperability and seamless service provision; development and deployment of competitive, safe, high-performing and sustainable batteries for low and zero-emission vehicles, considering all the conditions of use and during the different phases of its life-cycle; development and deployment of competitive, safe, high-performing and sustainable batteries for low and zero-emission vehicles;

Use of new and alternative sustainable fuels, including advanced bio-fuels and new, safe and smart aircrafts, vehicles and vessels for existing and future mobility patterns and supporting infrastructure with reduced impact on the environment and public health; niche components and systems for environmentally friendly solutions (such as advanced data gathering systems), technologies and user-based solutions for interoperability and seamless service provision;

Safe, accessible, inclusive and affordable mobility that reduces the harmful, whilst enhancing the positive, impact of mobility on social cohesion, the environment and human health, including a shift to less polluting modes of transport and to sharing schemes; quality of life for citizens, urban social innovation; the aim of reducing or eliminating road traffic accidents and injuries;

Climate-resilient mobility systems, including infrastructure and logistics, to assure better connectivity for persons and goods, both on short and long-haul distances;

Systemic analysis of new mobility patterns and their impact on transport and citizens.

5.2.8.   Smart Mobility

Smart mobility will help to ensure the efficiency, safety and resilience of door-to-door mobility and all its components, in particular by using digital technologies, advanced satellite navigation (EGNOS and Galileo) and AI. New technologies will help to optimise the use and efficiency of transport infrastructure and networks, improving multi-modality and connectivity and creating more efficient freight transport and logistic supply chains that will strengthen Union competitiveness. New technologies will also contribute to increasing reliability, optimising traffic management and enable innovative transport solutions and services, thereby reducing congestion and negative environmental impact, providing better mobility and logistics services for citizens and businesses and thereby improving accessibility and social inclusion. Connected and automated mobility together with the enabling infrastructure will improve efficiency and safety in all transport modes.

Broad Lines

Digital network and traffic management: advanced decision-support systems; next-generation traffic management (including multi-modal network and traffic management); contributing to seamless, multimodal and interconnected mobility for passengers and freight; use and limitations of Big Data; use of innovative satellite positioning and navigation (EGNOS and Galileo);

Single European Sky: on-board and on-the-ground solutions for simultaneously higher degrees of automation, connectivity, safety, interoperability, performance, emission reduction and service;

Rail technologies and operations for a high-capacity, silent, interoperable and automated railway system;

Smart shipping solutions for safer, more efficient waterborne operations;

Large mobility hubs (including railway stations, ports, airports and logistic centres) as active elements of innovative mobility solutions;

Waterborne technologies and operations for safe and automated transport systems, seizing the opportunities provided by waterborne transport;

Connected, cooperative, interoperable and automated mobility systems and services, including technological solutions and non-technological issues, such as changes in user behaviour and mobility patterns.

5.2.9.   Energy Storage

Massive, smart, concentrated and decentralised storage solutions (comprising chemical, electrochemical, electrical, mechanical and thermal and new disruptive technologies) for the energy system will increase efficiency, flexibility, technology independence and accessibility as well as the security of supply. Low-emission, decarbonised transport will require a growing share of electrical or other alternatively-fuelled vehicles, with better-performing and cheaper, lighter, highly recyclable and reusable batteries with a low environmental impact, as well as local provision of alternative or renewable fuels such as hydrogen, including renewable-based hydrogen, and innovative solutions for on-site storage. Options for the sustainable and cost-efficient large scale energy storage solutions are essential to optimise and balance the energy system in all sectors of production and infrastructure up to end-user applications. Attention should be paid to the risks of energy storage and other unwanted side effects.

Broad Lines

Technologies including liquid and gaseous renewable fuels and their associated value chains, as well as disruptive technologies, for daily to seasonal energy storage needs, including their impact on the environment and climate;

Smart, sustainable and durable batteries and the Union value chain, including the use of advanced material solutions, design, energy-efficient large-scale battery cell production technologies, reuse and recycling methods as well as efficient operation at low temperatures and standardisation needs;

Hydrogen, in particular low carbon and renewable-based hydrogen, including fuel cells, and the Union value chain from design to end-use across various applications.


6.1.   Rationale

Human activities are exerting increasing pressure on soil, seas and oceans, water, air, biodiversity and other natural resources. Nourishing the planet's growing human population is directly dependent on the health of natural systems and resources. Beyond its intrinsic value, a functioning and prosperous ecosystem is the very basis for all resource utilisation. However, combined with climate change, humankind's growing demand for natural resources creates environmental pressures that go far beyond sustainable levels, affecting ecosystems and their capacity to provide services for human well-being. The concepts of the circular economy, the sustainable bioeconomy (13) and the blue economy (14) provide an opportunity to balance environmental, social and economic goals and to set human activities on a path to sustainability.

Meeting the goals of sustainable development, guaranteeing the production and consumption of safe and healthy food, promoting sustainable practices in agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries and forestry, ensuring access to clean water, soil and air for all, cleaning-up seas, oceans and inland waters, and preserving and restoring the planet's vital natural systems and environment requires that we harness the potential of R&I. However, we do not yet fully understand the pathways for the transition to sustainability and the methods for overcoming resilient barriers. Making the transition to sustainable consumption and production and restoring planetary health requires investment in research and technologies, novel, high quality products and services, new business models, and social, territorial and environmental innovation. This creates new opportunities for a sustainable, resilient, innovative and responsible European bioeconomy, boosting resource efficiency, productivity and competitiveness, generating new and green jobs and growth and increasing social inclusion.

It is essential for Europe to use its natural resources more efficiently and in a sustainable manner.

Activities will build a knowledge base and deliver solutions to: protect, sustainably manage and use natural resources from land, inland waters and sea, and enhance the role of terrestrial and aquatic systems as carbon sinks; protect biodiversity, secure ecosystem services and ensure food and nutrition security, providing safe, healthy and nutritious diets; accelerate the transition from a fossil-based linear economy to a resource-efficient, resilient, low-emission, low-carbon circular economy, and support the development of a sustainable bioeconomy and the blue economy; and develop resilient and vibrant rural, mountain, coastal and urban areas.

These activities will help to maintain and enhance biodiversity and secure the long-term provision of ecosystem services, such as climate change adaptation and mitigation and carbon sequestration (on land, inland waters and sea). They will help reduce greenhouse gas and other emissions, waste and pollution from primary production (both terrestrial and aquatic), the use of hazardous substances, processing, consumption and other human activities. They will trigger investment, supporting the shift towards a circular economy, sustainable bioeconomy and blue economy, whilst protecting environmental health and integrity.

Activities will also foster participatory approaches to R&I, including the multi-actor approach and develop knowledge and innovation systems at local, regional, national and European levels. Social innovation with citizens' engagement and trust in innovation will be crucial to encourage new governance, production, consumption patterns and skills.

As these challenges are complex, interlinked and global in nature, activities will follow a systemic approach, cooperating with Member States and international partners, with other funding sources and with other policy initiatives. This will involve user-driven exploitation of environmental Big Data sources, such as those from Copernicus, EGNOS and Galileo, INSPIRE, EOSC, GEOSS, CEOS and EMODnet.

R&I activities under this cluster contribute in particular to the implementation of the goals of: the Environment Action Programme, the Common Agricultural Policy, the Common Fisheries Policy, the Food Law legislation, the Maritime Policy, the Circular Economy Action Plan, the EU's Bioeconomy Strategy and Action Plan, the Biodiversity Strategy, the 2030 climate and energy framework and the Union 2050 long term vision for carbon neutrality (15), the EU Arctic Policy as well as Union legal provisions that aim to reduce air pollution. Beyond the general sources of external advice, specific consultation will be sought from the Standing Committee on Agricultural Research.

Activities will contribute directly to the following SDGs in particular: SDG 2 – Zero Hunger; SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-Being; SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation; SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth; SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities; SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production; SDG 13 – Climate Action; SDG 14 – Life Below Water; SDG 15 – Life on Land.

6.2.   Areas of intervention

6.2.1.   Environmental Observation

The capacity to observe the environment (16), including space-based, in-situ-based (air, sea, land) and citizen observations, underpins R&I for the sustainable use and monitoring of food and natural resources, bio-monitoring and environmental monitoring. Improved spatio-temporal coverage and sampling intervals at reduced cost, as well as Big Data access and integration from multiple sources provide new ways to monitor, understand and predict the Earth system. R&I is needed to develop methods and technologies to improve quality as well as to facilitate access and use of data.

Broad Lines

User-driven and systemic approaches, including open data, to environmental data and information for complex modelling and predictive systems, business opportunities from exploitation and valorisation of existing and new data;

Further development of products and services portfolio for environmental observations;

Biodiversity status, ecosystem protection, climate change mitigation and adaptation, food security, agriculture and forestry, land use and land use change, urban and peri-urban development, natural resources management, sea and ocean resources management and conservation, maritime security, long term environmental trends, changes in seasonal variability, ambient air and atmospheric changes and other relevant domains;

User-oriented applications, to be delivered through the EuroGEO initiative, including their up-scaling, to contribute to the preservation and management of European natural resources (including exploration of raw materials) and ecosystem services and their related value chain;

Implementation of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems of the GEO (Group on Earth Observations) initiative.

6.2.2.   Biodiversity and Natural Resources

Improved understanding, preservation and management of biodiversity and ecosystems, the multiple services they provide (in the context of combatting climate change and mitigating its impact) and planetary 'boundaries' as well as solutions harnessing nature's power and complexity are needed to address societal challenges, to enhance sustainability and to attain the Union objective of 'Living well within the limits of our planet' by 2050 as laid down in the 7th EU Environmental Action Programme. Due account must be taken of potential upstream impact throughout whole value chains. International cooperation and contribution to international efforts and initiatives, such as the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, are essential to achieve the objectives in this area. There is a need to better understand the governance of the transition to sustainability in the economic, social and natural system, from the local to the global level.

