Horizon Europe is the EU's nineth Research and Innovation framework programme for 2021-2027 with a budget of €95.5 billion. It is built on three pillars offering different funding opportunities for frontier and collaborative research: (i) Excellent science (ii) Global challenges and European industrial competitiveness and (iii) Innovative Europe.
European Research Council
The fundamental activity of the European Research Council (ERC) is to provide attractive, long-term funding to support excellent investigators and their research teams to pursue ground-breaking, high-gain/high-risk research. The objective is to fund projects that set a clear and inspirational target for frontier research across Europe. The ERC's frontier research grants operate on a 'bottom-up' basis. Individual researchers/Principal Investigators of any age, from any discipline, from any country can apply.
The following funding opportunities are relevant for ESC members:
- Starting grant is a support for excellent Principal Investigators at the career stage at which they are starting their own independent research team or programme (2-7 years of experience after PhD)
- Consolidator grant is a support for excellent Principal Investigators at the career stage at which they may still be consolidating their own independent research team or programme (7-12 years of experience after PhD)
- Advanced grant is a support for excellent Principal Investigators at the career stage at which they have already established research leaders with a recognised track record of research achievements.
Other grants: proof of concept, synergy grants.
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions
The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) have become the EU’s reference programme for doctoral education and postdoctoral training. MSCA fund excellent research and innovation, hence its position in Horizon Europe’s first pillar, Excellent science. At the time of the proposal submission, eligible candidates must hold a doctoral degree (PhD) or have carried out at least four years of full-time equivalent research experience. The budget for the MSCA under Horizon Europe is €6.6 billion. Read about the Principles of the programme.
Intervention areas relevant for ESC members:
- doctoral networks
- postdoctoral fellowship
- staff exchange
- MSCA and citizens
Global and European Competitiveness
The Health Cluster, with a budget of €7.7 billion for the period 2021-2027, aims to promote health, healthy lifestyle and well-being of all ages, diagnose, treat and cure disease, improve healthcare systems to become resilient, cost-effective and sustainable.
Destinations/priorities of the work programme relevant for ESC members:
- Staying healthy in a rapidly changing society
- Living and working in a health-promoting environment
- Tackling diseases and reducing disease burden
- Ensuring access to innovative, sustainable and high-quality health care
- Unlocking the full potential of new tools, technologies and digital solutions for a healthy society
- Maintaining an innovative, sustainable and globally competitive health-related industry
European Partnership for Personalised Medicine
In line with the European Commission's ambition to simplify the funding landscape of the different initiatives in the new funding period (2021-2027), the European Partnership for Personalised Medicine which builds on the success of the International Consortium for Personalised Medicine (ICPerMed) and the ERA PerMed, will become a co-funded partnership under Horizon Europe's pillar II, Health cluster. Three specific research and innovation objectives of the new partnership are:
- integrating big data and ICT solutions for Health;
- translating basic research into clinical applications;
- providing socio-economic evidence for the uptake of personalised medicine by the healthcare systems.
The long-term impact of the partnership should be a complete overhaul of the way healthcare is operated in the EU in a modern, technology-driven equitable and sustainable way.
The partnership's Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) is under development. The partnership will start in 2023-2024 and will run till 2030. The SRIA will determine the main priorities of the call for proposals that this partnership will launch.
Innovative Health Initiative
The Innovative Health Initiative (IHI) is an institutionalised partnership under Horizon Europe. It will build on the Innovative Medicine Initiative (IMI) Programme. The total budget proposed for IHI is €2.4 billion. The initiative intends to
- create EU-wide health research and innovation ecosystem
- foster the development of safe, effective, people-centred and cost-effective innovations
- drive cross-sectoral health innovation for a globally competitive European health industry
The ‘public’ partner in the partnership will be the European Union, represented by the European Commission. The IHI industry partners will be COCIR, EFPIA, EuropaBio, MedTech Europe and Vaccines Europe.
IHI will cover a variety of activities of the health innovation chain out of which, the most relevant for ESC members are:
- discovery of new molecules, mechanisms of action, processes, technologies;
- development and testing of these discoveries;
- pre-standardisation activities;
- contribution to regulatory science; pilots/proofs of feasibility including in-silico trials.
Calls under IHI will be published in 2022 at the earliest. Consult the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda that enshrines the priorities to which the calls will be aligned.
European Innovation Council
The European Innovation Council (EIC) promotes breakthrough innovation with scale-up potential at the global level. The EIC main funding schemes are dedicated to: (i) Pathfinder projects for advanced collaborative research to develop the scientific basis to underpin breakthrough technologies (TRL 1-4); (ii) Transition projects to validate technologies and develop business plans for specific applications (TRL 5-6); and (iii) Accelerator projects to support companies (SMEs, start-ups, spin-outs and in exceptional cases small mid-caps) to bring their innovations to market and scale up (TRL 6+).
