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Programme: Horizon Europe

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Programme
Horizon Europe
Acronym HORIZON
Type of Fund Direct Management
Description of programme
"Horizon Europe"

Horizon Europe is the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation with a budget of €95.5 billion running from 2021-2027.

It tackles climate change, helps to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and boosts the EU’s competitiveness and growth.

The programme facilitates collaboration and strengthens the impact of research and innovation in developing, supporting and implementing EU policies while tackling global challenges. It supports creating and better dispersing of excellent knowledge and technologies.

It creates jobs, fully engages the EU’s talent pool, boosts economic growth, promotes industrial competitiveness and optimises investment impact within a strengthened European Research Area.

The EU institutions reached a political agreement on Horizon Europe on 11 December 2020. The first Horizon Europe Strategic Plan (2021-2024) which sets out key strategic orientations for the support of research and innovation, was adopted on 15 March 2021.

Pillar I - Excellent Science

European Research Council

Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions

Research Infrastructures

Pillar II - Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness

Clusters

Non-nuclear direct actions of the Joint Research Centre

Pillar III - Innovative Europe

European Innovation Council

European Innovation Ecosystems

European Institute of Innovation and Technology

Widening participation and strengthening the European Research Area
Widening participation and spreading excellenceReforming and enhancing the European Research and Innovation system

 

The work programme for the European Research Council (ERC) was adopted on 22 February 2021. The work programme for the European Innovation Council (EIC) was adopted on 17 March and the EIC was formally launched on 18 March.

On June 16, 2021, the European Commission adopted the 2021-2022 work program for the Horizon Europe research and innovation funding program. It sets out the objectives and thematic areas for which a total of 14.7 billion will be allocated. These investments will in particular accelerate the environmental and digital transformation, contribute to a sustainable recovery of Corona and increase the EU's resilience to crises.


Strategic planning and the first strategic plan (2021-2024)

The strategic planning process focuses in particular on Pillar II of Horizon Europe, "Global challenges and European industrial competitiveness" and also covers relevant activities in other pillars and the Widening Participation and Strengthening the European Research Area part.

The result of this strategic planning is set out in a multiannual strategic plan, for preparing the content of the work programmes covering a maximum period of four years.

The strategic plan contains

  • key strategic orientations for research and innovation support and their targeted impact
  • identification of European co-funded and co-programmed partnerships
  • identification of EU missions
  • areas of international cooperation
  • orientations on specific issues like social sciences and humanities, gender, and the role of key enabling technologies

Missions in Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe will incorporate research and innovation missions to increase the effectiveness of funding by pursuing clearly defined targets. The Commission has engaged policy experts to develop studies, case studies and reports on how a mission-oriented policy approach will work.

Mission areas

Five mission areas have been identified, each with a dedicated mission board and assembly. The board and assembly help specify, design and implement the specific missions which will launch under Horizon Europe in 2021.


European Partnerships in Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe will support European Partnerships in which the EU, national authorities and/or the private sector jointly commit to support the development and implementation of a programme of research and innovation activities. The goal of European Partnerships is to contribute to the achievement of EU priorities, address complex challenges outlined in Horizon Europe and strengthen the European Research Area (ERA). The partnerships will aim, for example, to upgrade the preparedness and response to infectious diseases, develop efficient low-carbon aircraft for clean aviation, or improve animal health. The Horizon Europe proposal lays down the conditions and principles for establishing European Partnerships.

Link Link to Programme
Thematic Focus Children & Youth, Education & Training, Employment & Labour Market, Clustering, Development Cooperation, Economic Cooperation, Demographic Change, Migration, Digitisation, ICT, Telecommunication, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Research & Innovation, Technology Transfer & Exchange, Health, Social Affairs, Sports, Equal Rights, Human Rights, People with Disabilities, Social Inclusion, Green Technologies & Green Deal, Community Integration, European Citizenship, Shared Services, Justice, Safety & Security, Capacity Building, Cooperation Networks, Institutional Cooperation, Disaster Prevention, Resiliance, Risk Management, Climate, Climate Change, Environment & Biodiversity, Circular Economy, Sustainability, Natural Resources, Art & Culture, Cultural Heritage, History, Media, Agriculture & Forestry, Fishery, Food, Rural & Peripheral Development, Mobility & Transport/Traffic , Regional Development & Regional Planning, Urban development, Tourism, Consumer Protection, Administration & Governance, Competitiveness, SME
EU Macro-Regions
Adriatic and Ionian Region, Alpine Region, Baltic Sea Region, Danube Region
Funding area EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Origin of Applicant EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Project Partner Yes
Project Partner Details

Unless otherwise provided for in the specific call conditions , legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes:

  • at least one independent legal entity established in a Member State;and
  • at least two other independent legal entities, each established in different Member States or Associated Countries.

The JRC, international European research organisations and legal entities created under EU law are deemed to be established in a Member State other than those in which the other legal entities participating in the action are established. Applications for ‘Training and mobility’actions and for ‘Programme co-fund’ actions may be submitted by one or more legal entities, provided that one of those legal entities is established in a Member State or an Associated Country. Applications for ‘Coordination and support’ actions may be submitted by one or more legal entities, which may be established in a Member State, Associated Country or, in exceptional cases and if provided for in the specific call conditions, in another third country. Applications for ‘Pre-commercial procurement’ actions and ‘Public procurement of innovative solutions’ actions must include as beneficiaries a ‘buyers’ group’. This group must consist of a minimum of two independent legal entities that are public procurers, each established in a different Member State or Associated Country and with at least one of them established in a Member State.

Eligible applicants Education and Training Centres, Federal State / Region / City / Municipality / Local Authority, Research Institution, Lobby Group / Professional Association / Trade Union, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, SMEs (between 10 and 249 employees), International Organization, Microenterprises (fewer than 10 employees), NGO / NPO, Public Services, Other, National Government, Start Up Company, University, Enterprise (more than 250 employees or not defined), Association
Applicant details

eligible non-EU countries:

  • countries associated to Horizon Europe
At the date of the publication of the work programme, there are no countries associated to Horizon Europe. Considering the Union’s interest to retain, in principle, relations with the countries associated to Horizon 2020, most third countries associated to Horizon 2020 are expected to be associated to Horizon Europe with an intention to secure uninterrupted continuity between Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe. In addition, other third countries can also become associated to Horizon Europe during the programme. For the purposes of the eligibility conditions, applicants established in Horizon 2020 Associated Countries or in other third countries negotiating association to Horizon Europe will be treated as entities established in an Associated Country, if the Horizon Europe association agreement with the third country concerned applies at the time of signature of the grant agreement.

  • low-and middle-income countries

Legal entities which are established in countries not listed above will be eligible for funding if provided for in the specific call conditions, or if their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority.

Specific cases:

  • Affiliated entities - Affiliated entities are eligible for funding if they are established in one of the countries listed above.
  • EU bodies - Legal entities created under EU law may also be eligible to receive funding, unless their basic act states otherwise.
  • International organisations - International European research organisations are eligible to receive funding. Unless their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority, other international organisations are not eligible to receive funding. International organisations with headquarters in a Member State or Associated Country are eligible to receive funding for ‘Training and mobility’actions and when provided for in the specific call conditions.
Type of Funding Grants

Subprogrammes of Horizon Europe

European Research Council - Work Programme 2021

The fundamental activity of the ERC is to provide attractive, long-term funding to support excellent investigators and their research teams to pursue groundbreaking, high-gain/high-risk research.
The ERC puts particular emphasis on the frontiers of science, scholarship and engineering. In particular, it encourages proposals of a multi- or interdisciplinary nature which cross the boundaries between different fields of research, pioneering proposals addressing new and emerging fields of research or proposals introducing unconventional, innovative approaches and scientific inventions.

Horizon Europe - Cluster 5 - Destination 1: Climate sciences and responses for the transformation towards climate neutrality

Europe has been at the forefront of climate science and should retain its leadership position to support EU policies as well as international efforts for a global uptake of climate action in line with the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including biodiversity objectives. Advancing climate science and further broadening and deepening the knowledge base is essential to inform the societal transition towards a climate neutral and climate resilient society by 2050, as well as towards a more ambitious greenhouse gas reduction target by 2030. It will involve research that furthers our understanding of past, present and expected future changes in climate and its implications on ecosystems and society, closing knowledge gaps, and develops the tools that support policy coherence and the implementation of effective mitigation and adaptation solutions. Due to the inherent international character of this subject, international collaboration is encouraged for topics under this destination.

The activities implemented under this section will enable the transition to a climate-neutral and resilient society and economy through improving the knowledge of the Earth system and the ability to predict and project its changes under different natural and socio-economic drivers, including a better understanding of society’s response and behavioural changes, and allowing a better estimation of the impacts of climate change and the design and evaluation of solutions and pathways for climate change mitigation and adaptation and related social transformation.

This Destination contributes directly to the Strategic Plan’s 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” and the impact area “Climate change mitigation and adaptation”.

In line with the Strategic Plan, the overall expected impact of this Destination is to contribute to the “Transition to a climate-neutral and resilient society and economy enabled through advanced climate science, pathways and responses to climate change (mitigation and adaptation) and behavioural transformations”, notably through:

  1. Advancing knowledge and providing solutions in the any of following areas: Earth system science; pathways to climate neutrality; climate change adaptation including climate services; social science for climate action; and better understanding of climate-ecosystems interactions.
  2. Contributing substantially to key international assessments such as those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) or the European Environment Agency (e.g. European environment state and outlook reports, SOER).
  3. Strengthening the European Research Area on climate change.
  4. Increasing the transparency, robustness, trustworthiness and practical usability of the knowledge base on climate change for use by policy makers, practitioners, other stakeholders and citizens.

Coordination and synergies between activities supported under Destination 1, as well as in other Destinations and Clusters, and in particular complementarities with Cluster 4 and Cluster 6 should be taken into account by planning for adequate resources for co-ordination and clustering activities. Following a systemic approach, Destination 1 concentrates on activities related to climate science and modelling, whereas Cluster 6 supports R&I in the areas covered by Cluster 6, notably on the implementation of climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions.


Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 5 - Destination 3: Sustainable, secure and competitive energy supply

This Destination includes activities targeting a sustainable, secure and competitive energy supply. In line with the scope of cluster 5, this includes activities in the areas of renewable energy; energy system, grids and storage; as well as Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS).

The transition of the energy system will rely on reducing the overall energy demand and making the energy supply side climate neutral. R&I actions will help to make the energy supply side cleaner, more secure, and competitive by boosting cost performance and reliability of a broad portfolio of renewable energy solutions, in line with societal needs and preferences. Furthermore, R&I activities will underpin the modernisation of the energy networks to support energy system integration, including the progressive electrification of demand side sectors (buildings, mobility, industry) and integration of other climate neutral, renewable energy carriers, such as clean hydrogen. Innovative energy storage solutions (including chemical, mechanical, electrical and thermal storage) are a key element of such energy system and R&I actions will advance their technological readiness for industrial-scale and domestic applications. Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) is a CO2 emission abatement option that holds great potential and R&I actions will accelerate the development of CCUS in electricity generation and industry applications.

This Destination contributes to the following Strategic Plan’s Key Strategic Orientations (KSO):

  • C: Making Europe the first digitally enabled circular, climate-neutral and sustainable economy through the transformation of its mobility, energy, construction and production systems;
  • A: Promoting an open strategic autonomy[[‘Open strategic autonomy’ refers to the term ‘strategic autonomy while preserving an open economy’, as reflected in the conclusions of the European Council 1 – 2 October 2020.]] 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 human-centred technologies and innovations;

It covers the following impact areas:

  • Industrial leadership in key and emerging technologies that work for people;
  • Affordable and clean energy.