Broad Lines

The state and value of biodiversity, terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems, natural capital and ecosystem services, including agro-ecosystems and the microbiome;

Holistic and systemic approaches within a socio-ecological framework for the links between biodiversity, ecosystems and ecosystems services and their causality relationships with drivers of change, across different scales and economic activities, including the socio-economic aspects and governance of transition processes to sustainability;

Modelling of trends and integrated scenarios for biodiversity, ecosystem services and good quality of life at different scales and horizons; the potential contribution of biotopes and ecosystems as carbon sinks under various climate change scenarios; potential conflicts of interest in utilisation of natural resources and services;

Ecotoxicology of compounds and new pollutants, their interactions, including combination effects, and environmental behaviour, and altered biochemical loops under a changing climate; restoration of degraded areas;

Mainstreaming biodiversity and ecosystem services in decision-making frameworks and accounting systems of governments and businesses, as well as quantification of ecological, economic and societal benefits;

Adaptable and multi-functional nature-based solutions, addressing challenges in urban, peri-urban, rural, coastal and mountain areas related to climate change, natural disasters, biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation, pollution, social cohesion and citizens' health and well-being;

Multi-actor 'living lab' approaches engaging authorities, stakeholders, business and civil society in co-designing and co-creating systemic solutions for the preservation, restoration and sustainable use of natural capital, and the governance of the transition to sustainability and sustainable management options in economic activities throughout whole value loops in different environmental, economic and social conditions.

6.2.3.   Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Areas

Resilient and sustainable agriculture and forestry provide economic, environmental and social benefits and are prerequisites for continued food security. They feed into dynamic value chains, manage land and natural resources as well as deliver a range of vital public goods including carbon sequestration, biodiversity preservation, pollination and public health. Integrated and place-based approaches are needed to promote the multiple functions of agro- and forest (eco)systems taking into account the changing context for primary production, notably in relation to climate change and environment, resource availability, demography and consumption patterns. Quality and safety of agricultural products shall be ensured to enhance consumer confidence. Plant health and animal health and welfare shall also be ensured. It is also necessary to address the spatial, socio-economic and cultural dimension of agriculture and forestry activities and to mobilise the potential of rural and coastal areas.

Broad Lines

Methods, technologies and tools for sustainable, resilient and productive agriculture and forestry, including adaptation to climate change;

Sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources (such as soil, water, nutrients and biodiversity including genetic resources) in agriculture and forestry; alternatives to non-renewable resources and adoption of circular economy principles, including through the reuse and recycling of waste and by-products;

Climate and environmental impact of activities in the primary sector; potential of agriculture and forestry as carbon sinks and for mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions including negative emission approaches; increasing adaptability of primary production to climate change;

Integrated approaches to tackling plant pests and diseases; control of contagious and zoonotic animal diseases and animal welfare; prevention strategies, control and diagnostic and alternatives to the use of contentious pesticides, antibiotics and other substances also to tackle resistance;

Antimicrobial resistance and threats from biological and agrochemical hazards, including pesticides, as well as chemical contaminants tackling the links between the health of plants, animals, ecosystems and the public from One-Health and Global-Health perspectives;

The use and delivery of ecosystem services in agriculture and forestry systems, applying ecological approaches and testing nature-based solutions from farm to landscape levels for an environmentally-friendly agriculture; support to organic farming;

Agricultural and forestry systems from farm to landscape levels; the use and delivery of ecosystem services in primary production, including through agro-ecology or through enhancing the role of forests in the prevention of floods and soil erosion;

Innovations in farming at the interfaces between agriculture, aquaculture, forestry and in urban and peri-urban areas;

New methods, technologies and tools for sustainable forest management and sustainable use of forest biomass;

Support to Union plant protein production for food, feed and environmental services;

Sustainable land use, rural development and territorial linkages; capitalising on the social, cultural, economic and environmental assets of rural areas for new services, business models, value chains and public goods;

Digital innovations in farming, forestry and across value chains and rural areas through the use of data and development of infrastructures, technologies (such as AI, robotics, precision farming and remote sensing) and governance models;

Agricultural and forestry knowledge and innovation systems and their interconnection at various scales; advice, building skills, participatory approaches and information sharing;

Fostering international partnerships for sustainable agriculture for food and nutrition security.

6.2.4.   Seas, Oceans and Inland Waters

The natural capital and ecosystem services of seas, in particular of semi-closed European seas, oceans, inland waters and wider coastal areas offer significant socio-economic and welfare benefits. This potential is at risk because of the severe pressure from human and natural stressors such as pollution, overfishing, climate change, sea-level rise, other water-use and extreme weather events. To prevent seas and oceans from reaching a point of no return, and to restore the good status of inland waters, it is necessary to strengthen our knowledge and understanding so that we protect, restore and sustainably manage marine, inland and coastal ecosystems and prevent pollution, in a context of an improved and responsible governance framework. This will also include research into how to sustainably unlock the vast and unexploited economic potential of seas, oceans and inland waters with the aim of producing more safe food, bio-based ingredients and raw material without increasing pressures on those seas, oceans and inland waters, as well as research into the potential of aquaculture in all forms to alleviate pressure on land, freshwater and ocean resources. There is a need for partnering approaches, including sea basin and macro-regional strategies, extending beyond the Union (including in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Baltic, the North Sea, the Black Sea, the Caribbean Sea and the Indian Ocean); and for contributing to International Ocean Governance commitments, initiatives like the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and commitments linked to the conservation of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Broad Lines

Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture in all forms, including alternative sources of protein with increased food security, food sovereignty and climate resilience; monitoring and management tools;

Strengthened resilience of marine and inland water ecosystems, including coral reefs thereby ensuring the health of seas, oceans and rivers, combating and mitigating the effects of natural and anthropic pressures like contaminants and marine litter (including plastics), eutrophication, invasive species, physical damage to the sea floor, overexploitation including overfishing, underwater noise, acidification, warming of seas, oceans and rivers, sea-level rise, considering the intersection between land, inland waters and sea, the cumulative impact of these issues and fostering a circular approach and a better understanding of ocean-human interactions;

Governance at global and regional levels to ensure conservation and sustainable use of the resources of seas, oceans and inland waters;

Technologies for the digital ocean (seafloor, water column and water surface) connecting services and communities in land-based, atmosphere-, climate-, space- and weather-related activities, and promoted through the Blue Cloud as part of the EOSC;

Monitoring, risk-based assessment and predictive/forecasting capacities including sea-level rise and other natural hazards such as storm surges and tsunamis, as well as the cumulative impact of human activities;

Improve understanding of the hydrological cycle and regimes, hydromorphology at different scales and develop monitoring and predictive capacities for water availability and demand, floods and droughts, pollution and other pressures on water resources and aquatic environment. Exploit digital technologies to improve water resource monitoring and management;

Develop innovative solutions, including societal governance, economic instruments and financing models, for smart water allocation addressing conflicts in water use, including exploiting the value in water, control of water pollutants including plastics and microplastics and other emerging pollutants preferably at source, tackling other pressures on water resources as well as water reuse, and protection and restoration of water ecosystems to good ecological status;

Sustainable blue value-chains, including sustainable use of fresh water resources, multiple use of marine space and growth of the renewable energy sector from seas and oceans, including sustainable use of micro- and macro- algae;

Integrated approaches to sustainable management of inland and coastal waters which will contribute to environmental protection and adaptation to climate change;

Nature-based solutions derived from marine, coastal and inland water ecosystem dynamics, biodiversity and multiple ecosystem services, which will enable systemic approaches to sustainably use the resources of seas, in particular of semi-closed European seas, and oceans and of inland waters, contribute to environmental protection and restoration, coastal management, and adaptation to climate change;

Blue innovation including in the blue and digital economies, across coastline areas, coastal cities and ports in order to strengthen the resilience of coastal areas and increase the benefits to citizens;

Better understanding of the role of seas and oceans in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

6.2.5.   Food Systems

The combined effects of population growth, evolution of diets, resource scarcity and overexploitation, environmental degradation, climate change and migration create unprecedented challenges which require food system transformation (FOOD 2030) (17). Current food production and consumption are largely unsustainable, and at the same time we are confronted with the double burden of malnutrition, which is characterised by the coexistence of undernutrition, obesity and other diet imbalances and metabolic disorders. Future food systems need to deliver on food security, and ensure sufficient safe, healthy and quality food for all, underpinned by resource efficiency, sustainability (including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, water and energy consumption as well as waste production), transparency, linking land, inland waters and sea, reducing food waste, enhancing food production from inland waters, seas and oceans and encompassing the entire 'food value chain' from producers to consumers, and back again, ensuring resilience. This needs to go hand in hand with development of the food safety system of the future and the design, development and delivery of tools, technologies and digital solutions that provide significant benefits for consumers and improve the competitiveness and sustainability of the food value chain. Furthermore, there is a need to foster behavioural changes in food consumption and production patterns, taking into account cultural and social aspects, as well as to engage primary producers, industry (including SMEs), retailers, food service sectors, consumers and public services.

Broad Lines

Evidence-based sustainable and healthy diets for people's well-being across their lifespan, including dietary patterns, improved nutritional quality of food and advances in understanding the impact of nutrition on health and well-being;

Personalised nutrition especially for vulnerable groups, to mitigate the risk factors for diet-related and non-communicable diseases;

Consumers' behaviour, lifestyle and motivation, including social and cultural aspects of food, promoting social innovation and societal engagement for better health and environmental sustainability throughout the entire food value chain, including retail patterns;

Modern food safety and authenticity systems, including traceability, improving food quality and enhancing consumer confidence in the food system;

Food system mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, including the exploration of the potential and use of the microbiome, of food crop diversity, and of alternatives to animal proteins;

Environmentally sustainable, circular, resource efficient and resilient food systems, from land and sea, towards safe drinking water and maritime issues, zero food waste throughout the entire food system, through reuse of food and biomass, recycling of food waste, new food packaging, and demand for tailored and local food;

Novel approaches, including digital tools and food systems for place-based innovation and empowerment of communities, fostering fair trade and pricing along the value chain, inclusiveness and sustainability through partnerships between industry (including SMEs and smallholders), local authorities, researchers and society.

