Horizon Europe is the main framework funding program for research by the European Commission

Horizon Europe: how it works and how to apply

Horizon Europe is the main framework funding program for research by the European Commission. It is a seven-year program, running from 2021 to 2027, with a budget of 90 billion euros.

Here are its main features:

Who can apply

The program is open to businesses (SMEs, startups, large companies), research centers, public administrations, and, for some instruments, also to individuals and researchers.

Projects must be submitted by groupings of entities, with a minimum of three independent entities from three different countries (Member States or associated countries that have signed a specific collaboration agreement with the European Commission, such as Israel and Turkey).

However, it should be noted that in practice, partnerships are composed of a number of entities ranging from 6 to 20 partners, depending on the size of the project.

There is only one “single-beneficiary” instrument, the EIC Accelerator, which we discuss in a separate sheet.

What does it fund

Horizon Europe finances research or innovation projects to strengthen Europe’s scientific and technological bases. The program covers a wide range of topics that are defined in advance and are grouped under six macro-themes:

  • Health;
  • Culture, Creativity and Inclusion;
  • Security;
  • Digital, Industry and Space;
  • Climate, Energy and Mobility;
  • Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment.

On certain types of funding instruments, it is possible to submit projects called “bottom up” (open themes).


In addition to thematic work programmes, Horizon Europe will support Missions. A Mission is a portfolio of interdisciplinary actions aimed at achieving a bold, stimulating and measurable goal within a predetermined period, which has an impact on society and policy-making. These are the missions activated in the first programming period:

  • Adaptation to climate change including societal transformation
  • Cancer
  • Climate-neutral and smart cities
  • Healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters
  • Soil health and food

How much does it fund

The funding percentages vary depending on the type of project and the beneficiary of the funding:


(Innovation action)


(Research and Innovation action)


(Coordination and support action)

PROFIT 70% 100% 100%
NO-PROFIT 100% 100% 100%
  • Innovation Actions (IA) finance projects that are already very close to the market, which require pre-industrialization and business planning activities;
  • Research and Innovation Actions (RIA) finance projects for which research activities must be predominant;
  • Coordination and Support Actions (CSA) finance projects for the creation of networks, development of cluster projects, or training activities.

The amount of funding is determined by the individual topic, which also defines the number of projects that can be funded for each topic. Indicatively, the funding budget for a Horizon Europe project can vary from €2.5M up to €15M, to be distributed among the various participants in the partnership.

How is it organized

The program is organized into three pillars

  • Pillar 1 funds activities aimed at supporting the improvement of Europe’s research infrastructure,
  • Pillar 2 funds the development of solutions for global and societal challenges. It is the pillar where collaborative research projects with the involvement of multiple entities on topics identified by the European Commission find space;
  • Pillar 3 funds the development of pioneering and disruptive innovations, already very close to the market (e.g. EIC Accelerator) and the development of innovation-friendly ecosystems.

Pillar 2 and 3 contain the greatest number of funding opportunities for companies

How to apply

The European Commission provides programmatic guidelines and formats to follow for submitting projects.

A “topic” is activated through a “call for proposals” and remains open for approximately 5 months, providing a deadline for submitting a funding proposal. These are very complex projects that require months of preparation and the creation of an ad hoc partnership.

Once the call is closed, the evaluation procedure is initiated, conducted remotely by experts selected by the European Commission. The evaluation process takes about 5 months.

If the project is proposed for funding, it is invited to negotiate, which takes about 3 months.

The contract is then signed and the project can be started.

Overall, the time to grant (the period from the call’s closure to contract signing) takes about 8 months, in addition to the 5 months of the call’s opening.

A European project cannot be improvised. The application procedure requires several months of preparation and the creation of an ad hoc partnership consisting of entities of different nature (research centers, companies, public bodies).

idea-re can offer support in all phases of preparing and managing a European project