The expected impact, in line with the Strategic Plan, is to contribute to “More efficient, clean, sustainable, secure and competitive energy supply through new solutions for smart grids and energy systems based on more performant renewable energy solutions”, notably through

  1. Fostering European global leadership in affordable, secure and sustainable renewable energy technologies and services by improving their competitiveness in global value chains and their position in growth markets, notably through the diversification of the renewable services and technology portfolio (more detailed information below).
  2. Ensuring cost-effective uninterrupted and affordable supply of energy to households and industries in a scenario of high penetration of variable renewables and other new low carbon energy supply. This includes more efficient approaches to managing smart and cyber-secure energy grids and optimisation the interaction between producers, consumers, networks, infrastructures and vectors (more detailed information below).
  3. Accelerating the development of Carbon Capture, Use and Storage (CCUS) as a CO2 emission mitigation option in electricity generation and industry applications (including also conversion of CO2 to products) (more detailed information below).

Fostering the European global leadership in affordable, secure and sustainable renewable energy technologies

Renewable energy technologies provide major opportunities to replace or substitute carbon from fossil origin in the power sector and in other economic sectors such as heating/cooling, transportation, agriculture and industry. Their large scale and decentralised deployment is expected to create more jobs than the fossil fuel equivalent. Renewable energy technologies are the baseline on which to build a sustainable European and global climate-neutral future. A strong global European leadership in renewable energy technologies, coupled with circularity and sustainability, will pave the way to increase energy security and reliability.

It is imperative to enhance affordability, security, sustainability and efficiency for more established renewable energy technologies (such as wind energy, photovoltaics or bioenergy), and to further diversify the technology portfolio. Furthermore, advanced renewable fuels, including synthetic and sustainable advanced biofuels, are also needed to provide long-term carbon-neutral solutions for the transport and energy-intensive industrial sectors, in particular for applications where direct electrification is not a technically and cost efficient option.

Synergies with activities in cluster 4 are possible for integrating renewable energy technologies and solutions in energy consuming industries. Complementarities with cluster 6 concern mainly biomass-related activities.

In line with the “do not harm” principle for the environment, actions for all renewable energy technologies aim to also improve the environmental sustainability of the technologies, delivering products with reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved environmental performance regarding water use, circularity, pollution and ecosystems. In particular, for biofuels and bioenergy improving the environmental sustainability is associated to the biomass conversion part of the value chain and the quality of the product, while air pollution associated to combustion in engines falls in the scope of other parts of the WP.

The main impacts to be generated by topics targeting the renewable energy technologies and solutions under this Destination are:

  1. Availability of disruptive renewable energy and renewable fuel technologies and systems in 2050 in order to accelerate the replacement of fossil-based energy technologies.
  2. Reduced cost and improved efficiency of renewable energy and renewable fuel technologies and their value chains.
  3. De-risking of renewable energy and fuel technologies with a view to their commercial exploitation and net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
  4. Better integration of renewable energy and renewable fuel-based solutions in energy consuming sectors.
  5. Reinforced European scientific basis and European export potential for renewable energy technologies through international collaboration (notably with Africa in renewable energy technologies and renewable fuels and enhanced collaboration with Mission Innovation countries).
  6. Enhanced sustainability of renewable energy and renewable fuels value chains, taking fully into account social, economic and environmental aspects in line with the European Green Deal priorities.
  7. More effective market uptake of renewable energy and fuel technologies.

Energy systems, grids and storage

Efficient and effective network management is the key to the integration of renewables in an efficient way that ensures cost-effectiveness and affordability, security of supply and grid stability. Real time monitoring and optimisation are necessary to increase the flexibility, through solutions such as storage, demand response or flexible generation among others, to integrate higher shares of variable renewable energy. Exploiting synergies between electricity, heating and cooling networks, gas networks, transport infrastructure and digital infrastructure will be crucial for enabling the smart, integrated, flexible, green and sustainable operation of the relevant infrastructures. Besides hydrogen and batteries (addressed elsewhere), R&I in other storage technologies, in particular thermal storage but also electrochemical, chemical, mechanical and electrical storage solutions is necessary to create a set of flexibility options.

Activities on energy systems, grids and storage under this Destination will primarily focus on the systemic aspects to enhance the flexibility and resilience of the system, in particular: integrated energy system planning and operation, engaging consumers and providing new services, electricity system reliability and resilience, storage development and integration and green digitalisation of the energy system.

Moreover, the role of citizens and communities is key when it comes to making the flexibility at appliance level available for the grid. Related to this, the inclusion of social sciences and humanities (SSH) where relevant is essential to build the social acceptance of new energy technologies and increase participation of consumers in energy markets.

All projects will contribute to an increased capacity of the system to integrate renewable energy sources and less curtailment at transmission and distribution level. The main expected impacts are:

  1. Increased resilience of the energy system based on improved and/or new technologies to control the system and maintain system stability under difficult circumstances.
  2. Increased flexibility and resilience of the energy system, based on technologies and tools to plan and operate different networks for different energy carriers simultaneously in a coordinated manner that will also contribute to climate neutrality of hard-to-electrify sectors.
  3. Enhance consumer satisfaction and increased system flexibility thanks to enabling consumers to benefit from data-driven energy services and facilitating their investment and engagement in the energy transition, through self-consumption, demand response or joint investments in renewables (either individually or through energy communities or micro-grids).
  4. Improved energy storage technologies, in particular heat storage but also others such as electrochemical, chemical, mechanical and electrical.
  5. Foster the European market for new energy services and business models as well as tested standardised and open interfaces of energy devices through a higher degree of interoperability, increased data availability and easier data exchange among energy companies as well as companies using energy system data.
  6. More effective and efficient solutions for transporting off-shore energy thanks to new electricity transmission technologies, in particular using superconducting technologies, power electronics and hybrid Alternate Current – Direct Current grid solutions as well as MT HVDC (Multi Terminal High Voltage Direct Current) solutions.

Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS)

CCUS will play a crucial role in the EU Green Deal for the transition of energy-intensive industries and the power sector towards climate neutrality. Supporting R&I for CCUS will be particularly important in those industries where other alternatives do not yet exist like the cement industry. This will be highly relevant towards 2050, when most electricity will be coming from renewables, but the need to tackle the process emissions from industry will continue. If CCUS is combined with sustainable biomass, it could create negative emissions.

Low carbon hydrogen from natural gas with CCUS could also play a significant role in industrial climate neutrality, in the transition towards full use of hydrogen from renewable sources, in particular in industries such as steel making, chemicals, or refining where large quantities of hydrogen are needed. CCUS would enable early, clean hydrogen at scale. The hydrogen infrastructure built for clean hydrogen with CCUS could be also shared by hydrogen from renewable sources. It is thus important to develop CCUS for industrial clusters, including aspects of system planning, shared infrastructure solutions such as buffer storage, shared CO2 and hydrogen transportation and infrastructure optimisation for CCS and CCU.

Demonstration of the full CCUS chain is needed in the EU, with special emphasis on the reduction of the energy penalty and cost of capture and on ascertaining safe storage. Under the EU Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan) ambitious R&I targets have been set in agreement with the sectorial stakeholders. The focus is on CO2 storage appraisal, cost-reductions, new technologies and proliferation of pilots and demonstrators.

Synergies with cluster 4 exist on the use of CO2.

The main impacts to be generated by topics targeting the renewable energy technologies and solutions under this Destination are:

  1. Accelerated rollout of infrastructure for CCUS hubs and clusters.
  2. Updated authoritative body of knowledge on connecting industrial CO2 sources with potential ‘bankable storage sites, providing greater confidence for decision makers and investors.
  3. Proven feasibility of integrating CO2 capture, CO2 storage and CO2 use in industrial facilities. Demonstrating these technologies at industrial scale shall pave the way for subsequent first-of-a-kind industrial projects.
  4. Reduced cost of the CCUS value chain, with CO2 capture being still the most relevant stumbling block for a wider application of CCUS.
  5. Adequate frameworks for Measurement, Monitoring and Verification (MMV) for storage projects, to document safe storage and for public acceptance of the technology.

Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 5 - Destination 5: Clean and competitive solutions for all transport modes

This Destination addresses activities that improve the climate and environmental footprint, as well as competitiveness, of different transport modes.

The transport sector is responsible for 23% of CO2 emissions and remains dependent on oil for 92% of its energy demand. While there has been significant technological progress over past decades, projected GHG emissions are not in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement due to the expected increase in transport demand. Intensified research and innovation activities are therefore needed, across all transport modes and in line with societal needs and preferences, in order for the EU to reach its policy goals towards a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and to reduce significantly air pollutants.

The areas of rail and air traffic management will be addressed through dedicated Institutional European Partnerships and are therefore not included in this document.

This Destination contributes to the following Strategic Plan’s Key Strategic Orientations (KSO):

  • C: Making Europe the first digitally enabled circular, climate-neutral and sustainable economy through the transformation of its mobility, energy, construction and production systems;
  • A: Promoting an open strategic autonomy[[‘Open strategic autonomy’ refers to the term ‘strategic autonomy while preserving an open economy’, as reflected in the conclusions of the European Council 1 – 2 October 2020.]] 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 human-centred technologies and innovations.

It covers the following impact areas:

  • Industrial leadership in key and emerging technologies that work for people;
  • Smart and sustainable transport.

The expected impact, in line with the Strategic Plan, is to contribute “Towards climate-neutral and environmental friendly mobility through clean solutions across all transport modes while increasing global competitiveness of the EU transport sector", notably through:

  1. Transforming road transport to zero-emission mobility through a world-class European research and innovation and industrial system, ensuring that Europe remains world leader in innovation, production and services in relation to road transport (more detailed information below).
  2. Accelerating the reduction of all aviation impacts and emissions (CO2 and non-CO2, including manufacturing and end-of-life, noise), developing aircraft technologies for deep reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and maintaining European aero-industry’s global leadership position (more detailed information below).
  3. Accelerate the development and prepare the deployment of climate neutral and clean solutions in the shipping sector, reduce its environmental impact (on biodiversity, noise, pollution and waste management), improve its system efficiency, leverage digital and EU satellite-navigation solutions and contribute to the competitiveness of the European waterborne sector (more detailed information below).
  4. Devising more effective ways for reducing emissions and their impacts through improved scientific knowledge (more detailed information below).

Zero-emission road transport

With the aim of accelerating the development and deployment of zero tailpipe emission road transport with a system approach in Europe, the European Partnership “Towards zero emission road transport” (2Zero) will work towards a common vision and delivering a multi-stakeholders roadmap for a climate neutral and clean road transport system that improves mobility and safety of people and goods and ensures future European leadership in innovation, production and services.

The transformation towards zero tailpipe emission road mobility will deliver tangible benefits including, at the local scale, pollutant emission reductions, cleaner air (including unregulated pollutants, nanoparticles and secondary pollutants), reduced noise, increased accessibility and more liveable urban plus peri-urban spaces. Major benefits for citizens’ health and quality of life will be generated, and European economic growth will be supported, hence a solid base for new business opportunities will be created. Within 2Zero, priority will be given to the development of drivetrains for zero emission heavy-duty long-haul vehicles, where progress is lagging behind other sectors of road transport.

Several levels of interactions are foreseen with other European initiatives, in particular with the Industrial Battery Value Chain (Batteries) and the Cooperative Connected and Automated Mobility (CCAM) co-programmed partnerships, as well as Clean Hydrogen Europe (CHE) and the Mission on Climate Neutral and Smart Cities.

The main impacts to be generated by topics targeting zero emission road transport under this Destination are:

  1. Accelerated uptake of zero tailpipe emission, affordable, user-centric solutions (technologies and services) for road-based mobility all across Europe.
  2. Increased user acceptance, improved air quality, a more circular economy and reduction of environmental impacts.
  3. Affordable, user-friendly charging infrastructure concepts and technologies that include vehicle-grid-interactions.
  4. Innovative use cases for the integration of zero tailpipe emission vehicles, and infrastructure concepts for the road mobility of people and goods.
  5. Effective design, assessment and deployment of innovative concepts in road vehicles and mobility services thanks to life-cycle analysis tools and skills, in a circular economy context.

Aviation

Aviation, the climate and the economy are all inherently global and interlinked. Aviation’s global economic impact, before COVID-19, was more than €2.4 trillion per year, while the European one was more than EUR 700 billion per year. However, the environmental impact, although in absolute terms small, it is projected to increase towards 2050 to a level that is not compatible with the Paris Agreement, if action is not taken now.