6.2.6.   Bio-based Innovation Systems in the Union's Bioeconomy

Innovation in the bioeconomy lays the foundations for the transition away from a fossil-based economy. Bio-based innovation is an important segment and enabler of the overall bioeconomy and encompasses the sustainable sourcing, industrial processing and conversion of biomass from land and sea into bio-based materials and products. Sustainability includes all its dimensions: ecological, social, economic and cultural. It also capitalises on the potential of living resources, life sciences, digitalisation and biotechnologies for new discoveries, products, services and processes. Bio-based innovation, including (bio)processes and technologies, can bring new economic activities and employment to regions and cities, contribute to revitalising rural and coastal economies and communities and strengthen the circularity of the bioeconomy.

Broad Lines

Sustainable biomass sourcing, logistics and production systems, focusing on high-value applications and uses, social and environmental sustainability, impact on climate and biodiversity, circularity and overall resource efficiency, including water;

Life sciences and their convergence with digital technologies for understanding, prospecting and sustainably using biological resources;

Bio-based value chains, bio-based materials, including bio-inspired materials, chemicals, products, services and processes with novel qualities, functionalities and improved sustainability (including reducing emissions of greenhouse gases), fostering the development of (small and large scale) advanced biorefineries using a wider range of biomass; replacing current production of unsustainable products by outperforming biobased solutions for innovative market applications;

Biotechnology, including cross-sectoral cutting-edge biotechnology, for application in competitive, sustainable and novel industrial processes, environmental services and consumer products (18);

Circularity of the bio-based sector within the bioeconomy through technological, systemic, social and business model innovation to radically increase the value generated per unit of biological resource, keeping the value of such resources in the economy for longer, preserving and enhancing natural capital, designing out waste and pollution, supporting the principle of the cascading use of sustainable biomass through R&I and taking into account the waste hierarchy;

Inclusive bioeconomy patterns with different actors participating in the creation of value, maximising societal impact and public engagement;

Increased understanding of the boundaries, metrics and indicators of the bioeconomy and its synergies and trade-offs with a healthy environment, and trade-offs between food and other applications.

6.2.7.   Circular Systems

Circular production and consumption systems will provide benefits to the European economy and global environment by reducing use and dependency on resources, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental impacts and increasing the competitiveness of enterprises, and to European citizens by creating new job opportunities and reducing pressures on the environment and climate. Beyond industrial transformation, the transition to a low-emission, resource efficient, bio-based and circular economy that avoids the use of hazardous substances will also necessitate a broader system shift that requires systemic eco-innovative solutions, new business models, markets and investments, enabling infrastructure, social innovation changes in consumer behaviour, and governance models stimulating multi-stakeholder collaboration through the whole value chain to ensure that the intended system change achieves better economic, environmental and social outcomes (19). Opening to international cooperation, for example through initiatives such as the International Resource Panel, will be important in terms of comparability, generation and sharing of knowledge and avoidance of duplication of efforts. Also, attention will be given to the social context of new knowledge and technology in this area and its uptake and acceptance in society.

Broad Lines

Systemic transition to a resource-efficient, bio-based and circular economy, with new paradigms in consumer interaction, new business models for resource efficiency and environmental performance; products and services stimulating resource efficiency and elimination or substitution of hazardous substances during the whole life-cycle; systems for sharing, reuse, repair, remanufacturing, recycling and composting; economic, social, behavioural, regulatory and financial conditions and incentives for such transitions;

Metrics and indicators, based on a systemic approach, for measuring the circular economy and life-cycle performance and enhancing social responsibility; governance systems which accelerate expansion of the circular economy, the bioeconomy and resource efficiency while creating markets for secondary materials; multi-stakeholder and cross-value chain collaboration; instruments for investment in the circular economy and bioeconomy;

Solutions for sustainable and regenerative development of cities, peri-urban areas and regions, integrating the circular economy transformation with nature-based solutions, technological, digital, social, cultural and territorial governance innovations;

Eco-innovation for prevention and remediation of environmental pollution from and exposure to hazardous substances and chemicals of emerging concern; consideration of the interface between chemicals, products and waste, and of sustainable solutions for primary and secondary raw materials production;

Circular use of water resources, including reduction of water demand, prevention of losses, water reuse, recycling and valorisation of wastewater; innovative solutions for the challenges for the water-food-energy nexus addressing impacts of agricultural and energy water use and enabling synergistic solutions;

Sustainable subsurface management integrating geo-resources (energy, water, raw materials) and environmental conditions (natural hazards, anthropogenic impacts) across all relevant clusters, streamlining the positive contribution to a circular economy through pan-European geological knowledge and contributing towards an orchestrated science-based response to the Paris Agreement and to several SDGs;

Develop and improve solutions and infrastructures for facilitating access to drinking, irrigation and sanitation water, including desalination, in order to enable water use that is more efficient, circular, and energy and CO2 friendly.


7.1.   Rationale

High-quality and trusted scientific evidence is essential for good public policies. New initiatives and proposals for Union legislation need transparent, comprehensive and balanced evidence, whereas implementation of policies needs evidence in order to measure and monitor the impact and progress of those policies.

The JRC adds value to Union policies because its science is excellent, multi-disciplinary and independent of national, private and other external interests. Serving all areas of Union policy, it provides the cross-sectoral support that policymakers need to tackle increasingly complex societal challenges. The JRC's independence from special interests, combined with its scientific-technical reference role, enables it to facilitate consensus-building between stakeholders and other actors such as citizens, and policy makers. With its capacity to respond rapidly to policy needs, the JRC's activities are complementary with indirect actions that support longer-term policy objectives.

The JRC performs its own research and is a strategic manager of the knowledge, information, data and competences necessary to deliver high quality and relevant evidence for smarter policies. To achieve this, the JRC works together with the best organisations world-wide, and with international, national and regional experts and stakeholders. Its research contributes to the general objectives and priorities of Horizon Europe, provides independent scientific knowledge, advice and technical support for Union policies throughout the policy cycle, and is focussed on European policy priorities, supporting a Europe that is safe and secure, prosperous and sustainable, social and stronger on the global scene.

7.2.   Areas of intervention

7.2.1.   Strengthening the Knowledge Base for Policy Making

Knowledge and data are growing exponentially. If policy makers are to make sense and use of them they must be reviewed and filtered. There is also a need for cross-cutting scientific methods and analytical tools for use by all Commission services, in particular to anticipate upcoming societal challenges and support better regulation. This includes innovative processes to engage stakeholders and citizens in policy-making issues and various tools of impact and implementation assessment.

Broad Lines

Modelling, micro-economic evaluation, risk assessment methodologies, quality assurance tools for measurements, design of monitoring schemes, indicators and scoreboards, sensitivity analysis and auditing, life-cycle assessment, data and text mining, (big) data analytics and applications, design-thinking, horizon-scanning, anticipation and foresight studies, behavioural research, and stakeholders and citizen engagement;

Knowledge and competence centres;

Communities of practice and knowledge-sharing platforms;

Data management, data sharing and coherence;

Analysis of Union and national R&I policies, including the ERA.

7.2.2.   Global Challenges

The JRC will contribute to the specific Union policies and commitments addressed by the seven Global Challenges clusters, notably the Union's commitment to the SDGs.

Broad Lines



Scientific and technical policy support for improved public health and health care systems, including medical devices and health technology assessments, databases, digitisation including for accelerating interoperability;

Safety assessment methods for potential health and environmental risks posed by chemical substances and pollutants;

European Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing;

Quality assurance tools such as certified reference materials for health biomarkers;

Research on newly emerging health issues and health threats.


Culture, Creativity and Inclusive Society

Research on inequality, poverty and exclusion, social mobility, cultural diversity, and skills; migration, assessment of social, demographic and technological transformations on the economy and on society;

Research on good governance and democracy;

Support to the safeguarding, preservation and management of cultural heritage;

Knowledge centre for migration and demography.


Civil Security for Society

Knowledge centre for disaster risk management;

Support to security policies in the areas of protection of critical infrastructures and public spaces, CBRN-E materials and hybrid threats, border protection and document security, and information and intelligence for countering terrorism;

Technologies for CBRN-E materials detection, biometric systems, and intelligence-gathering techniques;

Support to the Union's global security position; assessment of competitiveness and innovation of the Union security industry; exploitation of security-defence synergies;

Research for reinforced cybersecurity capabilities, cyber-resilience, and cyber-deterrence.


Digital, Industry and Space

Implications of digitisation, with a focus on new and emerging ICT technologies such as machine learning and artificial computing, distributed ledgers, Internet of Things, and HPC;

Digitisation in individual sectors, such as energy, transport, construction, service industry, health and care and government;

Industrial metrology and quality assurance tools for smart manufacturing;

Research on key enabling technologies;

Research on best available techniques and environmental management practices, techno-economic analyses and life-cycle assessment of industrial processes, chemicals management, waste management, water reuse, raw materials, critical raw materials and quality criteria for recovered materials, all supporting circular economy;

Analysis of security of supply of raw materials, including the critical raw materials, in relation to primary and secondary resources information and data update of the Raw Materials Information System;

Implementation of Copernicus actions;

Technical and scientific support for applications of the Union Global Navigation Satellite System Programmes.


