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Horizon 2020 dawns with €7.8bn

The European Commission has published the first calls for proposals under Horizon 2020, promising funding of €7.8 billion in 2014.

Horizon 2020 will be worth €15bn in the first two years of the programme. The total budget for Horizon 2020 programme over 2014-20 is €70.2 billion in constant 2011 prices, which is equivalent to €77bn including inflation, plus €1.6bn for Euratom. The work programmes and calls for proposals for 2014 were published on 11 December.

Research commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said in a speech that this was the first time that the Commission had indicated its funding priorities over two years, and that this would offer researchers and businesses “more certainty than ever before on the direction of EU research policy”. She added that Europe "badly needed ideas" and said Horizon 2020 had been designed to “produce results, and we have slashed red tape to make it easier to participate”.

From the 2014 budget, €3bn is to be awarded through pillar one of the work programmes, for excellent science. This will see €800 million going into the Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowships for researcher exchange, and grants worth €1.7bn awarded through European Research Council grants, which are open to individual researchers at various career stages of any nationality.

However, ERC president Helga Nowotny said that competition would “remain fierce”, and encouraged researchers “to submit their proposal only if they feel ready to take up the challenge”.

In addition, the excellent science pillar will provide €200m to Future and Emerging Technologies and €277m for European research infrastructures.

The 2014 budget includes €1.8bn for the second pillar, industrial leadership in Europe. Most of this, around €700m, will be invested in ICT, while €500m will go to nanotechnologies, advanced manufacturing, robotics and biotechnology, and €128m will be reserved for space research.

Under the third pillar—the seven societal challenges—there will be grants worth €2.8bn. This will be for innovative projects addressing health; agriculture; maritime and bioeconomy; energy; transport; climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials; reflective societies; and security.

In addition to the three pillars, the 2014 budget provides €50m for spreading excellence and widening participation and €45m for science with and for society.

Furthermore, Geoghegan-Quinn stressed the importance of using Horizon 2020 funding to address cross-cutting issues, which include gender, climate action and the social sciences and humanities. 

The Commission has set out 12 strategic areas for specific focus in 2014, and calls in these areas will amount to 15 per cent of the total number of calls and €2bn funding across the entire Horizon 2020 work programme. The area receiving the lion’s share of funding, when assessed through these 12 areas, is personalised health and care, with €549m available for improved understanding of diseases, prevention strategies, data management and supporting healthy ageing.

Research and innovation for transport systems will have a budget of €375m in 2014, while competitive low-carbon energy technologies will have a €359m budget. Meanwhile, sustainable food security is to receive €138m, and innovative maritime research, referred to by the Commission as ‘blue growth’, will receive €100m.

Energy efficiency has been given a budget of €98m; smart cites and communities, €92m; research into waste, €73m; resilience to disasters, €72m; water innovation, €67m; and digital security, €47m. Finally, €35m will be invested in developing governance structures for Europe.