The proposed European aviation R&I in Horizon Europe will follow a policy-driven approach along the two main priorities (i.e. climate neutrality by 2050 and digital transformation) and implemented in three streams of activities:

  1. Collaborative aviation R&I under this Destination of the cluster 5 work programme focuses on transformative low-TRL (1-4) technologies, notably precompetitive fundamental aviation research and technologies for future development, validation and integration activities, in line with climate neutrality by 2050 and the new Industrial Strategy for Europe.
  2. The European Partnership Clean Aviation (EPCA) focuses on three clearly identified paths, as described in Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA). It aims at accelerating the development, integration and validation of climate-neutral aviation technologies (TRL 4-6), for earliest possible deployment.
  3. The European Partnership for Integrated Air Traffic Management (IATM) focuses on solutions that will support evolving demand for using the European sky, increased expectations on the quality of ATM and U-space service provision, transforming and optimising how ATM and U-space services are provided as well as accelerating market uptake. The focus of the IATM (IATM) is on digitisation, automation and Artificial Intelligence.

While these three work streams will work in complementarity, all propulsion technologies for integration at engine level will be developed exclusively in EPCA.

The main impacts to be generated by topics targeting aviation under this Destination are:

  • Disruptive gains by 2035, with up to 30% reduction in fuel burn and CO2 between the existing aircraft in service and the next generation, compared to 12-15% in previous replacement cycles (when not explicitly defined, baselines refer to the best available aircraft of the same category with entry into service prior to year 2020).
  • Disruptive technologies entering into service by 2035 as well as 2050, based on new energy carriers, hybrid-electric architectures, next generation of ultra-high efficient engines and new aircraft configurations.
  • New technologies for significantly lower local air-pollution and noise.
  • Increased understanding of aviation’s non-CO2 climate impacts, enabling R&I activities to more effectively contribute to the EU’s climate targets.
  • Maintain global competitiveness and leadership of the European aeronautics industry and the whole aviation ecosystem, including modernization of Air-Traffic Management by leveraging space-based services.
  • Protect the passenger and increase the resilience of the aviation ecosystem to external shocks (e.g. health issues, manufacturing, operations, cybersecurity).
  • Deliver an EU policy-driven planning and assessment framework/toolbox towards a coherent R&I prioritization and timely development of technologies in all three pillars of Horizon Europe.

Enabling climate neutral, clean, smart, and competitive waterborne transport

The European Green Deal refers to the need to achieve clean, climate neutral shipping and waterborne operations and to the importance of research and innovation in this respect. Waterborne transport, in particular where large sea-going vessels are used, remains an important emitter of GHG and the sector needs to step up its efforts on a significant scale and through a wide range of measures. Within the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) global agreement was reached in 2018 to cut total shipping GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 (baseline). The EU considers this too timid and is committed to a much higher level of ambition. By the same date the Union aims to cut all transport emissions by at least 90%.

Even though the share of Inland Waterway Transport with regard to global GHG emissions is of minor importance the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine (CCNR) and its Member States take various steps to reduce the GHG emissions of the fleet. In 2018 the Mannheim Declaration was adopted which incorporates the EU GHG reducing targets for inland navigation and these efforts are supported through this work programme.

To provide the innovations needed to achieve the targets and show global leadership (also in pushing far more ambitious global regulatory standards) a new co-programmed European Partnership “Zero Emission Waterborne Transport” (ZEWT) will mobilise resources and leverage private and public investments towards the central objective of demonstrating by 2030 the deployable solutions needed for all main types of waterborne transport to become “net zero emission” by 2050 at the latest. Most topics on waterborne transport will contribute to the implementation of this partnership. Projects under ZEWT partnership topics are expected to provide up to two presentations on progress made to the ZEWT partnership members, also with the aim to support the monitoring of the ZEWT partnership performance as well the necessary underlying development to make these achievements possible within the time frame of the partnership.

Furthermore, in the context of the EU’s digital strategy “A Europe Fit for the Digital Age” the waterborne transport sector will have to embrace a wide-ranging digitalisation, resulting in new business patterns, smart ports, automation of shipping and cargo handling (which will provide higher efficiency and significantly safer operations), autonomous vessels, and new design and decision tools.

Topics on waterborne transport under this Destination of the cluster 5 work programme address climate neutrality and protection of the marine environment, digitalisation, and industrial competitiveness with the aim to support all pertinent EU policy objectives, also with regard to synergies with related programmes like the Connecting Europe Facility and the EU Innovation Fund.

The main impacts to be generated by topics targeting waterborne transport under this Destination are:

  1. Increased and early deployment of climate neutral fuels and significant electrification of shipping, in particular and foremost in intra-European transport connections.
  2. Increased overall energy efficiency and drastically lower fuel consumption of vessels (important in light of more expensive alternative fuels for which the sector will have to compete with other transport modes).
  3. Enable the innovative port infrastructure (bunkering of alternative fuels and provision of electrical power) needed to achieve zero-emission waterborne transport (inland and maritime).
  4. Enable clean, climate-neutral, and climate-resilient inland waterway vessels before 2030 helping a significant market take-up and a comprehensive green fleet renewal which will also help modal shift.
  5. Strong technological and operational momentum towards achieving climate neutrality and the elimination of all harmful pollution to air and water.
  6. Achieve the smart, efficient, secure and safe integration of maritime and inland shipping into logistic chains, facilitated by full digitalisation and automation.
  7. Enable fully automated shipping (maritime and inland) and efficient connectivity.
  8. Competitive waterborne industries, including the globally active European maritime technology sector, providing the advanced green and digital technologies which will support jobs and growth in Europe.

Impact of transport on environment and human health

Transport emissions are one of the main contributors to air quality problems, particularly in urban areas. At the same time, noise also negatively affects health. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified traffic noise, including road, rail and air traffic, as the second most important cause of ill health in Western Europe, behind only air pollution caused by very fine particulate matter. Transport noise, particularly from road traffic, but also from rail and aviation, is a major contributor to noise pollution in urban areas. While type-approval noise limits for road vehicles, including their tyres, have been tightened over the years, the overall exposure to noise generated by road vehicles has not improved mainly due to increasing traffic volumes. L category vehicles are often perceived as a significant contributors to noise pollution and this might be due to the fact that noise emissions seem to be strictly optimised for specific conditions (but also due to tampering by their users, which in some cases is made too easy by the way the vehicles are built).

Electrification promises to address most of these issues, but as some transport modes are more difficult to electrify in the near future, there is need for research and innovation activities to develop appropriate and environmentally sustainable solutions. Furthermore, possible new pollutants and related health- challenges need to be monitored and investigated, and ways to deal with emissions by the existing fleet need to be studied and demonstrated.

The main impacts to be generated by topics targeting transport-related health and environmental issues under this Destination are:

  1. The reduction of road vehicle polluting emissions (looking at both regulated, unregulated and emerging ones) from both existing and future automotive fleets; prevention of smog episodes in Europe and a better understanding of the impact of air and noise pollution on human health (including potential sex and gender differences) .
  2. The better monitoring of the environmental performance and enforcement of regulation (detection of defeat devices, tampered anti-pollution systems, etc.) of fleets of transport vehicles, be it on road, airports and ports.
  3. The reduction of noise emitted by L category road vehicles.
  4. Substantially reduce the overall environmental impact of transport (e.g.: as regards biodiversity, noise, pollution and waste)

Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 5 - Destination 6: Safe, Resilient Transport and Smart Mobility services for passengers and goods

This Destination includes activities addressing safe and smart mobility services for passengers and goods.

Europe needs to manage the transformation of supply-based transport into safe, resilient and sustainable transport and demand-driven, smart mobility services for passengers and goods. Suitable research and innovation will enable significant safety, environmental, economic and social benefits by reducing accidents caused by human error, decreasing traffic congestion, reducing energy consumption and emissions of vehicles, increasing efficiency and productivity of freight transport operations. To succeed in this transformation, Europe’s ageing (and not always sustainable) transport infrastructure needs to be prepared for enabling cleaner and smarter operations.

Europe needs also to maintain a high-level of transport safety for its citizens. Resilience should be built in the transport systems to prevent, mitigate and recover from disruptions. Research and innovation will underpin the three safety pillars: technologies, regulations and human factors.

This Destination contributes to the following Strategic Plan’s Key Strategic Orientations (KSO):

  • C: Making Europe the first digitally enabled circular, climate-neutral and sustainable economy through the transformation of its mobility, energy, construction and production systems;
  • A: Promoting an open strategic autonomy[[‘Open strategic autonomy’ refers to the term ‘strategic autonomy while preserving an open economy’, as reflected in the conclusions of the European Council 1 – 2 October 2020.]] 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 human-centred technologies and innovations.

It covers the following impact areas:

  • Industrial leadership in key and emerging technologies that work for people;
  • Smart and sustainable transport.

The expected impact, in line with the Strategic Plan, is to contribute to “Safe, seamless, smart, inclusive, resilient and sustainable mobility systems for people and goods thanks to user-centric technologies and services including digital technologies and advanced satellite navigation services”, notably through:

  1. Accelerating the implementation of innovative connected, cooperative and automated mobility (CCAM) technologies and systems for passengers and goods (more detailed information below).
  2. Further developing a multimodal transport system through sustainable and smart long-haul and urban freight transport and logistics, upgraded and resilient physical and digital infrastructures for smarter vehicles and operations, for optimised system-wide network efficiency (more detailed information below).
  3. Drastically decreasing the number of transport accidents, incidents and fatalities towards the EU’s long-term goal of moving close to zero fatalities and serious injuries by 2050 even in road transportation (Vision Zero) and increase the resilience of transport systems (more detailed information below).

Connected, Cooperative and Automated Mobility (CCAM)

The aim of relevant topics under this Destination is to accelerate the implementation of innovative connected, cooperative and automated mobility (CCAM) technologies and systems. Actions will help to develop new mobility concepts for passengers and goods – enabled by CCAM - leading to healthier, safer, more accessible, sustainable, cost-effective and demand-responsive transport everywhere. CCAM solutions will shift design and development from a driver-centred to mobility-user oriented approach, providing viable alternatives for private vehicle ownership while increasing inclusiveness of mobility. CCAM must be integrated in the whole transport system to fully exploit the potential benefits of CCAM and minimise potential adverse effects, such as increasingly congested traffic or new risks in mixed traffic environments.

The focus is on road transport, but relevant interfaces with other modes (for instance transfers and integration with public transport or rail freight transport) will be considered.

All technologies, solutions, testing and demonstration activities resulting from these actions should be documented fully and transparently, to ensure replicability, increase adoption, up-scaling, assist future planning decisions and EU and national policy-making and increase citizen buy-in.

Actions are in line with the recommendations of the new European Partnership on CCAM. The Vision of the Partnership is: “European leadership in safe and sustainable road transport through automation”. It aims to harmonise European R&I efforts to accelerate the implementation of innovative CCAM technologies and services. It aims to exploit the full systemic benefits of new mobility solutions enabled by CCAM. The European Partnership on CCAM plans to closely cooperate with other European Partnerships, in particular with “Towards zero emission road transport” (2ZERO), “Driving Urban Transitions” (DUT), “Key digital technologies” (KDT), “Smart networks and services” (SNS) and “AI, data and robotics” (AI). The European Partnership will establish cooperation mechanisms to ensure close interaction when defining R&I actions to maximise synergies and avoid overlaps.

R&I actions taking place at a socio-technical level aiming to better understand the science-society relationship (particularly when social practices, market uptake or ownership are concerned) should favour solutions that are grounded in social innovation in order to achieve its desired outcomes, i.e. by matching innovative ideas with social needs and by forming new collaborations between public and private actors, including civil society and researchers from the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH).