Climate, Energy and Mobility

Support to implementation of the Union climate, energy and transport policies, transition to a low-carbon economy and strategies for decarbonisation towards 2050; analysis of integrated national climate and energy plans; assessment of decarbonisation pathway in all sectors, including agriculture and land use, land use change and forestry;

Assessment of risks in vulnerable ecosystems and critical economic sectors and infrastructure, with focus on adaptation strategies;

Analysis of the R&I dimension of Energy Union; assessment of Union competitiveness in the global clean energy market;

Assessment of deployment potential of smart energy technologies and sector coupling solutions to enable smooth and cost efficient energy transition;

Assessment of deploying renewables and clean energy production technologies;

Analysis of energy use of buildings, smart and sustainable cities, and industries;

Technical and socio-economic analysis of energy storage, particularly sector coupling and batteries;

Analysis of the Union's energy security of supply, including energy infrastructure, and energy markets;

Support to energy transition, including the Covenant of Mayors, clean energy for Union Islands, sensitive regions, and Africa;

Integrated analysis for deployment of cooperative, connected and automated mobility;

Integrated analysis for development and deployment of electric driving, including the next generation of battery technologies;

Harmonised test procedures and market surveillance for CO2 and air pollutant emissions from vehicles, assessment of innovative technologies;

Assessment of smart transport, traffic management systems and congestion indicators;

Analyses of alternative fuels and related infrastructure needs.


Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment

Research on land, soil, forests, air, water, marine resources, raw materials and biodiversity to support the effective preservation, restoration and sustainable use of natural capital, including sustainable resources management in Africa;

Knowledge centre for global food nutrition security;

Assessment of climate change and potential mitigation and adaptation measures for agricultural and fisheries policies, including food security;

Monitoring and forecasting of agricultural resources in Union, enlargement and neighbourhood countries;

Research for sustainable and economically thriving aquaculture and fisheries, and for Blue Growth and the Blue Economy;

Validated methods, laboratory proficiency tests and new analytical tools for implementing food safety policies;

European Reference Laboratories on Feed Additives, Genetically Modified Organisms and Food Contact Materials;

Knowledge centre for food fraud and quality;

Knowledge centre for bioeconomy.

7.2.3.   Innovation, Economic Development, and Competitiveness

The JRC will contribute to knowledge-based innovation and technology transfer. It will support the functioning of the internal market and the economic governance of the Union. It will contribute to development and monitoring of policies targeting a more social and sustainable Europe. It will support the Union's external dimension and international goals and help in promoting good governance. A well-functioning internal market with a strong economic governance and fair social system will foster knowledge-based innovation and competitiveness.

Broad Lines

Economic, trade, financial and fiscal analysis;

Pre-normative research and testing for harmonisation and standardisation;

Production of certified reference materials;

Market surveillances activities;

Management of intellectual property rights;

Promotion of technology transfer cooperation.

7.2.4.   Scientific Excellence

The JRC shall pursue excellence and integrity in research and extensive collaboration with top level research institutions worldwide. It will carry out research in emerging fields of science and technology and promote open science and open data as well as knowledge transfer.

Broad Lines

Exploratory research programmes;

Dedicated collaborative and exchange programmes with research institutions and scientists;

Access to JRC research infrastructures;

Training of scientists and national experts;

Open science and open data.

7.2.5.   Territorial Development and Support for Member States and Regions

The JRC will contribute to regional and urban policies, with a focus on innovation-led territorial development and with a view to reducing disparities between regions. It will also offer technical assistance to Member States and third countries and support the implementation of European legislation and actions.

Broad Lines

Implementation of regional and urban policies, smart specialisation strategies, strategies for economic transformation of regions in transition, integrated urban development strategies and data;

Capacity-building of local and regional actors for implementation of macro-regional strategies;

Knowledge centre for territorial policies;

'On demand' advice and tailored support to Member States, regions or cities, including through a virtual network of Science4Policy Platforms.



Innovation in all its forms is a key driver for the Union to continue delivering prosperity to its citizens and meeting challenges of the future. Innovation requires a systemic, cross-cutting and multifaceted approach. Europe's economic progress, social welfare and quality of life rely on its ability to boost productivity and growth, which, in turn, depends heavily on its ability to innovate. Innovation is also key to solving the major challenges that lie ahead for the Union. Innovation must be responsible, ethical and sustainable.

As in the case of its predecessor, innovation is at the heart of Horizon Europe. The quest for acceleration of knowledge transfer and new ideas, products and processes is driving Horizon Europe objectives and implementing modalities, from strategic planning to calls, and is present from the onset to the end of any project supported, from 'blue-sky' research to industrial or technological roadmaps and missions.

However, innovation deserves specific measures, as the Union must decisively enhance the conditions and environment for European innovation to thrive, so that ideas are quickly shared between actors in the innovation ecosystem, and new ideas and technologies swiftly transformed into the products and services needed for the Union to deliver.

Recent decades have seen the emergence of major and global new markets in health care, media, entertainment, communication and retail, based on breakthrough innovations in ICT, biotech, green-tech, internet and the platform economy. Further downstream in the innovation process, these market-creating innovations which impact the Union economy as a whole are deployed by fast-growing and often new companies. However, these companies seldom originate and scale-up in the Union.

A new global wave of breakthrough innovation is coming, one that will be based on more 'deep-tech' technologies such as block-chain, AI, genomics/multiomics and robotics, as well as other technologies which may also emerge from individual innovators and communities of citizens. They have in common that they are taking shape at the intersection between different scientific disciplines, technological solutions and economic sectors, offering radically new combinations of products, processes, services and business models, and have the potential to open up new markets worldwide. Additional critical sectors such as manufacturing, financial services, transport or energy will also be impacted.

Europe must ride that wave. It is well positioned as the new wave comes in 'deep-tech' areas, in which Europe has already significantly invested, notably in the key enabling technologies. Europe therefore has some competitive advantages regarding science and knowledge, including in terms of human resources, and can build on close public-private cooperation (for example in health care or energy).

For Europe to lead that new wave of breakthrough innovation, the following underlying challenges need to be met:

Increase risk finance to overcome financing gaps: Europe's innovators suffer from a low supply of risk finance. Private venture capital is key to turning breakthrough innovations into world-leading companies, but in Europe the amount raised is less than a quarter of that raised in the US and in Asia; Europe must bridge the 'valley of death', whereby ideas and innovations fail to reach the market due to the gap between public support and private investment, in particular with regard to high-risk breakthrough innovations that must be supported by long-term investments;

Facilitate the access to research results, improve the transformation of science into innovation and accelerate the transfer of ideas, technologies and talent from the research base into start-ups and industry;

Further support the development of all forms of innovation, including user-driven, consumer-driven service and inclusive social innovation;

Speed up business transformation: the European economy is lagging behind in embracing new technologies and scaling up: 77 % of the young and big R&D companies are in US or Asia and only 16 % are based in Europe;

Enhance and simplify the European landscape for funding and supporting R&I: the multitude of funding sources provides a complex landscape for innovators. Union intervention must cooperate and coordinate with other initiatives at European, national and regional level, public and private, to better enhance and align supporting capacities, avoid duplication of activities and provide for an easy-to-navigate landscape for any European innovator;

Overcome fragmentation in the innovation ecosystem; while Europe is home to a growing number of hotspots, these are not well-connected; companies with international growth potential must cope with fragmentation of national markets with their diverse languages, business cultures and regulations; the Union has a role to play in supporting effective collaboration between national and regional ecosystems, so that companies, and SMEs in particular, can access the best knowledge, expertise, infrastructures and services across Europe; the Union needs to support collaboration between ecosystems, including through regulation, so that interoperability between different technologies and practical solutions is improved.

In order to cope with the new global wave of breakthrough innovation, Union support to innovators requires an agile, simple, seamless and tailored approach. Policy to develop and deploy breakthrough innovations and scale-up companies must be bold in taking risks and must take into account the above-mentioned challenges and add value to related innovation activities implemented by individual Member States or regions.

Horizon Europe's 'Innovative Europe' pillar, in cooperation with other Union policies and in particular the InvestEU Programme, is designed to deliver such tangible results. It builds on lessons learned and on experience gained under the previous framework programmes, in particular from activities such as FET, Fast Track to Innovation and the SME Instrument, but also private and corporate finance (such as FP7 RSFF, Horizon 2020 InnovFin), gathered and streamlined within the activities of the EIC pilot launched for the period 2018-2020.

Based on these experiences, this pillar provides for the launch of the EIC, which will promote mainly the breakthrough and disruptive technologies and innovation targeting especially market-creating innovation, while also supporting all types of innovations, including incremental, especially within SMEs including start-ups, and in exceptional cases small- mid-caps with rapid scale-up potential at Union and global level. The EIC will undertake the following types of actions and activities:

Supporting the development of future and emerging breakthrough innovations, including 'deep-tech' innovations as well as non-technological innovations;

Bridging financing gaps in the development, deployment and scaling-up of market-creating innovations;

Leveraging private capital and investment;

Increasing the impact and visibility of Union innovation support.

This pillar shall also provide for the activities developed under the EIT, in particular through its KICs. Additionally, systematic synergies shall be ensured between the EIC and the EIT. Innovative companies stemming from a KIC may be channelled to the EIC to create a pipeline of innovations which are not yet bankable, while high-potential innovative companies funded by the EIC that are not already engaged in one of the KICs may be offered access to this additional support.

Whilst the EIC and the KICs may directly support innovations across the Union, the overall environment from which European innovations nurture and emerge must be further developed and enhanced: findings in fundamental research are seeds for market-creating innovations. It must be a common European endeavour to support innovation all across Europe, and in all dimensions and forms, including through complementary Union, national and regional policies (including through effective synergies with ERDF and smart specialisation strategies) and resources whenever possible. Hence, this pillar provides also for renewed and reinforced coordination and cooperation mechanisms with Member States and associated countries, but also with private initiatives, in order to support all actors of the European innovation ecosystems, including at regional and local level.

Additionally, as a continued effort to enhance risk-finance capacities for R&I in Europe, this pillar will closely link with the InvestEU Programme. Building on the successes and the experiences gained under Horizon 2020 InnovFin, as well as under the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the InvestEU Programme will enhance access to risk finance for bankable entities, as well as for investors.


1.1.   Areas of Intervention

The EIC shall operate according to the following principles: clear Union-added value, autonomy, ability to take risks, efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability. The EIC will act as the one-stop-shop for all types of innovators including from individuals to universities, research organisations and companies (SMEs, including start-ups, and, in exceptional cases, small mid-caps). Depending on its schemes, it will provide support to single beneficiaries and multi-disciplinary consortia.

