Decoding Horizon Europe (HE)

Horizon Europe (HE) 45762-200 is the key EU programme for research and innovation, aiming to fulfil the EC’s vision, which is a sustainable, fair, and prosperous future for people and planet based on the European values 45762-200. HE is oriented to:
. Tackling climate change
. Helping to achieve Sustainable Development Goals
. Boosting the Union’s competitiveness and growth

HE encompasses different types of initiatives, some very specific. This text is about Innovation Actions (IA) and Research and Innovation Actions (RIA), which are mainly under Pillar II – Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness. However, some aspects can be applied to most applications.



The focus is on impact – what impact will the project have in the future? The “four key strategic orientations for greater impact” in HE are:

  • Key Strategic Orientation A: Promoting an open strategic autonomy by leading the development of key digital, enabling and emerging technologies, sectors and value chains to accelerate and steer the digital and green transitions through humancentred technologies and innovations.
  • Key Strategic Orientation B: Restoring Europe’s ecosystems and biodiversity, and managing sustainably natural resources to ensure food security and a clean and healthy environment.
  • Key Strategic Orientation C: Making Europe the first digitally enabled circular, climate-neutral and sustainable economy through the transformation of its mobility, energy, construction and production systems.
  • Key Strategic Orientation D: Creating a more resilient, inclusive and democratic European society, prepared and responsive to threats and disasters, addressing inequalities and providing high-quality health care, and empowering all citizens to act in the green and digital transitions.

When writing a proposal, one has to envisage impacts at
– short-term (RESULTS: one year after the project is finished),
– mid-term (OUTCOMES: three years),
– and long-term (IMPACTS: five years).

They should be quantitative and measurable as much as possible. However, whichever impacts are chosen, they have to respond to those stated at the Work Programme. Each Cluster (which can have one or more research areas) has its own Work Programme:
1. Health 45762-200
2. Culture, Creativity and Inclusive Society 45762-200
3. Civil Security for Society 45762-200
4. Digital, Industry and Space 45762-200
5. Climate, Energy and Mobility 45762-200
6. Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment 45762-200

In order to maximise impact, a Dissemination, Exploitation and Communication (D&E&C) plan has to be drawn. In the proposal, this can be just a general plan. If approved, a more detailed plan has to be submitted during the first 6 months of the project.

D for Dissemination: let stakeholders and peers KNOW ABOUT THE RESULTS of the project. Scientific conferences and business meetings are good examples.

E for Exploitation: let interested parties USE THE RESULTS of the project in different ways, such as in commerce, in policy recommendation, in education. Questions on licences, patents, IP (Intellectual Property) may arise.

C for Communication: let the general public KNOW ABOUT THE ACTIVITIES AND THE RESULTS of the project since its approval (information about the objectives, the application process, and the budget) and beyond its finalisation (what is happening with the results of the project?). Measures like setting a website and writing press releases may be in place.

In a nutshell, here is what the application needs to be based on:
– SPECIFIC NEEDS (the project is going to respond to what specific needs in society?)
– EXPECTED RESULTS (the project is expected to achieve what in the year after is finished?)
– D&E&C MEASURES (how the project is going to be known and its results used?)
– TARGET GROUPS (who is going to benefit from the project?)
– OUTCOMES (the project is expected to achieve what in three years after is finished?)
– IMPACTS (the project is expected to achieve what in five years after is finished?)



According to Merriam-Webster 45762-200, Excellence is «a quality that gives something special worth». Experts will assess the outstanding quality of the proposal. In other words: why this application should be funded? What is so special about it?

What innovation would it bring? According to Merriam-Webster 45762-200, Innovation «is a new idea, device, or method». If it is more of the same, it is not worth it. It should also be related to technology, if possible.

The project has to prove it respects the “do no significant harm” principle. What this means is that the project must not harm the environment (if it helps to improve the environment even better) according to six objectives:
– climate change mitigation
– sustainable use & protection of water & marine resources
– pollution prevention & control
– climate change adaptation
– transition to a circular economy
– protection and restoration of biodiversity & ecosystems

It has to consider the gender dimension. Firstly, the organisations involved must have Gender Equality Plans (GEPs). These are not just statements – they are public plans, with dedicated resources (people and budget), annual reports on progress and published data. More information available here 45762-200. Secondly, throughout the proposal, the project has to prove that gender discrimination is going to be prevented.

The project should ensure Open Science practices. According to OECD 45762-200, « Open science encompasses unhindered access to scientific articles, access to data from public research, and collaborative research enabled by ICT tools and incentives. Broadening access to scientific publications and data is at the heart of open science, so that research outputs are in the hands of as many as possible, and potential benefits are spread as widely as possible». Therefore, promoting Open Access publishing is advisable (fees will not be reimbursed if one is publishing in a subscribed journal). Furthermore, research data should be in line with the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) principles 45762-200 and a DMP (Data Management Plan) should be also in place.

It goes without saying that the project has to show an efficient work plan with realistic timeline and an accurate resource management. It should include GANTT and Pert charts, well-defined deliverables and milestones, a good risk analysis and corresponding mitigation measures. Partners should be complementary and work interdisciplinary.

More information:
Webinar: How to prepare a successful proposal in Horizon Europe 45762-200
Webinar: A successful proposal for Horizon Europe: Scientific-technical excellence is key, but don’t forget the other aspects 45762-200
Webinar session: Dissemination & Exploitation in Horizon Europe 45762-200