To test CCAM solutions, applicants can seek possibilities of involving the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in order to valorise the relevant expertise and physical facilities of JRC in demonstrating and testing energy and mobility applications of the JRC Living Lab for Future Urban Ecosystems https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/research-facility/living-labs-at-the-jrc

The main impacts to be generated by topics targeting connected, cooperative and automated mobility under this Destination are:

  • Validated safety and security, improved robustness and resilience of CCAM technologies and systems.
  • Secure and trustworthy interaction between road users, CCAM and “conventional” vehicles, infrastructure and services to achieve safer and more efficient transport flows (people and goods) and better use of infrastructure capacity.
  • Seamless, affordable and user oriented CCAM based mobility and goods deliveries for all and high public acceptance of these services with clear understanding of its benefits and limits as well as rebound effects; based on the changing mobility needs and desires of a society in transition (digitally and environmentally).
  • Better coordination of R&I and large-scale testing activities in Europe and expanded knowledge base on CCAM solutions.
  • European leadership in the development and deployment of connected and automated mobility and logistics services and systems, ensuring long-term growth and jobs.

Multimodal and sustainable transport systems for passengers and goods

Multimodal and sustainable transport systems are the backbone for efficient mobility of passengers and freight. In particular, the areas of infrastructure, logistics and network/traffic management play a major role in making mobility and transport climate neutral, also through the digitalisation of the sectors. At the same time, being vulnerable to climate change and other disruptions, resilience in these three areas need to be increased. New and advanced infrastructures across all transport modes are required to enable the introduction of new vehicles, operations and mobility services. Furthermore, efficient and smart multimodal logistics are key for seamless and sustainable long-haul, regional and urban freight transport movements. Finally, dynamic multimodal network and traffic management systems are the “glue” of the entire transport network, for optimised door-to-door mobility of both passengers and freight.

To test solutions related to multimodal and sustainable transport systems for passengers and good, applicants may seek possibilities of involving the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in order to valorise the relevant expertise and physical facilities of JRC in demonstrating and testing energy and mobility applications of the JRC Living Lab for Future Urban Ecosystems[[https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/research-facility/living-labs-at-the-jrc]].

The main impacts to be generated by topics targeting Multimodal and sustainable transport systems for passengers and goods under this Destination are:

  • Upgraded and resilient physical and digital infrastructure for clean, accessible, affordable, connected and automated multimodal mobility.
  • Sustainable and smart long-haul, regional and urban freight transport and logistics, through increased efficiency, improved interconnectivity and smart enforcement.
  • Reduced external costs (e.g. congestion, traffic jams, emissions, air and noise pollution, road collisions) of urban, peri-urban (regional) and long distance freight transport as well as optimised system-wide network efficiency and resilience.
  • Enhanced local and/or regional capacity for governance and innovation in urban mobility and logistics.

Safety and resilience - per mode and across all transport modes

Safety and resilience are of primary concern for any transport system. The EU set ambitious targets in its 2011 Transport White Paper, the third Mobility Package and, more recently, the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy[[COM(2020) 789 final.]]. COVID-19 has been a stark reminder of the importance of resilience to external disruptions, particularly for transport. Research and innovation will underpin the three pillars affecting safety and resilience: technologies; regulations (alongside acceptable level of risks); and human factors (individual and organisational aspects, including interaction with automation). The approach is risk-based and systemic, including transport means/vehicles, infrastructure, the physical environment (e.g. weather) and the various actors (e.g. manufacturers, regulators, operators, users) as well as all their interfaces, including certification and standardisation bodies.

Synergies should be exploited across research at national, EU and international level together with national authorities, EU agencies and international organisations to improve rulemaking, safety promotion and oversight.

The main impacts to be generated by topics targeting transport safety and resilience under this Destination are:

Safety in Urban Areas/ Road Transport Safety

  • 50% reduction in serious injuries and fatalities in road crashes by 2030.
  • Improved reliability and performance of systems that aim to anticipate and minimize safety risks, avoiding risks and collisions, and reducing the consequences of unavoidable crashes.
  • Drastic reduction of road fatalities and serious crash injuries in low and medium income countries in Africa.
  • Better design principles of future road transport systems enabling also better traffic flow in big cities.

Waterborne Safety and Resilience

  • Ensure healthy passenger shipping by preventing and mitigating the spread of contagious diseases and infections.

Aviation Safety and Resilience

  • Decrease number of accidents and incidents due to organisational/human/automation factors and external hazards in all phases of flight, also beyond CAT category (80% goal in FlightPath2050), while enabling all weather operations.
  • Saving lives following a crash (post-crash survivability).
  • Anticipate emergence of new threats that could generate potential accidents and incidents (short, medium, and long term).
  • Ensure safety through aviation transformation (from green/digital technologies uptake up to independent certification).
  • Maintain safety and resilience despite the scale, pace and diversity of new entrants.

Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 5 - Destination 2: Cross-sectoral solutions for the climate transition

This Destination covers thematic areas which are cross-cutting by nature and can provide key solutions for climate, energy and mobility applications. In line with the scope of cluster 5 such areas are batteries, hydrogen, communities and cities, early-stage breakthrough technologies as well as citizen engagement. Although these areas are very distinct in terms of challenges, stakeholder communities and expected impacts, they have their cross-cutting nature as a unifying feature and are therefore grouped together under this Destination.

This Destination contributes to the following Strategic Plan’s Key Strategic Orientations (KSO):

  • C: Making Europe the first digitally enabled circular, climate-neutral and sustainable economy through the transformation of its mobility, energy, construction and production systems;
  • A: Promoting an open strategic autonomy[[‘Open strategic autonomy’ refers to the term ‘strategic autonomy while preserving an open economy’, as reflected in the conclusions of the European Council 1 – 2 October 2020.]] 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 human-centred technologies and innovations;
  • 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.

It covers the following impact areas:

  • Industrial leadership in key and emerging technologies that work for people
  • Affordable and clean energy
  • Smart and sustainable transport

The expected impact, in line with the Strategic Plan, is to contribute to the “Clean and sustainable transition of the energy and transport sectors towards climate neutrality facilitated by innovative cross-cutting solutions”, notably through:

  1. Nurturing a world-class European research and innovation eco-system on batteries along the value chain based on sustainable pathways. It includes improvement of technological performance to increase application user attractiveness (in particular in terms of safety, cost, user convenience, fast charging and environmental footprint), in parallel supporting the creation of a competitive, circular, and sustainable European battery manufacturing value chain (more detailed information below).
  2. Increased efficiency of Europe’s cities’ and communities’ energy, resource use and mobility patterns and cities’ and communities’ overall sustainability, thereby improving their climate-resilience and attractiveness to businesses and citizens in a holistic fashion. This also includes improved air and water quality, resilience of energy supply, intelligent mobility services and logistics, liveability and accessibility of cities, public health, comfortable, affordable zero emissions housing as well as the exploitation of relevant European technologies and knowledge (more detailed information below).
  3. Facilitating the transformation to a climate neutral society, in line with the EU’s 2050 climate targets, through more effectively engaging and empowering citizens to participate in the transition, from planning to decision-making and implementation (more detailed information below).
  4. Nurturing the development of emerging technologies with high potential to enable zero-greenhouse gas and negative emissions in energy and transport (more detailed information below).

A competitive and sustainable European battery value chain

Batteries will enable the rollout of zero-emission mobility and renewable energy storage, contributing to the European Green Deal and supporting the UN SDGs by creating a vibrant, responsible and sustainable market. Besides climate neutrality, batteries also contribute to other UN SDGs directly and indirectly such as enabling of decentralized and off-grid energy solutions.

The strategic pathway is, on the one hand, for Europe to rapidly regain technological competitiveness in order to capture a significant market share of the new and fast growing rechargeable battery market, and, on the other hand, to invest in longer term research on future battery technologies to establish Europe's long term technological leadership and industrial competitiveness

The Partnership “Towards a competitive European industrial battery value chain for stationary applications and e-mobility”, to which all battery-related topics under this Destination will contribute, aims to establish world-leading sustainable and circular European battery value chain to drive transformation towards a carbon-neutral society.

The main impacts to be generated by topics targeting the battery value chain under this Destination are:

  1. Increased global competitiveness of the European battery ecosystem through generated knowledge and leading-edge technologies in battery materials, cell design, manufacturing and recycling;
  2. Accelerated growth of innovative, competitive and sustainable battery manufacturing industry in Europe;
  3. Accelerated roll out of electrified mobility through increased attractiveness for citizens and businesses, offering lower price, better performance and safety, reliable operation of e-vehicles. Increased grid flexibility, increased share of renewables integration and facilitated self-consumption and participation in energy markets by citizens and businesses;
  4. Increased overall sustainability and improved Life Cycle Assessment of each segment of the battery value chain. Developed and established innovative recycling network and technologies and in line with the March 2020 European Circular Economy Action Plan, accelerated roll-out of circular designs and holistic circular approach for funded innovations;
  5. Increased exploitation and reliability of batteries though demonstration of innovative use cases of battery integration in stationary energy storage and vehicles/vessels/aircrafts (in collaboration with other partnerships).

Communities and cities

This work programme contains only a few activities. The bulk of activities related to communities and cities will be introduced during 2021 as an update to the Horizon Europe work programme 2021, once the preparatory phase of the Horizon Europe Missions has been concluded.

Emerging breakthrough technologies and climate solutions

Although the contribution of a wide range of technologies to reach climate neutrality is already foreseeable, EU R&I programming should also leave room for emerging and break-through technologies with a high potential to achieve climate neutrality. These technologies can play a significant role in reaching the EU’s goal to become climate neutral by 2050.

Relevant topics supported under this Destination do not duplicate activities supported under Pillars I or III, but focus on emerging technologies that can enable the climate transition and follows at the same time a technology-neutral bottom up approach and the support of key technologies that are expected to support achieving climate neutrality. Research in this area is mostly technological in nature but should also where relevant be accompanied by assessments of environmental impact, social and economic impacts, and possible regulatory needs as well as activities to support the creation of value chains and to build up new ecosystems of stakeholders working on breakthrough technologies.

The main expected impacts to be generated by topics targeting breakthrough technologies and climate solutions under this Destination are:

  • Emergence of unanticipated technologies enabling emerging zero-greenhouse gas and negative emissions in energy and transport;
  • Development of high-risk/high return technologies to enable a transition to a net greenhouse gas neutral European economy;

Citizens and stakeholder engagement

The transition to climate-neutral economies and societies by 2050 is the defining challenge of this century. The challenge is not just technical: it calls for wide-ranging societal transformations and the adaptation of lifestyles and behaviours. Engaging citizens and stakeholders is therefore critical for the success of the European Green Deal, as is making greater recourse to the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH), alongside the Scientific, Technical, Engineering and Mathematical (STEM) disciplines.

The topics under this section do not stand alone but aim to complement and support the broader integration (“mainstreaming”) of citizen and stakeholder engagement as well as the social sciences and humanities (SSH) across the whole Horizon Europe programme map and particularly Cluster 5.

The main expected impacts to be generated by topics targeting citizen and stakeholder engagement under this Destination are:

  • A better understanding of the societal implications of the climate transition, including its distributional repercussions;
  • More effective policy interventions, co-created with target constituencies and building on high-quality policy advice;
  • Greater societal support for transition policies and programs, based on greater and more consequential involvement of those most affected.

Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 5 - Destination 4: Efficient, sustainable and inclusive energy use

This Destination addresses activities targeting the energy demand side, notably a more efficient use of energy as regards buildings and industry.

Demand side solutions and improved energy efficiency are among the most cost effective ways to support the transition to climate neutrality, reduce pollution and raw materials use, to create inclusive growth and employment in Europe, to bring down costs for consumers, to reduce our import dependency and redirect investments towards smart and sustainable infrastructure. The transition to a decentralised and climate neutral energy system will greatly benefit from the use of digital technologies which will enable buildings and industrial facilities to become inter-active elements in the energy system by optimising energy consumption, distributed generation and storage and vis-à-vis the energy system. They will also trigger new business opportunities and revenue streams for up-graded, innovative energy services which valorise energy savings and flexible consumption.

This Destination contributes to the following Strategic Plan’s Key Strategic Orientations (KSO):

  • C: Making Europe the first digitally enabled circular, climate-neutral and sustainable economy through the transformation of its mobility, energy, construction and production systems;
  • A: Promoting an open strategic autonomy[[‘Open strategic autonomy’ refers to the term ‘strategic autonomy while preserving an open economy’, as reflected in the conclusions of the European Council 1 – 2 October 2020.]] 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 human-centred technologies and innovations.