The objectives of the EIC are:

to identify, develop and deploy high-risk innovations of all kinds, including incremental, with a strong focus on breakthrough, disruptive and deep-tech innovations that have the potential to become market-creating innovations;

to support the rapid scale-up of innovative companies (meaning mainly SMEs, including start-ups, and, in exceptional cases, small mid-caps) at Union and international levels along the pathway from ideas to market.

Where relevant, the EIC shall contribute to the activities supported under other parts of Horizon Europe, in particular under Pillar II 'Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness'.

The EIC will be implemented primarily through two complementary types of action, namely the Pathfinder for advanced research, for the early stages of technology development, and the Accelerator for innovation and market deployment actions, including the pre-mass commercialisation stages and company growth. With the idea to offer a single one-stop-shop and a single process of support for high-risk innovations carried out by start-ups, SMEs and, in exceptional cases, small mid-caps, the Accelerator will award two types of support in particular: mainly blended finance (combining grants with equity investments) as well as grants, optionally followed by equity support. In addition, it will also channel access to loans and guarantees, notably those provided under the InvestEU Programme.

These two complementary types of actions will share common characteristics. They will:

Support high-risk innovations where the risks, whether financial, technological/scientific, market and/or regulatory, cannot be borne by the market alone or yet supported by financial instruments under the InvestEU Programme;

Focus mainly on high-risk breakthrough and/or deep-tech innovations, while also supporting other forms of innovation, including incremental, that have the potential to create new markets or contribute to resolving global challenges;

Be mainly bottom-up, open to innovations from all fields of science, technology and applications in any sector, while also enabling targeted support for emerging breakthrough, market-creating and/or deep-tech technologies of potential strategic significance in terms of economic or social impact. The Commission services will evaluate this potential strategic impact on the basis of recommendations from the independent external experts, from the EIC programme managers and, where appropriate, from the EIC Advisory Board;

Encourage innovations that cut across different scientific and technological (for example combining physical and digital) fields and sectors;

Be centred on innovators, simplifying procedures and administrative requirements, making use of interviews to help assess applications, and ensuring fast decision-making;

Implemented with the aim of significantly enhancing the European innovation ecosystem;

Be managed pro-actively with milestones or other predefined criteria to gauge progress and the possibility to, after a thorough assessment with the possible use of independent external experts, reorient, reschedule or terminate the projects where needed.

As well as financial support, innovators will have access to EIC business advisory services that provide coaching, mentoring and technical assistance to projects, and that pair innovators with peers, industrial partners and investors. Innovators will also have facilitated access to expertise, facilities (including innovation hubs (20) and open innovation testbeds) and partners from across Union-supported activities including those of the EIT, in particular through its KICs. The Commission will ensure seamless continuity between the EIT, the EIC and the InvestEU Programme, to deliver complementarity and synergies.

To allow the strengthening of the European innovation ecosystem, particular attention will be paid to ensuring proper and efficient complementarity with individual or networked Member States or interregional initiatives, including in the form of a European Partnership.

1.1.1.   The Pathfinder for Advanced Research

The Pathfinder will provide grants to high-risk cutting-edge projects that explore new and deep-tech areas with the aim of developing potentially radical innovative technologies of the future and new market opportunities. Merging them into a single model with a unique set of criteria, the Pathfinder will build on the experience from the FET schemes supported under FP7 and Horizon 2020, including the Horizon 2020 FET-Innovation Launchpad, as well as the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument Phase 1.

The Pathfinder's overall objective will be to nurture potential market-creating innovation out of breakthrough ideas, and bring them to demonstration stage or development of business cases or strategies for further take-up by the Accelerator or any other market deployment solution. To that end, the Pathfinder will support the earliest stages of scientific and technological R&D, including proof of concept and prototypes for technology validation.

In order to be fully open to broad-sweeping explorations, opportunities of serendipity and unexpected ideas, concepts and discoveries, the Pathfinder will be implemented mainly through a continuous and competitive open call with cut-off dates for bottom-up proposals. While maintaining its mainly bottom-up nature, the Pathfinder will also provide for competitive challenges to develop key strategic objectives (21) calling for deep-tech and radical thinking. The topics for those challenges will be determined in the work programmes. Regrouping of selected projects into thematic or objective-driven portfolios will allow the creation of a critical mass of efforts and enable the structuring of new multidisciplinary research communities.

These portfolios of selected projects will be further developed and enhanced, each along a vision developed with their innovators, but also shared with the R&I community at large. The Pathfinder's transition activities will be implemented to help researchers and innovators develop the pathway to commercial development, such as demonstration activities and feasibility studies to assess potential business cases, and support the creation of spin-offs and start-ups. These transition activities may also consist of complementary grants to top-up or enlarge the scope of previous and on-going actions, to bring in new partners, to enable collaboration within the portfolio and to develop its multidisciplinary community.

The Pathfinder will be open to all types of innovators, from individuals to universities, research organisations and companies, in particular start-ups and SMEs, and focusing on multi-disciplinary consortia. In the case of single beneficiary projects, mid-caps and larger companies will not be permitted. The Pathfinder will be implemented mainly through collaborative research and in close coordination with other parts of Horizon Europe, in particular with the ERC, MSCA, the European Ecosystem part of Pillar III and the KICs of the EIT activities to identify radical new ideas and concepts with breakthrough potential.

1.1.2.   The Accelerator

Available private and corporate financing remains scarce between the late stage of R&I activities and market take-up for high-risk (22), and therefore not 'bankable' or 'investor-attractive', breakthrough and market-creating innovations. In order to bridge the 'valley of death' for any type of high-risk innovation, including in particular breakthrough and 'deep tech' innovations that are key to Europe's future growth, public support must develop a radically new approach. Where the market does not provide viable financial solutions, public support should provide for a specific risk-sharing mechanism, bearing more, if not all, of the initial risk of potential breakthrough market-creating innovations in order to attract alternate private investors in a second stage, as operations unfold and the risk is reduced until the company carrying out the innovative project becomes bankable.

Consequently the Accelerator will provide financial support to SMEs including start-ups and, in exceptional cases, small mid-caps that have the ambition to develop and deploy in Union and international markets their breakthrough innovations and to scale-up rapidly. For that purpose it will build on the experience from Phases 2 and 3 of Horizon 2020 SME Instrument and from Horizon 2020 InnovFin, including through the addition of non-grant components and the ability to support larger and longer investments.

The Accelerator shall mainly provide support in the form of EIC blended finance, as well as grants and equity. The EIC blended finance shall be a mix of:

Grant or reimbursable advance (23), to cover innovation activities;

Support for investment in equity (24) or other repayable forms (such as loans or guarantees), so as to bridge innovation activities with effective market deployment, including scale-up, in a manner that does not crowd out private investments or distort competition in the internal market. If a project is deemed bankable from its initial selection (due diligence), or if the level of risk has been sufficiently reduced, the EIC will channel the selected/supported company to access debt financing (such as loans or guarantees) and equity financing provided by the InvestEU Programme.

Blended financial support will be awarded through a single process and with a single decision, providing the supported innovator with a single global commitment to financial resources covering the various stages of innovation until market deployment, including pre-mass commercialisation. The full implementation of the awarded support will be subject to milestones and review. The combination and volume of financing will be adapted to the needs of the company, its size and stage, the nature of the technology or innovation and the length of the innovation cycle. The Accelerator will cover financing needs until replacement by alternative sources of investment.

The Accelerator will also provide support in the form of grants to SMEs, including start-ups, to carry out a range of innovation types, from incremental to breakthrough and disruptive innovation, provided that those SMEs are aiming to subsequently scale-up.

The support will be provided through the same continuously open and bottom-up call as the one used for the blended-finance support. A start-up or an SME may benefit only once during Horizon Europe from grant-only support from the EIC, and that support will not exceed EUR 2,5 million. Proposals shall include detailed information on the capacities of the applicant to scale-up.

For projects that have benefitted from a grant-only support, the Accelerator may subsequently, following a request by the beneficiaries, provide them with finance support (for example 'an equity support only'), through the EIC special purpose vehicle subject to the due diligence results of the latter.

When a selected project is receiving a grant component of support for its R&I activities, those activities may be implemented in collaboration with public or private research organisations, for example through subcontracting, to ensure that the beneficiary has optimal access to technical and business expertise. This will allow the beneficiary to develop with a strong foundation in the existing knowledge, expertise and ecosystems across Europe.

Where the various risks, such as financial, scientific/technological, market, management, and regulatory, are reduced, the relative importance of the reimbursable advance component is expected to increase.

While the Union may bear alone the initial risk of selected innovation and market deployment actions, the aim will be to de-risk these and to stimulate, from the outset and during the development of the action, co-investments from alternative sources and even substitute investors. In that event, the objectives and schedule of the co-investment will be agreed with the co-investor(s) and the beneficiaries/supported companies.

The Accelerator will operate mainly through a continuously open and bottom-up call, with cut-off dates, targeting SMEs including start-ups, and in exceptional cases small mid-caps, including young and female innovators managing or holding key skills in these companies. This open and bottom-up call may be complemented by targeted support for emerging breakthrough, market-creating and/or deep-tech innovations of potential strategic significance in terms of economic or social impact, while maintaining the predominantly bottom-up nature of the Accelerator. The topics for this targeted support will be described in the work programmes. Investors, including public innovation agencies, may also submit proposals, but the support shall be awarded directly to the company carrying out the innovative project they are interested in.

The Accelerator will also allow for take-up of innovations stemming from Pathfinder-supported projects and from other pillars of the Union framework programmes (25), in order to support them in reaching the market. This identification of projects supported in other pillars of Horizon Europe and also previous framework programmes will be based on pertinent methodologies, such as the Innovation Radar.