The calls are either (i) open funding or (ii) strategic challenge-driven calls. The open funding calls are not theme-specific. Ideas can be proposed from any field of science/technology.
The strategic challenge-driven calls fund strategic priorities. In 2021, Pathfinder Challenges which are relevant to ESC members: artificial intelligence (AI), engineered living materials (ELM). A relevant EIC Transition Challenge is medical technology and devices - from lab to patient. A pertinent EIC Accelerator Challenge for instance is strategic digital and health technologies.
EIT Health establishes a knowledge-innovation community and ecosystem by connecting research – business and education for better healthcare delivery.
The most relevant programme for ESC members is the Education programme that strives to bridge the gap between academia and business. The main scope of the programme is upskilling of the workforce to enable them to use new technologies and provide practical knowledge. The open opportunities are listed on the EIT Health website.
Other opportunities with EIT Health: participate in the Think Tank Round Table discussions about the most recent and impactful topics in health innovation and raise your/your organisation’s profile.
EU4Health is the successor of the Health Programme but with a ten times bigger budget than its predecessors. It was brought to life as the EU’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It aims to (i) improve public health in the Union, (ii) protect people from serious cross-border health threats, (iii) improve access to medical products and devices and (iv) strengthen the resilience of national health systems. The budget for 2022 is €835M (more than double of the 2021 budget!) and €5.3 billion for the period 2021-2027.
Priorities of the 2022 work programme relevant for ESC members are:
- prevention: particular focus on prevention of non-communicable diseases such as CVD and related risks factors/health determinants.
- health systems and healthcare workforce: particular focus on (i) training for the health workforce, including digital skills (ii) strengthening the implementation of the legislation on blood, tissues and cells and organs (iii) implementation of regulations on medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices (iv) preparation and implementation of the health technology assessment (HTA) regulation.
- digital: particular focus on European health data space – infrastructure and governance; primary and secondary use of data
Digital Europe Programme
The Digital Europe Programme (DIGITAL) focuses on the wide deployment of digital technologies both for the public and the private sector. The Digital Europe Programme will provide strategic funding to projects in five key capacity areas: (i) supercomputing, (ii) artificial intelligence, (iii) cybersecurity, (iv) advanced digital skills, and (v) ensuring a wide use of digital technologies across the economy and society. The 2021-2022 work programme was published in November 2021. The budget for 2021-2022 is €1383 million.
Priorities interesting for the ESC members:
- data space on health
- testing and experimentation facility for health
- digital twins in healthcare
- uptake of digital solutions in health and care
The new Erasmus+ programme financing training and education witnessed a double increase of its budget to €26 billion for the whole period of 2021-2027 whose 30% will be earmarked for collaborative projects. Individuals and organisations can apply. The most relevant priority for ESC members is the digital pillar supporting the implementation of the Digital Education Action Plan. From the action types, the most pertinent for universities is the Key Action 2 (KA2) cooperation among organisations and institutions and within that the Cooperation Partnership between higher education which will allow amongst others the roll-out of the European Universities Initiative as well.
Proposals are submitted either to the National Agencies or to the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA).
European Structural and Investment Funds and REACT-EU
The formally known five funds bundled together under the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) have been simplified in the new programming period under five priorities out of which the following are interesting for the health and care sectors:
- Smart Europe (innovation, digitalisation, and support for SMEs);
- Green Europe (greening of the sector);
- Connected Europe (digital networks and digital transformation of health and care);
- Social Europe (social rights, quality employment, education, and social inclusion).
As a response to the coronavirus outbreak, a crisis repair initiative was launched under the name Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe (REACT-EU). It is a new instrument under the Next Generation EU amounting to € 50.6 billion. These funds are entirely new and they top up and strengthen the 2014-2020 cohesion allocations and increase the budget approved for 2021-2027 in the Multiannual Framework Programme.
One of the investment areas of REACT-EU is strengthening health and care systems in the Member States. The Member States prepare and present their recovery plans to the European Commission. Member States can channel these complementary funds in 2021-2022 through their European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) or the European Social Fund (ESF), or support the most vulnerable parts of the society, under the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD). Call for proposals are launched and managed in the Member States.
European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST)
COST is an intergovernmental programme funding interdisciplinary research networks between researchers and innovators in a wide range of topics. 38 countries finance the programme whose researchers are eligible to apply. Application is continuous, there are two cut-off dates per year when the submitted applications are evaluated.