It covers the following impact areas:

  • Industrial leadership in key and emerging technologies that work for people;
  • Affordable and clean energy;
  • Circular and clean economy.

The expected impact, in line with the Strategic Plan, is to contribute to the “Efficient and sustainable use of energy, accessible for all is ensured through a clean energy system and a just transition”, notably through

  1. Technological and socio-economic breakthroughs for achieving climate neutrality and the transition to zero pollution of the building stock by 2050, based on inclusive and people-centric R&I (more detailed information below).
  2. Increased energy efficiency in industry and reducing industry’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) and air pollutant emissions through recovery, upgrade and/or conversion of industrial excess (waste) heat and through electrification of heat generation (more information below).

Other Horizon Europe Clusters include topics and activities that can be relevant to this Destination, e.g. in order to seek synergies. These include (but are not limited to) the following:

Cluster 2:

  • Destination 2 – Innovative Research on the European Cultural Heritage and the Cultural and Creative Industries. That Destination is most relevant for the topics which scope addresses heritage buildings.
  • Destination 3 - Innovative Research on Social and Economic Transformations. That Destination is most relevant for the social innovation items included in some of the topics.

Cluster 3:

  • Destination 4 – Increased Cybersecurity. This potential link is most relevant for the topics that address smart buildings and digitalisation of buildings.
  • Destination 5 – A Disaster-Resilient Society for Europe. This potential link can be relevant for the topics that address the resilience of the building stock.

Cluster 4: the whole cluster is relevant, in particular Destination 1 – Climate Neutral, circular and digitised production, which is highly relevant for all topics on buildings (e.g. for the digitalisation of construction / renovation workflows).

Cluster 6:

  • Destination 3 – Circular economy and bioeconomy sectors and Destination 4 – Clean environment and zero pollution. This potential link is relevant for all topics, in particular those that address sustainable renovation of buildings.

Beyond Horizon Europe, other programmes include some components with which synergies and complementarities can be found. For instance, the Clean Energy Transition and Circular Economy sub-programmes under LIFE can contribute to the market uptake of the innovation delivered under this Destination. The Digital Europe programme includes actions that can be relevant to consider in relation to the topics that entail the development or use of (big) data approaches.

Highly energy-efficient and climate neutral European building stock

Topics under this Destination targeting highly energy-efficient and climate-neutral European building stock focus on both, the energy challenge in buildings and, more broadly, the transformation of the built environment towards more sustainable living.

In line with the new European Bauhaus aiming to “bring the European Green Deal to life in an attractive, and innovative and human-centred way”, the sustainable built environment should go beyond merely improving the energy and resource efficiency of buildings and also include a qualitative, aesthetic and human dimension. At the intersection of science, technology and the arts, new creative design and architectural solutions should be developed to ensure the sustainable renovation of the existing European building stock for the well-being of its users. In particular the renovation or adaptive reuse of historical and heritage buildings and sites needs to embrace quality principles to safeguard the cultural values of Europe’s historical environment and local architectural identity.

Topics targeting energy efficiency in buildings under this Destination seek to achieve the following impacts:

  • More energy efficient building stocks supported by an accurate understanding of buildings performance in Europe and of related evolutions.
  • Building stocks that effectively combine energy efficiency, renewable energy sources and digital and smart technologies to support the transformation of the energy system towards climate neutrality.

Addressing the broader transformation of the built environment, though, requires a larger involvement of all players across the built environment value chain and throughout building life cycle. To this end, a co-programmed European Partnership on a people-centric, sustainable built environment has been set up (Built4People) to develop holistic R&I for an effective transition to sustainability. All Horizon Europe R&I actions addressing the challenges related to the buildings and construction sector will contribute to achieving the Built4People Partnership goals and will benefit from the coordinated approach within the community of its partners and stakeholders. Topics contributing to the implementation of the Built4People European Partnership seek to achieve the following impacts:

  • Higher buildings’ performance with lower environmental impacts through increased rates of holistic renovations.
  • Higher quality, more affordable built environment preserving climate and environment, and safeguarding cultural heritage and ensuring better living conditions.

Industrial facilities in the energy transition

Topics on industrial facilities in the energy transition supported under this Destination focus on thermal energy management in industry. The bulk of R&I activities related to industry is however supported under Cluster 4 “Digital, Industry and Space”.


Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 4 - Destination 2: Increased autonomy in key strategic value chains for resilient industry

This destination will directly support the following Key Strategic Orientations, as outlined in the Strategic Plan:

  • KSO C, ‘Making Europe the first digitally-enabled circular, climate-neutral and sustainable economy through the transformation of its mobility, energy, construction and production systems’
  • KSO 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 human-centred technologies and innovations’
  • KSO 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.

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to the following expected impact of Cluster 4:

  • Industrial leadership and increased autonomy in key strategic value chains with security of supply in raw materials, achieved through breakthrough technologies in areas of industrial alliances, dynamic industrial innovation ecosystems and advanced solutions for substitution, resource and energy efficiency, effective reuse and recycling and clean primary production of raw materials, including critical raw materials, and leadership in the circular economy.

The COVID-19 crisis has shown that global competitiveness and resilience are two sides of the same coin[[Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy 2021 (COM/2020/575 final)]]. Resilience is about more than the ability to withstand and cope with shocks; it is an opportunity to undergo transitions in a sustainable and fair way. As the EU gears up to becoming a climate-neutral, circular and competitive economy by 2050, resilience will require paying attention to new vulnerabilities as entire sectors undergo deep transformations while creating opportunities for Europe’s industry to develop its own markets, products and services which boost competitiveness.

Research and innovation will be fundamental to spur industrial leadership and enhanced resilience. It will support the modernisation of traditional industrial models while developing novel technologies, business models and processes. This can enhance the flexibility of the EU’s industrial base, and increase its resilience by reducing EU dependencies on third countries for critical raw materials and technologies.

In the first Work Programme, topics under Destination 2 ‘Increased autonomy in key strategic value chains for resilient industry’ will tackle missing segments in strategic areas and value chains, to strengthen the EU’s industrial base and boost its competitiveness and open strategic autonomy. In addition, it will explore how increased circularity has the potential to increase the open strategic autonomy of EU industry through the more efficient use of resources and secondary raw materials.

This will be achieved through R&I activities focusing on four areas key for the resilience of EU industry:

  • Raw materials: The EU is highly dependent on a few third countries for the (critical) raw materials it needs for strategic value chains (including e-mobility, batteries, renewable energies, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, dual-use and digital applications). In a context where demand is set to increase[[ For example, demand for rare earths used in permanent magnets, e.g. for electric vehicles, digital technologies or wind generators, could increase tenfold by 2050. See the Commission Communication “Critical Raw Materials Resilience: Charting a Path towards greater Security and Sustainability”, COM(2020) 474 final.]], these will remain, more than ever, a vital prerequisite for both Europe’s open strategic autonomy and a successful transition to a climate-neutral and circular economy. Responding to the Critical Raw Materials action plan R&I activities will tackle the vulnerabilities in the entire EU raw materials value chain, from sustainable and responsible exploration, extraction, processing, recycling, contributing to building the EU knowledge base of primary and secondary raw materials and ensuring secure, sustainable and responsible access to (critical) raw materials.
  • Advanced materials that are sustainable by design are needed to meet the challenges of climate neutrality, transition to a circular economy and a zero-pollution Europe, as well as broader benefits in many different applications. While chemical and related materials production is expected to double globally by 2030, this will largely take place outside Europe[[By 2030, China will likely account for more than half of global production, the EU and US for only one quarter of production (Mid-Century Vision report, Cefic, 2019, and International Energy Agency)]]. To overcome its reliance on imports of basic chemicals and related materials, Europe needs to strengthen its capacity to produce and use chemicals in a sustainable and competitive way. In addition, it is necessary to continue work on an ecosystem, based on open innovation test beds (OITBs), which enables the rapid development, uptake and commercialisation of advanced materials. All actions should be guided by sustainable-by-design principles, i.e. environmental and health safety, circularity and functionality.
  • Circular value chains: to complement the circular technologies in Destination 1, further technological and non-technological elements (such as business models and the traceability of products) are necessary in the transition to novel low-emission and circular industrial value chains.
  • Preparedness of businesses/smes/startups: European companies, and in particular SMEs, have shown a chronic lagging behind the US and China in the uptake of new, and especially digital, technologies.[[ See ATI reports from US and China about technology performance: China:https://ati.ec.europa.eu/reports/international-reports/report-china-technological-capacities-and-key-policy-measures; and US: https://ati.ec.europa.eu/reports/international-reports/report-united-states-america-technological-capacities-and-key-policy ]]

To achieve these wider effects, unprecedented investments in re- and upskilling are central to supporting the green and digital transitions, enhancing innovation and growth potential, fostering economic and social resilience and ensuring quality employment and social inclusion. This is why activities planned under Destination 6 “A human-centred and ethical development of digital and industrial technologies” will also contribute to the objectives of a more resilient industrial base. Further, as industrial leadership and resilience are two sides of the same coin, activities targeting industrial leadership are a key factor in the EU’s long-term industrial resilience. This is why activities supported under Destination 1 ‘Climate neutral, circular and digitised production’ and Destination 3 ‘World leading data and computing technologies’ that further ensure Europe’s productivity growth and competitiveness are also key to safeguarding its open strategic autonomy and resilience.

In addition, activities beyond R&I investments will be needed, in particular in terms of synergies with the European Innovation Council and Pillar III of Horizon Europe given the strong role of SMEs in the development of the innovations planned. Synergies will also be sought to access blended funding and finance from other EU programmes notably under InvestEU; testing and deployment activities under the Digital Europe Programme (DEP); links to the EIT (Raw Materials and Digital KICs); links with the Single Market programme to promote entrepreneurship and the creation and growth of companies and links to the thematic smart specialisation platform on industrial modernisation.

In line with the European Green Deal objectives, research and innovation activities should comply with the ‘do no significant harm’ principle[[as per Article 17 of Regulation (EU) No 2020/852 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment (EU Taxonomy Regulation)]]. Compliance needs to be assessed both for activities carried out during the course of the project as well as the expected life cycle impact of the innovation at a commercialisation stage (where relevant). The robustness of the compliance must be customised to the envisaged TRL of the project. In this regard, the potential harm of Innovation Actions contributing to the European Green Deal will be monitored throughout the project duration.

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to increased autonomy in key strategic value chains for resilience industry, and more specifically to one or several of the following impacts:

  • Resilient, sustainable and secure (critical) raw materials value chains for EU industrial ecosystems, in support of the twin green and digital transformations.
  • New sustainable-by-design materials with enhanced functionalities and applications in a wide range of industrial processes and consumer products.
  • Leadership in producing materials that provide solutions for clean, toxic/pollutant free environment, decarbonising industry, and safeguarding civil infrastructures.
  • Leadership in circular economy that strengthens cross-sectorial cooperation along the value chain and enable SMEs to transform their activities and business models.
  • Increased adoption of key digital and enabling technologies in industrial value chains and strategic sectors, paying particular attention to SMEs and start-ups.

Much of the research and innovation supported under this Destination may serve as a cradle for the New European Bauhaus: this is about designing sustainable ways of living, situated at the crossroads between art, culture, social inclusion, science and technology. This includes R&I on manufacturing, construction, advanced materials and the circular economy approaches.

Business cases and exploitation strategies for industrialisation: This section applies only to those topics in this Destination, for which proposals should demonstrate the expected impact by including a business case and exploitation strategy for industrialisation.

The business case should demonstrate the expected impact of the proposal in terms of enhanced market opportunities for the participants and enhanced manufacturing capacities in the EU, in the short to medium term. It should describe the targeted market(s); estimated market size in the EU and globally; user and customer needs; and demonstrate that the solutions will match the market and user needs in a cost-effective manner; and describe the expected market position and competitive advantage.

The exploitation strategy should identify obstacles, requirements and necessary actions involved in reaching higher TRLs, for example: matching value chains, enhancing product robustness; securing industrial integrators; and user acceptance.

For TRLs 7-8, a credible strategy to achieve future full-scale manufacturing in the EU is expected, indicating the commitments of the industrial partners after the end of the project.