In addition, for scale-up purpose and in compliance with point (a) of Article 48(6) of Regulation (EU) 2021/695, subject to an initial mapping exercise, successful proposals from eligible national or regional programmes could also have access to the Accelerator evaluation phase under the following cumulative and sequential conditions:


in close cooperation with Member States, the Commission will perform an in-depth mapping of eligible national or regional programmes to identify the demand for such a scheme; the results of this mapping will be published on the participants portal and updated regularly;


a pilot, based on this mapping, will be launched in the first Horizon Europe work programme; under this pilot, the following conditions must be met:


the national or regional evaluation procedures shall be certified by the Commission according to criteria included in the Horizon Europe work programme;


the Commission shall ensure equal treatment with other proposals in the evaluation of proposals submitted under the Accelerator; in particular, all eligible proposals must comply with a selection test, on a strictly equal footing, consisting of a face-to-face interview with a jury consisting of independent external experts.

1.1.3.   Additional EIC Activities

Additionally, the EIC will also implement:

EIC business acceleration services in support of Pathfinder and Accelerator activities and actions. These services will be highly recommended to all selected start-ups and SMEs, and in exceptional cases small mid-caps, although the use of these services will not be mandatory. The aim will be to connect the EIC community of funded innovators, including funded Seal of Excellence, to investors, partners and public buyers. It will provide a range of coaching and mentoring services in relation to EIC actions. It will provide innovators with access to international networks of potential partners, including industrial ones, to complement a value chain or develop market opportunities, and find investors and other sources of private or corporate finance. Activities will include live events such as brokerage events and pitching sessions, but also the development of matching platforms or use of existing ones, in close relation with financial intermediaries supported by the InvestEU Programme and with the European Investment Bank Group. These activities will also encourage peer exchanges as a source of learning in innovation ecosystems, making particular good use of Members of the EIC Board and EIC Fellows;

EIC Fellowships to honour the Union's leading innovators. EIC Fellowships will be awarded by the Commission on the advice of the High Level Advisory Board to recognise the recipients as ambassadors for innovation;

EIC Challenges, in the form of inducement prizes, to help develop novel solutions to global challenges, bring in new actors and develop new communities. Other EIC prizes will include iCapital, the Climate innovation prize, the Social Innovation Inducement Prize, and the Women Innovators' Prize (26). The design of its prizes will be linked to the EIC and to other parts of Horizon Europe, including missions and to other relevant funding bodies. Opportunities for cooperation with organisations able to provide complementary support (such as enterprises, universities, research organisations, business accelerators, charities and foundations) will be explored;

EIC Innovative Procurement, to procure prototypes, or to develop first purchase programme, to facilitate the testing and acquisition of pre-market innovative technologies by national, regional or local public entities, collectively whenever possible.

1.2.   Implementation

To reflect its innovator-centric approach and novel types of actions, the implementation of the EIC calls for the deployment of specific management features.

1.2.1.   The EIC Board

The EIC Board shall assist the Commission in implementing the EIC. As well as advising on the EIC work programmes, the EIC Board shall take an active role in advising on the process of project selection, as well as on management and follow-up actions. It will have a communication function, with members playing an ambassadorial role helping to stimulate innovation across the Union. Communication channels will include attendance at key innovation events, social media, constitution of an EIC community of innovators, engaging with key media with a focus on innovation, common events with incubators and acceleration hubs.

The EIC Board shall provide advice to the Commission regarding innovation trends or initiatives needed to enhance and foster the Union innovation ecosystem, including potential regulatory barriers. The EIC Board's advice shall also identify emerging areas of innovation likely to be taken into account in the activities under the pillar 'Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness' and missions. In this way, and in coordination with the relevant programme committee configuration, the EIC Board is expected to contribute to the overall coherence of Horizon Europe.

Based on the advice of the EIC Board, the Commission will:

provide potential applicants with detailed information in advance of calls for proposals, to include:


the requirements of the different supporting schemes;


how the proposed forms of financial support (blended finance, grant, equity, loan and guarantee) will be provided and implemented;


clear differentiation between the targeted groups and their distinct needs, according to EIC schemes;


a definition of the innovation objectives in terms of product, process, marketing and services;

establish a solid monitoring of the implementation of the EIC schemes with the objective to ensure quick policy learning and to develop innovation patterns. For this purpose, indicators will be selected and implemented to measure the expected and achieved innovation in terms of product, process, marketing and services;

ensure complementarity and cooperation between the EIC and the EIT with the aim of avoiding duplication;

disseminate detailed information on existing tools to attract risk capital investors in case of highly risky projects.

1.2.2.   EIC Programme Managers

The Commission will take a pro-active approach to the management of high-risk projects, through access to the necessary expertise.

The Commission will appoint on a temporary basis a number of EIC programme managers to assist it with business- and technology-based vision and operational guidance. The Programme Committee will be informed of the appointments.

Programme managers will come from multiple spheres, including companies, universities, national laboratories and research centres. They will bring deep expertise from personal experience and years in the field. They will be recognised leaders, either having managed multidisciplinary research teams or directed large institutional programmes, and know the importance of communicating their visions tirelessly, creatively and broadly. Lastly, they will have experience in overseeing important budgets, which require a sense of responsibility.

Programme managers will be expected to boost the impact of EIC funding by fostering an 'active management' culture, combining a sound technological knowledge with a hands-on approach involving the development at portfolio and project levels of vision-based budgets, timelines and milestones that EIC projects must meet to receive continued funding.

In particular, programme managers oversee the implementation of Pathfinder and Accelerator calls, and provide opinion to the expert evaluation committees, based on clear and fair criteria and in view of a consistent strategic portfolio of projects, expected to make essential contributions to the emergence of potential societal or economic market-creating innovations.

Programme managers will have the task of nurturing Pathfinder portfolios by developing together with beneficiaries a common vision and a common strategic approach that lead to a critical mass of effort. This will involve the enhancement of new, recently-developed fields of research, and the building-up and structuring of new communities, with the objective of bringing cutting-edge breakthrough ideas into genuine and mature market-creating innovations. Programme managers will implement transition activities, further developing the portfolios with relevant additional activities and partners, and closely monitoring potential spin-offs and start-ups.

To allow more flexibility, programme managers will review Pathfinder and Accelerator projects for each milestone or predefined criteria at relevant intervals according to the project development, to assess whether they should be continued, reoriented or terminated according to defined methods and procedures for project management. Where relevant, such assessments may involve independent external experts. In accordance with its Staff Regulations, the Commission will ensure that there is no conflict of interest, nor breach of confidentiality, of programme managers in the execution of all their tasks.

Given the high-risk nature of the actions, it is expected that a significant number of projects will not reach completion. Budget decommitted from such terminated projects will be used to support other EIC actions and shall be communicated in a timely manner to the Programme Committee.

1.2.3.   Implementation of the EIC blended finance

The Commission will manage all operational elements of Accelerator projects, including the grant or other non-repayable forms of support.

For the purpose of managing EIC blended finance, the Commission shall establish a special purpose vehicle. The Commission shall seek to ensure the participation of other public and private investors. Where this is not possible at the initial set-up, the EIC special purpose vehicle will be structured in such a way that it can attract other public or private investors in order to increase the leverage effect of the Union contribution.

The Commission will endorse the investment strategy of the EIC special purpose vehicle. The EIC special purpose vehicle will define and implement an exit strategy for its equity participations, which will include the possibility to propose the transfer of (a share of) an investment operation to the implementing partners supported under the InvestEU Programme, where appropriate and for operations whose risks have been sufficiently lowered so that they meet criteria of Article 209(2) of the Financial Regulation. The Programme Committee will be informed accordingly by the Commission.

The EIC special purpose vehicle will perform due diligence and negotiate technical terms of each investment in compliance with the principles of additionality and prevention of conflicts of interest with other activities of the investees and of other counterparts. The EIC special purpose vehicle will proactively leverage public or private investments into individual Accelerator operations.


2.1.   Rationale

To fully harness the potential of innovation involving researchers, entrepreneurs, industry and society at large, the Union, together with the Member States, must improve the environment within which innovation can flourish at all levels. This means contributing to the development of an effective innovation ecosystem at Union level, and encouraging cooperation, networking and the exchange of ideas and knowledge, developing open innovation processes in organisations, funding and skills among national, regional and local innovation ecosystems, in order to support all types of innovation, reach out to all innovators across the Union and provide them with adequate support.

The Union and Member States must also aim to develop ecosystems that support social innovation and public sector innovation, in addition to innovation in private enterprises. Indeed, the government sector must innovate and renew itself in order to be able to support the changes in regulation and governance required to support the large-scale deployment of innovations, including new technologies and a growing public demand for the more efficient and effective delivery of services. Social innovations are crucial to enhance the welfare of our societies.

To attain these objectives, activities will be implemented to complement and to ensure synergies with the EIC's types of action, as well as with the activities of the EIT, with activities undertaken under other pillars of Horizon Europe and with activities implemented by Member States and associated countries, but also by private initiatives.

2.2.   Areas of intervention

As a first step, the Commission will organise an EIC Forum of Member States and associated countries' public authorities and bodies in charge of innovation policies and programmes, with the aim of promoting coordination and dialogue on the development of the Union's innovation ecosystem. The EIC Board and the EIT Board will also be associated. Within the EIC Forum, the Commission will:

Discuss the development of innovation-friendly regulation, through the continued application of the Innovation Principle (27) and development of innovative approaches to public procurement including developing and enhancing the Public Procurement of Innovation instrument to drive innovation. The Observatory of Public Sector Innovation will also continue to support internal government innovation efforts, alongside the revamped Policy Support Facility;

Promote the alignment of R&I agendas with Union efforts to consolidate an open market for capital flows and investment, such as the development of key framework conditions in favour of innovation under the Capital Markets Union;

Enhance coordination between national and regional innovation programmes and innovation activities under Horizon Europe, including notably the EIC and the EIT, so as to stimulate operational synergies and avoid overlaps, by sharing data on programmes and their implementation, resources and expertise, analysis and monitoring of technological and innovation trends, interconnecting respective innovators' communities;

Establish a joint communication strategy on innovation in the Union. It will aim to stimulate the most talented innovators, entrepreneurs (in particular young ones), SMEs and start-ups throughout the Union. It will stress the Union added-value that technical, non-technical, and social innovators can bring to Union citizens by developing their idea or vision into a thriving enterprise, in particular in terms of social value and impact, jobs and growth, and societal progression.

