EU Launches Horizon 2020 Innovation Fund

The European Commission has presented calls for projects under Horizon 2020 – a €15 billion fund aimed at building Europe’s knowledge-driven economy and tackling issues that will make a difference to people’s lives.

A grand plan indeed.

Substantial support will be provided for innovation activities directly aiming at producing plans and arrangements or designs for new, altered or improved products, processes or services. There are three initial channels of funding for 2014:

Excellent Science

Around €3 billion, including €1.7 billion for grants from the European Research Council for top scientists and €800 million for Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowships for younger researchers.

Industrial Leadership

€1.8 billion to support Europe’s industrial leadership in areas like ICT, nanotechnologies, advanced manufacturing, robotics, biotechnologies and space. Examples of the rising importance of biotechnology are in industrial applications including biopharmaceuticals, food and feed production and bio-chemicals, of which the market share of the latter is estimated to increase by up to 12% – 20% of chemical production by 2015.

Societal Challenges

€2.8 billion for innovative projects addressing Horizon 2020’s seven societal challenges, broadly: health; agriculture, maritime and bioeconomy; energy; transport; climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials; reflective societies; and security. I imagine energy projects will be particularly welcome, with the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 still in play.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, introduces the program:

“The European Commission’s proposal for Horizon 2020 is part of the drive to create new growth and jobs in Europe. It’s an investment in research and innovation to support three major objectives: excellent science, competitive industries, and a better society. Horizon 2020 focuses more than ever on bringing great ideas to the market. It provides opportunities for business and it changes peoples lives for the better.”

“For the first time Horizon 2020 is bringing together all of the EU funding for research in innovation under one single program, and at the same time it’s drastically cutting the red tape so it’s attracting more top researchers and enterprises. I’ve said many times we have an innovation emergency in Europe and Horizon 2020 is our response to that emergency.”

Those words are all well and good, but will the money be spent in existing research environments, or will it be used to boost small businesses who are taking the biggest risks? I hope to see the latter, and Horizon 2020 promises at least €3 billion will be allocated to SMEs, particularly in the Societal Challenges fund, although the focus is very much on collaborative projects.

Read all about how to get funding from Horizon 2020.

Photo credit: Giampaolo Squarcina