Activities beyond R&I investments will be needed to realise the expected impacts: these include the further development of skills and competencies (also via the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, in particular EIT Manufacturing); and the use of financial products under the InvestEU Fund for further commercialisation of R&I outcomes.

Where relevant, in the context of skills, it is recommended to develop training material to endow workers with the right skillset in order to support the uptake and deployment of new innovative products, services, and processes developed in the different projects. This material should be tested and be scalable, and can potentially be up-scaled through the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+). This will help the European labour force to close the skill gaps in the relevant sectors and occupational groups and improve employment and social levels across the EU and associated countries.


Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 1 - Destination 1: Staying healthy in a rapidly changing society

Calls for proposals under this destination are directed towards the Key Strategic Orientation KSO-D ‘Creating a more resilient, inclusive and democratic European society’ of Horizon Europe’s Strategic Plan 2021-2024. Research and innovation supported under this destination should contribute to the impact area ‘Good health and high-quality accessible health care’ and in particular to the following expected impact, set out in the Strategic Plan for the health cluster: ‘citizens of all ages stay healthy and independent in a rapidly changing society thanks to healthier lifestyles and behaviours, healthier diets, healthier environments, improved evidence-based health policies, and more effective solutions for health promotion and disease prevention’. In addition, research and innovation supported under this destination could also contribute to the following impact areas: ‘High quality digital services for all’, ‘Sustainable food systems from farm to fork on land and sea’, and ‘Climate change mitigation and adaptation’.

People´s health care needs are different, depending on their age, stage of life and socio-economic background. Their physical and mental health and well-being can be influenced by their individual situation as well as the broader societal context they are living in. Furthermore, health education and behaviour are important factors. Currently, more than 790 000 deaths per year in Europe are due to risk factors such as smoking, drinking, physical inactivity, and obesity. Upbringing, income, education levels, social and gender aspects also have an impact on health risks and how disease can be prevented. Moreover, people´s health can be impacted by a rapidly changing society, making it challenging to keep pace and find its way through new technological tools and societal changes, which both are increasing demands on the individual´s resilience. In order to leave no one behind, to reduce health inequalities and to support healthy and active lives for all, it is crucial to provide suitable and tailor-made solutions, including for people with specific needs.

In this work programme, destination 1 will focus on major societal challenges that are part of the European Commission’s political priorities, notably diet and health (obesity), ageing and demographic change, mental health, digital empowerment in health literacy, and personalised prevention. Research and innovation supported under this destination will provide new evidences, methodologies and tools for understanding the transition from health to disease. This will allow designing better strategies and personalised tools for preventing diseases and promoting health, including through social innovation approaches. Specific measures will also be developed to educate and empower citizens of all ages and throughout their life, to play an active role in the self-management of their own health and self-care, to the benefit of an active and healthy ageing. In 2022, it will also call for proposals for improving the availability and use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools to predict the risk for onset and progression of chronic diseases. Key to achieving the expected impacts is the availability and accessibility of health data from multiple sources, including real-world health data, which will require appropriate support by research and data infrastructures, AI-based solutions, and robust and transparent methodologies for analysis and reporting.

Dialogue and coordination between stakeholders and policy makers as well as integration across different settings will be needed to develop more effective cross-sectoral solutions for health promotion and disease prevention and deliver improved evidence-based health for all.

In view of increasing the impact of EU investments under Horizon Europe, the European Commission welcomes and supports cooperation between EU-funded projects to enable cross-fertilisation and other synergies. This could range from networking to joint activities such as the participation in joint workshops, the exchange of knowledge, the development and adoption of best practices, or joint communication activities. Opportunities for potential synergies exist between projects funded under the same topic but also between other projects funded under another topic, cluster or pillar of Horizon Europe (but also with ongoing projects funded under Horizon 2020). In particular, this could involve projects related to European health research infrastructures (under pillar I of Horizon Europe), the EIC strategic challenges on health and EIT-KIC Health (under pillar III of Horizon Europe), or in areas cutting across the health and other clusters (under pillar II of Horizon Europe). For instance, with cluster 2 “Culture, Creativity and Inclusive Society” such as on health inequalities, on other inequalities affecting health, or on citizens’ behaviour and engagement; with cluster 4 “Digital, Industry and Space” such as on digital tools, telemedicine or smart homes; with cluster 5 “Climate, Energy and Mobility” such as on urban health or on mitigating the impact of road traffic accidents and related injuries; with cluster 6 “Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment” such as on the role of nutrition for health (incl. human microbiome, mal- and over-nutrition, safe food), personalised diets (incl. food habits in general and childhood obesity in particular) and the impact of food-related environmental stressors on human health (incl. marketing and consumer habits).[[Strategic Plan 2021-2024 of Horizon Europe, Annex I, Table 2.]]

Expected impacts:

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to staying healthy in a rapidly changing society, and more specifically to one or several of the following impacts:

  • Citizens adopt healthier lifestyles and behaviours, make healthier choices and maintain longer a healthy, independent and active life with a reduced disease burden, including at old ages or in other vulnerable stages of life.
  • Citizens are able and empowered to manage better their own physical and mental health and well-being, monitor their health, and interact with their doctors and health care providers.
  • Citizens´ trust in knowledge-based health interventions and in guidance from health authorities is strengthened, including through improved health literacy (including at young ages), resulting in increased engagement in and adherence to effective strategies for health promotion, diseases prevention and treatment, including increased vaccination rates and patient safety.

Health policies and actions for health promotion and disease prevention are knowledge-based, people-centred and thus targeted and tailored to citizens' needs, and designed to reduce health inequalities.


Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 1 - Destination 2: Living and working in a health-promoting environment

Calls for proposals under this destination are directed towards the Key Strategic Orientation KSO-D ‘Creating a more resilient, inclusive and democratic European society’ of Horizon Europe’s Strategic Plan 2021-2024. Research and innovation supported under this destination should contribute to the impact area ‘A resilient EU prepared for emerging threats’ and in particular to the following expected impact, set out in the Strategic Plan for the health cluster: ‘living and working environments are health-promoting and sustainable thanks to better understanding of environmental, occupational, social and economic determinants of health’. In addition, research and innovation supported under this destination could also contribute to the following impact areas: ‘Good health and high quality accessible health care’, ‘Climate change mitigation and adaptation’, and Clean and healthy air, water and soil’.

The environment we live and work in is a major determinant of our health and well-being. It has direct or indirect beneficial or adverse impact on our health and well-being. Environmental factors are estimated to account for almost 20% of all deaths in Europe. Opinion surveys have shown that European citizens are concerned about the impact of pollution on their health. The impacting factors on both physical and mental health and well-being are not all identified nor their effects comprehensively understood and accounted for to support evidence-based policy- and decision-making. Furthermore, agreed methodologies to estimate health-related costs of exposure to environmental stressors are lacking.

Therefore, Destination 2 aims at filling knowledge gaps in the understanding of the impacts on our health and well-being of those environmental, occupational and socio-economic risk factors that have the most significant or widespread societal impacts. In this work programme, Destination 2 focuses on indoor and outdoor air pollution, chemicals, non-ionizing radiation (electromagnetic fields), urbanisation, climate and other environmental changes, socio-economic inequalities, and changing working environments. Furthermore, under this work programme a topic is dedicated to the creation of a European partnership for the assessment of risks from chemicals, which should establish the EU as an internationally recognised driver of innovative chemical risk assessment for an optimal protection of human health and the environment. The results will support the EU’s environment and health policies and overarching policy frameworks such as the European Green Deal, the Chemical Strategy for Sustainability, the 8th Environment Action Programme, the EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work as well as the WHO European Environment and Health Process (EHP).

Strong collaborations across sectors and with other Horizon Europe clusters dealing with issues such as agriculture, food, environment, climate, mobility, security, urban planning, social inclusion and gender will be needed to ensure that maximal societal benefits are reached. Thus, in view of increasing the impact of EU investments under Horizon Europe, the European Commission welcomes and supports cooperation between EU-funded projects to enable cross-fertilisation and other synergies. This could range from networking to joint activities such as the participation in joint workshops, the exchange of knowledge, the development and adoption of best practices, or joint communication activities. Opportunities for potential synergies exist between projects funded under the same topic but also between other projects funded under another topic, cluster or pillar of Horizon Europe (but also with ongoing projects funded under Horizon 2020). In particular, this could involve projects related to European health research infrastructures (under pillar I of Horizon Europe), the EIC strategic challenges on health and EIT-KIC Health (under pillar III of Horizon Europe), or in areas cutting across the health and other clusters (under pillar II of Horizon Europe).

All topics are open to international collaboration to address global environment and health challenges.

Expected impacts:

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to living and working in a health-promoting environment, and more specifically to one or several of the following impacts:

  • Policy-makers and regulators are aware and well informed about environmental, socio-economic and occupational risk factors as well as health-promoting factors across society;
  • Environmental, occupational, social, economic, fiscal and health policies and practices at the EU, national and regional level are sustainable and based on solid scientific evidence. These include overarching policy frameworks such as the European Green Deal, the Chemical Strategy for Sustainability, the 8th Environment Action Programme, the EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work and the European Environment and Health Process led by the World Health Organization;
  • The upstream determinants of disease - related to choices in energy generation, agricultural practices, industrial production, land use planning, built environment and construction - are known, understood and reduced;
  • The health threats and burden resulting from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination is reduced, so that the related number of deaths and illnesses is substantially reduced by 2030;
  • Living and working environments in European cities and regions are healthier, more inclusive, safer, resilient and sustainable;
  • The adaptive capacity and resilience of populations and health systems in the EU to climate and environmental change-related health risks is strengthened;
  • Citizens’ health and well-being is protected and promoted, and premature deaths, diseases and inequalities related to environmental pollution and degradation are prevented;
  • Citizens understand better complex environment and health issues, and effective measures to address them and support related policies and regulations.

Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 1 - Destination 4: Ensuring access to innovative, sustainable and high-quality health care

Calls for proposals under this destination are directed towards the Key Strategic Orientation KSO-D ‘Creating a more resilient, inclusive and democratic European society’ of Horizon Europe’s Strategic Plan 2021-2024. Research and innovation supported under this destination should contribute to the impact areas ‘Good health and high-quality accessible health care’ and ‘A resilient EU prepared for emerging threats’, and in particular to the following expected impact, set out in the Strategic Plan for the health cluster: ‘Health care systems provide equal access to innovative, sustainable and high-quality health care thanks to the development and uptake of safe, cost-effective and people-centred solutions, with a focus on population health, health systems resilience, as well as improved evidence-based health policies’. In addition, research and innovation supported under this destination could also contribute to the following impact areas: ‘Climate change mitigation and adaptation’, ‘High quality digital services for all’ and ‘A Competitive and secure data economy’.

Health systems are affected by limitations in sustainability and resilience, challenges which have been reinforced by the COVID-19 crisis that has also revealed inequalities in access to high-quality health care services. Our health systems need to become more effective, efficient, accessible, fiscally and environmentally sustainable, and resilient in order to cope with public health emergencies, to adapt to environmental challenges like climate change and to contribute to social justice and cohesion. Therefore, the transformation and modernisation of our health systems will be one of the biggest challenges in the economic recovery-bound future, but it will also be a time of opportunity for generating evidence, taking advantage of digital and data-driven innovation and developing more flexible and equitable health systems.

Under this destination, research and innovation aims at supporting health care systems in their transformation to ensure fair access to sustainable health care services of high quality for all citizens. Funded activities should support the development of innovative, feasible, implementable, financially sound and scalable solutions in the various dimensions of health care systems (e.g. governance, financing, human and physical resources, health service provision, and patient empowerment). Ultimately, these activities should provide decision-makers with new evidence, methods, tools and technologies for uptake into their health care systems and, consequently, allow improving governance of the European health care systems, supporting health care professionals and providers and allocating resources according to citizens’ health needs and preferences, while ensuring fiscal and environmental sustainability to assure those needs can be met on the long-term. Funded activities should adopt a patient-centred approach that empowers patients, promotes a culture of dialogue and openness between citizens, patients, caregivers, health care providers and other relevant stakeholders, and unleashes the potential for social innovation.