The Union will also, in synergy with other Horizon Europe activities, including those of the EIC and EIT, and with the regional smart specialisation strategies:

Promote and co-fund joint innovation programmes managed by authorities in charge of public national, regional or local innovation policies and programmes, to which private entities supporting innovation and innovators may be associated. Such demand-driven joint programmes may target, among others, early stage and feasibility study support, academia-enterprise cooperation, support to high-tech SMEs' collaborative research, technology and knowledge transfer, internationalisation of SMEs, market analysis and development, digitalisation of low-tech SMEs, support to the development and interconnection of open innovation infrastructures, such as pilots, demonstrators, maker spaces and testbeds, financial instruments for the activities or market deployment of close-to-market innovations, and social innovation. They may also include joint public procurement initiatives, enabling innovations to be commercialised in the public sector, in particular in support of the development of new policy. This could be particularly effective to stimulate innovation in public service areas and to provide market opportunities to European innovators;

Support joint programmes for mentoring, coaching, technical assistance and other services that are delivered close to innovators, by networks such as National Contact Points, Enterprise Europe Network, clusters, pan-European platforms such as Startup Europe, regional or local innovation actors, both public and private, in particular incubators and innovation hubs that could moreover be interconnected to favour partnering between innovators. Support may also be given to promote soft skills for innovation, including to networks of vocational institutions and in close cooperation with the EIT and its KICs;

Improve data and knowledge about innovation support, including mapping of support schemes, establishing data-sharing platforms, benchmarking and evaluation of support schemes.

The Union will also launch actions necessary to further monitor and nurture the overall innovation landscape and innovation management capacity in Europe.

The Commission will implement the ecosystem support activities, supported by an executive agency for the evaluation process.


This part of the Specific Programme shall implement concrete measures in support of widening participation and strengthening the ERA. It shall aim to strengthen collaborate links across Europe and open up European R&I networks, contribute to improving research management capacities in the widening countries, support national policy reforms as well as exploit the potential of the Union's talent pool by targeted actions.

The Union has a history of world-class scientific and technological achievements, but its R&I potential fails to be fully exploited. Despite much progress in developing the ERA, including the ERA roadmap and national ERA action plans, Europe still has a fragmented R&I landscape, and all Member States face bottlenecks in their R&I systems which require policy reforms. In some areas, progress is too slow to catch up with an increasingly dynamic R&I ecosystem.

The level of R&I investment in Europe is still far below the policy objective of 3 % of GDP and continues to grow less than our main competitors such as US, Japan, China or South Korea.

Meanwhile, there is a growing disparity in Europe between those countries and regions that lead in R&I and those that lag behind. Change, for example through more and better links between R&I actors across Europe, is needed if Europe as a whole is to capitalise on excellence from across the continent, maximise the value of public and private investments, and their impact on productivity, economic growth, job creation and well-being. In addition, there is a need for structural R&I policy reforms and better national, regional and institutional cooperation in the production and diffusion of high-quality knowledge.

In addition, R&I is seen by some as distant and elitist without clear benefits for citizens, instilling attitudes that hamper the creation and uptake of innovative solutions, and scepticism about evidence-based public policies. This requires both better linkages between scientists, researchers, innovators, entrepreneurs, citizens and policy-makers, and more robust approaches to pooling scientific evidence itself in a changing society.

The Union now needs to raise the bar on the quality and impact of its R&I system, requiring a revitalised ERA across the Union and associated countries, better supported by the Union's R&I framework programmes and national and regional programmes. Specifically, according to Article 181(2) of the TFEU, a well-integrated yet tailored set of Union measures is needed, combined with reforms and performance enhancements at national level (to which the Smart Specialisation Strategies supported under the European Regional Development Fund as well as the Policy Support Facility can contribute) and, in turn, effective institutional changes within research funding and performing organisations, including universities, leading to outstanding knowledge production. By combining efforts at Union level, synergies can be exploited across Europe and the necessary scale can be found to make support to national policy reforms more efficient and impactful.

The activities supported under this part specifically address ERA policy priorities, while generally underpinning all parts of Horizon Europe. Activities may also be established to foster brain circulation across ERA through mobility of researchers and innovators, taking fully into account current imbalances, and to create and develop networks of scholars, scientists, researchers and innovators to put all their (intangible) assets to the service of the ERA and by supporting the development of domain-specific science roadmaps.

The goal is a Union where knowledge and a highly-skilled workforce circulate freely, research outputs are shared rapidly and efficiently, researchers benefit from attractive careers and gender equality is ensured, where Member States and associated countries develop common strategic research agendas, aligning national plans, defining and implementing joint programmes, and where the outcomes of R&I are understood and trusted by informed citizens and benefit society as a whole.

This part will contribute de facto to all SDGs, but directly to the following: SDG 4 – Quality Education; SDG 5 – Gender Equality; SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; SDG 17 – Partnership for the Goals.


Reducing disparities and the existing divide in R&I performance by sharing knowledge and expertise across the Union will help widening countries and the Union outermost regions to attain a competitive position in the global value chains and the Union to fully benefit from the R&I potential of all Member States.

Further action, for example through the promotion of openness and diversity of project consortia, is therefore needed to counter the trend for closed collaborations, which can exclude large number of promising institutions and individuals, including newcomers, and to exploit the potential of the Union's talent pool by maximising and sharing the benefits of R&I across the Union.

Within the broad areas of activities, the funding lines will facilitate specific research elements customised to the particular needs of the actions.

Broad Lines

Teaming, to create new centres of excellence or upgrade existing ones in eligible countries, building on partnerships between leading scientific institutions and partner institutions;

Twinning, to significantly strengthen universities or research organisations from eligible countries in a defined field, by linking them with internationally-leading research institutions from other Member States or associated countries;

ERA Chairs, to support universities or research organisations from eligible countries to attract and maintain high quality human resources under the direction of an outstanding researcher and research manager (the 'ERA Chair holder'), and to implement structural changes to achieve excellence on a sustainable basis;

European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST), involving ambitious conditions regarding the inclusion of eligible countries, and other measures to provide scientific networking, capacity building and career development support to young and advanced researchers from these target countries, through actions of high scientific quality and relevance. 80 % of the total budget of COST will be devoted to actions fully aligned with the objectives of this intervention area, including funding for new activities and services;

Activities aimed at improving the quality of proposals from legal entities from low R&I performing countries, such as professional pre-proposal checks and advice, and boosting the activities of National Contact Points to support international networking, as well as activities following Article 24(2) of Regulation (EU) 2021/695 and evidence-based matchmaking services following Article 51(2) of that Regulation;

Activities may be established to foster brain circulation of researchers of all ages and at all levels right across the ERA (for instance grants to enable researchers of any nationality to acquire and transfer new knowledge and to work on R&I in widening countries) and better exploitation of existing (and possibly jointly managed) research infrastructures in the targeted countries through mobility of researchers and innovators. Activities may also be established to foster initiatives on excellence.

This intervention area will support Horizon Europe's specific objectives: facilitate full engagement of Europe's talent pool in supported actions; spread and connect excellence across the Union; reinforce the creation of high quality knowledge; and increase cross-sectorial, cross-disciplinary cross-border cooperation.


Policy reforms at national level will be mutually reinforced and complemented through the development of Union-level policy initiatives, research, networking, partnering, coordination, data collection and monitoring and evaluation.

Broad Lines

Strengthening the evidence base for R&I policy, for a better understanding of the different dimensions and components of national and regional R&I ecosystems, including drivers, impacts and associated policies;

Foresight activities, to anticipate emerging needs and trends, in coordination and co-design with national agencies and future-oriented stakeholders and citizens, in a participative manner, building on advances in forecasting methodology, making outcomes more policy relevant, while exploiting synergies across and beyond Horizon Europe;

Support for policy makers, funding bodies, research performing organisations (including universities) or advisory groups working on ERA and ERA-related policies or implementing coordination and support measures supporting the ERA to ensure that these are to be well-aligned towards developing and implementing a coherent and long-term sustaining ERA. Such support may take the form of coordination and support actions in a bottom-up and competitive way to support programme level collaboration between R&I programmes of Member States, associated countries and civil society organisations such as foundations, on priorities of their choice, with a clear focus on the implementation of transnational joint activities including calls. It will be based on clear commitments from participating programmes to pool resources and ensure complementarity between activities and policies with those of Horizon Europe and relevant European Partnership Initiatives.

Accelerating the transition towards open science, by monitoring, analysing and supporting the development and uptake of open science policies and practices (28), including the FAIR principles, at the level of Member States, regions, institutions and researchers, in a way that maximises synergies and coherence at Union level;

Support to national R&I policy reform, including through a strengthened set of services of the Policy Support Facility (29) (such as peer reviews, specific support activities, mutual learning exercises and the knowledge centre) to Member States and associated countries, operating in synergy with the European Regional Development Fund, the Structural Reform Support Service and the Reform Delivery Tool;

Providing researchers with attractive career environments, skills and competences needed in the modern knowledge economy (30). Linking the ERA and the European Higher Education Area by supporting the modernisation of universities and other R&I organisations, through recognition and reward mechanisms to spur actions at national level, as well as incentives promoting the adoption of open science practices, responsible R&I, entrepreneurship (and links to innovation ecosystems), trans-disciplinarity, citizen engagement, international and inter-sectoral mobility, gender equality plans, diversity and inclusion strategies, and comprehensive approaches to institutional changes. In that context, as a follow-up to the pilot actions launched under Erasmus+ 2014-20 on European Universities, Horizon Europe will, where appropriate, complement in a synergetic way the support provided by the Erasmus programme to European Universities, providing support on their R&I dimension. This will contribute to developing new joint and integrated long term and sustainable strategies on education, R&I based on trans-disciplinary and cross-sectoral approaches to make the knowledge triangle a reality, providing impetus to sustainable economic growth, while avoiding overlaps with KICs;

Citizen science, supporting all types of formal, non-formal and informal science education, ensuring a more effective and responsible engagement of citizens, regardless of age, background or abilities, in the co-design of R&I agenda settings and policy, in the co-creation of scientific content and innovation through transdisciplinary activities;

Supporting and monitoring gender equality as well as other forms of diversity in scientific careers and in decision-making, including in advisory bodies, as well as the integration of the gender dimension in R&I content;

Ethics and integrity, to further develop a coherent Union framework in adherence with the highest ethics standards and the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity, the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers, providing the training opportunities in these areas;

Supporting international cooperation through bilateral, multilateral and bi-regional policy dialogues with third countries, regions and international fora will facilitate mutual learning and priority setting, promote reciprocal access and monitor impact of cooperation;

Scientific input to other policies, through the creation and maintenance of advisory and monitoring structures and processes to ensure that Union policy-making is based on the best available scientific evidence and high-level scientific advice;

Union R&I programme implementation, including the collection and analysis of evidence for the monitoring, evaluation, design and impact assessment of Horizon Europe and previous framework programmes;

The Commission will ensure support for National Contact Points, including through regular meetings before calls, training, coaching, strengthening dedicated support structures and facilitating transnational cooperation among them (such as building on activities of National Contact Points in previous framework programmes); the Commission will develop minimum standards, in agreement with Member State representatives, for the operation of these support structures, including their role, structure, modalities, flow of information from the Commission before calls for proposals and avoidance of conflicts of interest;

Dissemination and exploitation of R&I results, data and knowledge, including through dedicated support to beneficiaries; fostering synergies with other Union programmes; targeted communication activities to raise the awareness of the broader impact and relevance of Union funded R&I, as well as science communication.

(1)  The European Data Infrastructure will underpin the EOSC by providing world-class HPC capability, high speed connectivity and leading-edge data and software services.

(2)  Regulation (EU) 2021/522 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 March 2021 establishing a Programme for the Union's action in the field of health ('EU4Health Programme') for the period 2021-2027, and repealing Regulation (EU) No 282/2014 (OJ L 107, 26.3.2021, p. 1).

(3)  Regulation (EU) 2021/693 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 April 2021 establishing the Justice Programme and repealing Regulation (EU) No 1382/2013 (OJ L 156, 5.5.2021, p. 21).

(4)  Regulation (EU) 2021/692 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 April 2021 establishing the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme and repealing Regulation (EU) No 1381/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Council Regulation (EU) No 390/2014 (OJ L 156, 5.5.2021, p. 1).

(5)  Regulation (EU) 2021/694 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2021 establishing the Digital Europe Programme and repealing Decision (EU) 2015/2240 (OJ L 166, 11.5.2021, p. 1).

(6)  OECD Report: Understanding the Socio-Economic Divide in Europe, 26 January 2017.

(7)  Regulation (EU) 2021/696 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 April 2021 establishing the Union Space Programme and the European Union Agency for the Space Programme and repealing Regulations (EU) No 912/2010, (EU) No 1285/2013 and (EU) No 377/2014 and Decision No 541/2014/EU (OJ L 170, 12.5.2021, p. 69).

(8)  The key enabling technologies of the future include advanced materials and nanotechnology, photonics and micro-electronics and nano-electronics, life science technologies, advanced manufacturing and processing, AI and digital security and connectivity.

(9)  'Re-finding industry – defining innovation' Report of the High-Level Strategy Group on Industrial Technologies, Brussels April 2018.

(10)  These are public or private facilities that provide resources and services primarily for the European industry to test, validate and demonstrate key enabling technologies and products. Such infrastructures may be single-sited, virtual or distributed, and must be registered in a Member State or an associated country.

(11)  Substantial reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in other sectors is addressed in other parts of Pillar II and Horizon Europe in general.

(12)  The term 'alternative energy' does not include energy produced from nuclear energy sources.

(13)  The bioeconomy covers all sectors and systems that rely on biological resources (animals, plants, micro-organisms and derived biomass, including organic waste), their functions and principles. It includes and interlinks: land and marine ecosystems and the services they provide; all primary production sectors that use and produce biological resources (agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture); and all economic and industrial sectors that use biological resources and processes to produce food, feed, bio-based products, energy and services. Biomedicines and health biotechnology are excluded.

(14)  'Sustainable blue economy' means all sectoral and cross-sectoral economic activities throughout the single market related to oceans, seas, coasts and inland waters, covering the Union's outermost regions and landlocked countries, including emerging sectors and non-market goods and services and being consistent with Union environmental legislation.

(15)  Commission Communication of 28 November 2018 entitled 'A Clean Planet for all. A European strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy'.

(16)  Environmental observation accessible for example through the Copernicus component of the Union Space Programme and other relevant European programmes, as well as the GEO initiative will support R&I under other intervention areas within this cluster as well as other relevant parts of Horizon Europe.

(17)  Commission Staff Working Document: European Research and Innovation for Food and Nutrition Security (SWD(2016) 319 final).

(18)  Health biotechnology applications are addressed by the cluster 'Health' under this pillar.

(19)  The activities in Circular Systems Area of Intervention are complementary to those of Low-Carbon and Clean Industries in the cluster 'Digital, Industry and Space'.

(20)  Innovation Hub is an umbrella term for a broad variety of skills. It can serve as an active partner, a community, a knowledge centre, a facilitator or a connector that offers access to latest knowledge and expertise on digital and related enabling technologies necessary for companies to become more competitive with regard to production, services and business processes.

(21)  Relevant topics may be identified in the context of Horizon Europe strategic planning.

(22)  Typically as a combination of scientific/technological risks, management/financial risks, market/economical risks and regulatory risks. Unforeseen additional risks may also be taken into account.

(23)  As an alternative to a grant when risk is deemed lower than average, a reimbursable advance shall be paid back to the Union on an agreed schedule and then become an interest-free loan. If the beneficiary is not able to reimburse, but can continue its activity, the reimbursable advance shall be transformed into equity. In the case of bankruptcy, the reimbursable advance becomes just a grant.

(24)  As a principle, the Union is not expected to hold more than a minority of voting rights in companies supported. In exceptional cases, the Union may secure the acquisition of a blocking minority to protect European interests in essential areas, such as cyber security.

(25)  Such as ERC Proof of Concept, from projects supported under the pillar 'Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness', start-ups emerging from the KICs of the EIT. Applications shall also stem from Horizon 2020 activities, particularly projects selected under Horizon 2020 SME Phase 2 and related Seal of Excellence financed by Member States, or from (existing and future) European Partnerships.

(26)  To ensure seamless continuity, the EIC prizes will take over the management of prizes launched under Horizon 2020. In addition, the EIC Board shall provide advice for the design and implementation of new inducement prizes and recognition awards.

(27)  Commission Communication of 15 May 2018 'A renewed European Agenda for Research and Innovation - Europe's chance to shape its future' and Council Conclusions of 27 May 2016 'Research and Innovation friendly regulation'.

(28)  The policies and practices to be addressed range from sharing research outputs as early and widely as possible through commonly agreed formats and a shared infrastructure (such as the EOSC), citizen science, and developing and using new, broader approaches and indicators for evaluating research and rewarding researchers.

(29)  The Policy Support Facility (PSF), launched under Horizon 2020. The PSF works on a demand-driven basis and it offers, on a voluntary basis, high level expertise and tailor-made advice to national public authorities. Through its services, it has already been instrumental in provoking policy change in countries such as Poland, Bulgaria, Moldova or Ukraine and in bringing forward policy changes, driven by exchanges of good practice, in areas such as R&D tax incentives, open science, performance-based funding of public research organisations and the inter-operability of national R&I programmes.

(30)  Including notably the European Charter for Researchers, the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers, EURAXESS and RESAVER Pension Fund.



List of configurations of the Programme Committee in accordance with Article 14(2) of this Decision


Strategic configuration: Strategic overview of the implementation of the Specific Programme and coherence across its individual work programmes, including missions






Research Infrastructures




Culture, Creativity and Inclusive Society


Civil Security for Society


Digital, Industry and Space


Climate, Energy and Mobility


Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment


The EIC and European Innovation Ecosystems


Widening participation and strengthening the ERA

Ad-hoc meetings could be organised within the clusters and/or with different Programme Committee configurations and/or with Committees established by other acts on horizontal and/or cross-cutting issues, such as space and mobility.




Information on individual projects, enabling the monitoring of the entire lifetime of each proposal, covering in particular:

submitted proposals;

evaluation results for each proposal;

grant agreements;

terminated projects in accordance with Article 32(2) and (3) and Article 48(12) of Regulation (EU) 2021/695;

completed projects.


Information on the outcome of each call and project implementation, covering in particular:

results of each call;

evaluation scores of proposals and deviations from those scores in their ranking list, based on their contribution to the achievement of specific policy objectives, including the constitution of a consistent portfolio of projects in accordance with Article 29(2) of Regulation (EU) 2021/695;

requested adjustments to the proposals in accordance with Article 29(2) of Regulation (EU) 2021/695;

outcome of negotiations on grant agreements;

project implementation, including payment data and outcome of projects;

proposals retained by independent expert evaluation, but rejected by the Commission in accordance with Article 48(8) of Regulation (EU) 2021/695.


Information on programme implementation, including relevant information at the level of Horizon Europe, the Specific Programme, each specific objective and related themes and the JRC, as part of the annual monitoring along the impact pathways defined in Annex V to Regulation (EU) 2021/695, as well as the synergies with other relevant Union programmes.


Information on the execution of the Horizon Europe budget, including information on COST, on commitments and payments for all European Partnerships, including KICs, as well as financial balances between the Union and all associated countries.