In this work programme, destination 4 will focus on the following issues:

  • Modernising health care systems in the EU, especially through a European public-public partnership on transforming health and care systems;
  • Improving the quality of health care along the entire health care continuum and being people-centred;
  • Supporting evidence-based health care decisions both for health care providers and policy-makers, fostering improved foresight and enabling sound planning of health care resources;
  • Enhancing development and uptake of innovative health care services and solutions, including environmentally sustainable ones that contribute to the European Green Deal.

In view of increasing the impact of EU investments under Horizon Europe, the European Commission welcomes and supports cooperation between EU-funded projects to enable cross-fertilisation and other synergies. This could range from networking to joint activities such as the participation in joint workshops, the exchange of knowledge, the development and adoption of best practices, or joint communication activities. Opportunities for potential synergies exist between projects funded under the same topic but also between other projects funded under another topic, cluster or pillar of Horizon Europe (but also with ongoing projects funded under Horizon 2020). In particular, this could involve projects related to European health research infrastructures (under pillar I of Horizon Europe), the EIC strategic challenges on health and EIT-KIC Health (under pillar III of Horizon Europe), or in areas cutting across the health and other clusters (under pillar II of Horizon Europe). For instance, with cluster 2 “Culture, Creativity and Inclusive Society” such as on health economics and economic models, on cost-effectiveness, fiscal sustainability and accessibility of health care, or on adaptation of public health systems to societal challenges (climate change, environmental degradation, migration, demographic change, emerging epidemics and One Health AMR) thereby contributing to building resilience; with cluster 3 “Civil Security for Society” such as on security of health care infrastructures, incl. digital health infrastructures, health systems preparedness and response to disasters and other emergencies, and quality and safety of medicine (counterfeit and substandard medicine, illicit drugs, One Health AMR); with cluster 4 “Digital, Industry and Space” such as on cybersecurity of (public) health systems, products and infrastructures of digitalised health and care, or on health impact assessment (e.g. related to consumer products, working place innovation).

Expected impacts:

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to ensuring access to innovative, sustainable and high-quality health care, and more specifically to one or several of the following impacts:

  • Health and social care services and systems have improved governance mechanisms and are more effective, efficient, accessible, resilient, trusted and sustainable, both fiscally and environmentally. Health promotion and disease prevention will be at their heart, by shifting from hospital-centred to community-based, people-centred and integrated health care structures and successfully embedding technological innovations that meet public health needs, while patient safety and quality of services is increased.
  • Health care providers are trained and equipped with the skills and competences suited for the future needs of health care systems that are modernised, digitally transformed and equipped with innovative tools, technologies and digital solutions for health care. They save time and resources by integrating and applying innovative technologies, which better involve patients in their own care, by reorganising workflows and redistributing tasks and responsibilities throughout the health care system, and by monitoring and analysing corresponding health care activities.
  • Citizens are supported to play a key role in managing their own health care, informal carers (including unpaid carers) are fully supported (e.g. by preventing overburdening and economic stress) and specific needs of more vulnerable groups are recognised and addressed. They benefit from improved access to health care services, including financial risk protection, timely access to quality essential health care services, including safe, effective, and affordable essential medicines and vaccines.
  • Health policy and systems adopt a holistic approach (individuals, communities, organisations, society) for the evaluation of health outcomes and value of public health interventions, the organisation of health care, and decision-making.
  • The actions resulting from the calls under this destination will also create strong opportunities for synergies with the EU4Health programme and in particular to contribute to the goals under general objectives 1a “protecting people in the Union from serious cross-border threats to health and strengthening the responsiveness of health systems and coordination among the Member States to cope with those threats” and 3 “strengthening health systems by improving their resilience and resource efficiency, in particular through: i) supporting integrated and coordinated work between Member States; ii) promoting the implementation of best practices on data sharing; iii) reinforcing the healthcare workforce; iv) tackling the implications of demographic challenges; and v) advancing digital transformation”.

Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 1 - Destination 3: Tackling diseases and reducing disease burden

Calls for proposals under this destination are directed towards the Key Strategic Orientation KSO-D ‘Creating a more resilient, inclusive and democratic European society’ of Horizon Europe’s Strategic Plan 2021-2024. Research and innovation supported under this destination should contribute to the impact area ‘Good health and high-quality accessible healthcare’ and in particular to the following expected impact, set out in the Strategic Plan for the health cluster: ‘health care providers are able to better tackle and manage diseases (infectious diseases, including poverty-related and neglected diseases, non-communicable and rare diseases) and reduce the disease burden on patients effectively thanks to better understanding and treatment of diseases, more effective and innovative health technologies, better ability and preparedness to manage epidemic outbreaks and improved patient safety’. In addition, research and innovation supported under this destination could also contribute to the following impact areas: ‘A resilient EU prepared for emerging threats’, ‘Climate change mitigation and adaptation’, and ‘High quality digital services for all’.

Communicable and non-communicable diseases cause the greatest amounts of premature death and disability in the EU and worldwide. They pose a major health, societal and economic threat and burden. Many people are still suffering from these diseases and too often dying prematurely. Non-communicable diseases, including mental illnesses and neurodegenerative diseases, are responsible for up to 80% of EU health care costs[[Currently, around 50 million people in the EU are estimated to suffer from two or more chronic conditions, and most of these people are over 65. Every day, 22 500 people die in Europe from those diseases, counting of 87% of all deaths. They account for 550 000 premature deaths of people of working age with an estimated €115 billion economic loss per year (0.8% of GDP).]]. These costs are spent on the treatment of such diseases that to a large extent are preventable. Furthermore, only around 3% of the health care budgets are currently spent on preventive measures although there is a huge potential for prevention. Infectious diseases, including infections resistant to antimicrobials, remain a major threat to public health in the EU but also to global health security. Deaths caused by antimicrobial resistance (AMR) could exceed 10 million per year worldwide according to some predictions[[AMR is estimated to be responsible for 25 000 deaths per year in the EU alone and 700 000 deaths per year globally. It has been estimated that AMR might cause more deaths than cancer by 2050.]].

To further advance, there is an urgent need for research and innovation to develop new prevention measures, public health interventions, diagnostics, vaccines, therapies, alternatives to antimicrobials, as well as to improve existing prevention strategies to create tangible impacts, taking into account sex/gender-related issues. This will require international cooperation to pool the best expertise and know-how available worldwide, to access world-class research infrastructures and to leverage critical scales of investments on priority needs through a better alignment with other funders of international cooperation in health research and innovation. The continuation of international partnerships and cooperation with international organisations is particularly needed to combat infectious diseases, to address antimicrobial resistances, to respond to major unmet medical needs for global health security, including the global burden of non-communicable diseases, and to strengthen patient safety.

In this work programme, destination 3 will focus on major societal challenges linked to the Commission’s political priorities such as the fight against cancer and other non-communicable diseases, better diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases, preparedness and response to and surveillance of health threats and epidemics, reduction of the number of antimicrobial-resistant infections, improving vaccination rates, demographic change, mental health and digital empowerment in health literacy. In particular, the topics under this destination will support activities aiming at: i) better understanding of diseases, their drivers and consequences, including pain and the causative links between health determinants and diseases, and better evidence-base for policy-making; ii) better methodologies and diagnostics that allow timely and accurate diagnosis, identification of personalised treatment options and assessment of health outcomes, including for patients with a rare disease; iii) development and validation of effective intervention for better surveillance, prevention, detection, treatment and crisis management of infectious disease threats; iv) innovative health technologies developed and tested in clinical practice, including personalised medicine approaches and use of digital tools to optimise clinical workflows; v) new and advanced therapies for non-communicable diseases, including rare diseases developed in particular for those without approved options, supported by strategies to make them affordable for the public payer; and vi) scientific evidence for improved/tailored policies and legal frameworks and to inform major policy initiatives at global level (e.g. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control; UNEA Pollution Implementation Plan).

In view of increasing the impact of EU investments under Horizon Europe, the European Commission welcomes and supports cooperation between EU-funded projects to enable cross-fertilisation and other synergies. This could range from networking to joint activities such as the participation in joint workshops, the exchange of knowledge, the development and adoption of best practices, or joint communication activities. Opportunities for potential synergies exist between projects funded under the same topic but also between other projects funded under another topic, cluster or pillar of Horizon Europe (but also with ongoing projects funded under Horizon 2020). In particular, this could involve projects related to European health research infrastructures (under pillar I of Horizon Europe), the EIC strategic challenges on health and EIT-KIC Health (under pillar III of Horizon Europe), or in areas cutting across the health and other clusters (under pillar II of Horizon Europe). For instance, with cluster 3 “Civil security for society” such as on health security/emergencies (preparedness and response, medical counter measures, epidemic outbreaks/pandemics, natural disasters and technological incidents, bioterrorism); with cluster 4 “Digital, Industry and Space” such as on decision-support systems or on geo-observation and monitoring (e.g. of disease vectors, epidemics); or with cluster 6 “Food, bioeconomy, natural resources, agriculture and environment” such as on health security and AMR (one-health: human/animal/plant/soil/water health).

Some research and innovation actions under Destination 3 should deliver relevant complementary inputs to the announced “Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan”[[https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12154-Europe-s-Beating-Cancer-Plan]], contributing to actions covering the entire cancer care pathway, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment, cancer data monitoring, as well as quality of life of cancer patients and survivors. Furthermore, synergies and complementarities will be sought between Destination 3 and the implementation of the EU4Health Programme (2021-2027)[[https://ec.europa.eu/health/funding/eu4health_en]]. These synergies and complementarities could be achieved, notably through mechanisms based on feedback loops, enabling on the one hand to identify policy needs that should be prioritised in research and innovation actions and facilitating on the other hand the implementation of research results into policy actions and clinical practice, thereby providing an integrated response across sectors and policy fields.

Expected impacts:

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to tackling diseases and reducing disease burden, and more specifically to several of the following impacts:

  • Health burden of diseases in the EU and worldwide is reduced through effective disease management, including through the development and integration of innovative diagnostic and therapeutic approaches, personalised medicine approaches, digital and other people-centred solutions for health care. In particular, patients are diagnosed early and accurately and receive effective, cost-efficient and affordable treatment, including patients with a rare disease, due to effective translation of research results into new diagnostic tools and therapies.
  • Premature mortality from non-communicable diseases is reduced by one third (by 2030), mental health and well-being is promoted, and the voluntary targets of the WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020 are attained (by 2025), with an immediate impact on the related disease burden (DALYs)[[WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020 (resolution WHA66.10), https://www.who.int/nmh/events/ncd_action_plan/en.]],[[Including for instance the following voluntary targets (against the 2010 baseline): A 25% relative reduction in the overall mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, or chronic respiratory diseases; Halt the rise in diabetes and obesity; An 80% availability of the affordable basic technologies and essential medicines, including generics, required to treat major non-communicable diseases in both public and private facilities.]],[[Disability-adjusted life year (DALY) is a quantitative indicator of overall disease burden, expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death.]].
  • Health care systems benefit from strengthened research and innovation expertise, human capacities and know-how for combatting communicable and non-communicable diseases, including through international cooperation. In particular, they are better prepared to respond rapidly and effectively to health emergencies and are able to prevent and manage communicable diseases transmissions epidemics, including within healthcare settings.
  • Citizens benefit from reduced (cross-border) health threat of epidemics and AMR pathogens, in the EU and worldwide[[WHO global action plan on antimicrobial resistance, 2015.]],[[EU One Health Action Plan against AMR, 2017.]]. In particular, the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases are contained and hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases are being combated[[Target 3.3 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, 2015.]].
  • Patients and citizens are knowledgeable of disease threats, involved and empowered to make and shape decisions for their health, and better adhere to knowledge-based disease management strategies and policies (especially for controlling outbreaks and emergencies).

The EU benefits from high visibility, leadership and standing in international fora on global health and global health security, especially in partnership with Africa.


Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 1 - Destination 5: Unlocking the full potential of new tools, technologies and digital solutions for a healthy society

Calls for proposals under this destination are directed towards the Key Strategic Orientation KSO-A ‘Promoting an open strategic autonomy by leading the development of key digital, enabling and emerging technologies, sectors and value chains’ of Horizon Europe’s Strategic Plan 2021-2024. Research and innovation supported under this destination should contribute to the impact area ‘High quality digital services for all’ and in particular to the following expected impact, set out in the Strategic Plan for the health cluster: ‘Health technologies, new tools and digital solutions are applied effectively thanks to their inclusive, secure and ethical development, delivery, integration and deployment in health policies and health and care systems’. In addition, research and innovation supported under this destination could also contribute to the following impact areas: ‘A competitive and secure data-economy’, ‘Industrial leadership in key and emerging technologies that work for people’, and ‘Good health and high-quality accessible health care’.

Technology is a key driver for innovation in the health care sector. It can provide better and more cost-efficient solutions with high societal impact, tailored to the specific health care needs of the individual. However, novel tools, therapies, technologies and digital approaches face specific barriers and hurdles in piloting, implementing and scaling-up before reaching the patient, encountering additional challenges such as public acceptance and trust. Emerging and disruptive technologies offer big opportunities for transforming health care, thereby promoting the health and well-being of citizens. Unlocking this potential and harnessing the opportunities depends on the capacity to collect, integrate and interpret large amounts of data, as well as ensure compatibility with appropriate regulatory frameworks and infrastructures that will both safeguard the rights of the individual and of society and stimulate innovation to develop impactful solutions. In addition to existing European Research Infrastructures, the European Health Data Space will promote health-data exchange and facilitate cross-border research activities. This destination aims to promote the development of tools, technologies and digital solutions for treatments, medicines, medical devices and improved health outcomes, taking into consideration safety, effectiveness, appropriateness, accessibility, comparative value-added and fiscal sustainability as well as issues of ethical, legal and regulatory nature.

In view of increasing the impact of EU investments under Horizon Europe, the European Commission welcomes and supports cooperation between EU-funded projects to enable cross-fertilisation and other synergies. This could range from networking to joint activities such as the participation in joint workshops, the exchange of knowledge, the development and adoption of best practices, or joint communication activities. Opportunities for potential synergies exist between projects funded under the same topic but also between other projects funded under another topic, cluster or pillar of Horizon Europe (but also with ongoing projects funded under Horizon 2020). In particular, this could involve projects related to European health research infrastructures (under pillar I of Horizon Europe), the EIC strategic challenges on health and EIT-KIC Health (under pillar III of Horizon Europe) or in areas cutting across the health and other clusters (under pillar II of Horizon Europe). For instance, with cluster 4 “Digital, Industry and Space” such as on digitalisation of the health sector, incl. health technologies, medical devices and key enabling technologies; assisted, autonomous, independent and empowered living; smart homes; decision support systems; health impact assessment (e.g. related to consumer products, working place innovation).

Expected Impacts

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway towards unlocking the full potential of new tools, technologies and digital solutions for a healthy society, and more specifically to several of the following expected impacts:

  • Europe’s scientific and technological expertise and know-how, its capabilities for innovation in new tools, technologies and digital solutions, and its ability to take-up, scale-up and integrate innovation in health care is world-class.
  • Citizens benefit from targeted and faster research resulting in safer, more efficient, cost-effective and affordable tools, technologies and digital solutions for improved (personalised) disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment and monitoring for better patient outcome and well-being, in particular through increasingly shared health resources (interoperable data, infrastructure, expertise, citizen/patient driven co-creation).[[Commission Communication on the digital transformation of health and care; COM(2018) 233 final.]]
  • The EU gains high visibility and leadership in terms of health technology development, including through international cooperation.
  • The burden of diseases in the EU and worldwide is reduced through the development and integration of innovative diagnostic and therapeutic approaches, personalised medicine approaches, digital and other people-centred solutions for health care.
  • Both the productivity of health research and innovation, and the quality and outcome of health care is improved thanks to the use of health data and innovative analytical tools, such as artificial intelligence (AI) supported decision-making, in a secure and ethical manner, respecting individual integrity and underpinned with public acceptance and trust.

Citizens trust and support the opportunities offered by innovative technologies for health care, based on expected health outcomes and potential risks involved.


Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 1 - Destination 6: Maintaining an innovative, sustainable and globally competitive health industry

Calls for proposals under this destination are directed towards the Key Strategic Orientation KSO-A ‘Promoting an open strategic autonomy by leading the development of key digital, enabling and emerging technologies, sectors and value chains’ of Horizon Europe’s Strategic Plan 2021-2024. Research and innovation supported under this destination should contribute to the impact area ‘A competitive and secure data-economy’ and in particular to the following expected impact, set out in the Strategic Plan for the health cluster: ‘EU health industry is innovative, sustainable and globally competitive thanks to improved up-take of breakthrough technologies and innovations, which makes the EU with its Member States more resilient and less dependent from imports with regard to the access to and supply of critical health technologies’. In addition, research and innovation supported under this destination could also contribute to the following impact areas: ‘Industrial leadership in key and emerging technologies that work for people’, ‘High quality digital services for all’, and ‘Good health and high-quality accessible health care’.

The health industry is a key driver for growth and has the capacity to provide health technologies to the benefit of patients and providers of health care services. The relevant value chains involve a broad variety of key players from supply, demand and regulatory sides. In addition, the path of innovation in health is long and complex. The development of novel health technologies is generally associated with uncertainties and market barriers due to expensive and risky development (e.g. attrition rate in pharmaceutical development), high quality and security requirements (e.g. clinical performance, safety, data privacy and cybersecurity) and market specificities (e.g. strong regulation, pricing and reimbursement issues). In addition, the growing concern about environmental issues is putting more pressure on this industry. Therefore, there is a need for research and innovation integrating various stakeholders to facilitate market access of innovative health technologies (medical technologies, pharmaceuticals, biotechnologies, digital health technologies).

In order to address these challenges, in particular green and digital transitions and proper supply of health technologies and products, destination 6 will focus on research and innovation activities that aim at:

  • Production of pharmaceuticals in compliance with the objectives of the European Green Deal.
  • Methodologies, guidelines and standards, assessment studies, and structuring activities adapted to digital solutions and interventions for GDPR compliant translation into health care practice, including inter-operability, cyber-security and data confidentiality.
  • Public authorities supported with better methodologies and interdisciplinary approaches to assess and value new health technologies and interventions.
  • Development of pharmaceutical products meeting unmet medical needs in the context of market failures.

In view of increasing the impact of EU investments under Horizon Europe, the European Commission welcomes and supports cooperation between EU-funded projects to enable cross-fertilisation and other synergies. This could range from networking to joint activities such as the participation in joint workshops, the exchange of knowledge, the development and adoption of best practices, or joint communication activities. Opportunities for potential synergies exist between projects funded under the same topic but also between other projects funded under another topic, cluster or pillar of Horizon Europe (but also with ongoing projects funded under Horizon 2020). In particular, this could involve projects related to European health research infrastructures (under pillar I of Horizon Europe), the EIC strategic challenges on health and EIT-KIC Health (under pillar III of Horizon Europe), or in areas cutting across the health and other clusters (under pillar II of Horizon Europe). For instance, with cluster 4 “Digital, Industry and Space” such as on industrial research and innovation infrastructures (pilot plants, testing and simulation facilities, open innovation hubs); additive manufacturing (3D/4D printing) and other production technologies (incl. bio manufacturing); safe, smart and sustainable materials.

Expected Impacts:

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to maintaining an innovative, sustainable and globally competitive health industry, and more specifically to one or several of the following expected impacts:

  • Health industry in the EU is more competitive and sustainable, assuring European leadership in breakthrough health technologies and strategic autonomy in essential medical supplies and digital technologies, contributing to job creation and economic growth, in particular with small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
  • Health industry is working more efficiently along the value chain from the identification of needs to the scale-up and take-up of solutions at national, regional or local level, including through early engagement with patients, health care providers, health authorities and regulators ensuring suitability and acceptance of solutions.
  • European standards, including for operations involving health data, ensure patient safety and quality of healthcare services as well as effectiveness and interoperability of health innovation and productivity of innovators.
  • Citizens, health care providers and health systems benefit from a swift uptake of innovative health technologies and services offering significant improvements in health outcomes, while health industry in the EU benefits from decreased time-to-market.
  • Health security in the EU benefits from reliable access to key manufacturing capacity, including timely provision of essential medical supplies of particularly complex or critical supply and distribution chains, such as regards vaccines or medical radioisotopes.

Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 2 - Destination 1: Innovative research on democracy and governance

Democracies are more fragile and more vulnerable than in the past. The Freedom in the World Report (2020) shows that democracies across the globe are in crisis[[https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2020/leaderless-struggle-democracy]]. At the same time, various European surveys show declining levels of trust in the political institutions of democracy.[[W. Merkel, Past, Present and Future of Democracy - Policy Review, 2019: https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/4bebf83d-60ba-11e9-b6eb-01aa75ed71a1/language-en/format-PDF/source-94807842]] In terms of legitimacy, there are signs of a potential shift from governance based on expertise, multilateralism and consensual policymaking towards majoritarianism, unilateralism, nationalism, populism and polarization. Research on the past and present challenges and tensions in democracy can help to better understand and strengthen democracy, its resilience and stability. It will foster democracy’s further development with a view to enhancing representation, participation, openness, pluralism, tolerance, the effectiveness of public policy, non-discrimination, civic engagement, the protection of fundamental rights and the rule of law. These reflect the European Union’s values as defined in Article 2 of the EU Treaty[[Consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union, Title 1 “Common Provisions”, Article 2: “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail”.]].

Expected impact:

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to the following expected impacts of the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan:

  • Democratic governance is reinvigorated by improving the accountability, transparency, effectiveness and trustworthiness of rule-of-law based institutions and policies and through the expansion of active and inclusive citizenship empowered by the safeguarding of fundamental rights.

The implementation of the research activities of the destination will assist in the re-invigoration and modernisation of democratic governance. The aim is to develop evidence-based innovations, policies and policy recommendations, as well as institutional frameworks that expand political participation, social dialogue, civic engagement, gender equality and inclusiveness. Activities will also contribute to enhancing the transparency, effectiveness, accountability and legitimacy of public policy-making. They will help improving trust in democratic institutions, safeguarding liberties and the rule of law and protecting democracy from multidimensional threats. Rich historical, cultural and philosophical perspectives, including a comparative dimension, will set the frame for soundly understanding present developments and help to map future pathways. In the medium to long term, the knowledge, data, scientifically robust recommendations and innovations generated will enhance decision making on all aspects relevant to democratic governance. As the Destination aims directly at citizen engagement and at producing lasting change, it is of particular importance that the research and innovation actions promote the highest standards of transparency and openness. When applicable, it is encouraged to open up the process, criteria, methodologies and data to civil society in the course of the research.


Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 2 - Destination 2: Innovative research on the European cultural heritage and the cultural and creative industries

Europe’s rich cultural heritage, with its common values, its wealth of monuments and sites and its creative diversity of traditions, crafts, arts, architecture, literature, languages, theatre, films and music, not only reflects our past but also shapes our present and builds our future. It is a creative way of cultivating independent thinking and dialogue, while promoting our interests across the world. Access to experience with cultural heritage contributes to social cohesion and inclusion, by strengthening resilience and the sense of belonging, bringing people together and improving well-being.

Europe’s common research and innovation (R&I) action to protect, conserve, restore and repair its important cultural heritage, promote its use as one of the substantial European resources, boost its traditional and contemporary arts and create wider awareness is still limited in scope and impact. Moreover, European tangible and intangible cultural heritage is increasingly facing a number of challenges such as deterioration due to climate change, pollution, natural or man-made disasters, looting and illicit trafficking, lack of finance or insufficient valorisation. In addition, Europe’s cultural production (in particular film and music) lags behind in international competitiveness despite its high quality and quantity.

European R&I[[In this context, innovation should be understood as any new creative idea, which can take the form of products, processes, services, technologies, organisational or business models that are made available to markets, governments and society.]] activities will make a strong contribution in all these areas by strengthening our common knowledge and expertise, as well as by providing solid evidence for policy-making. They will promote and valorise our cultural heritage and arts, while increasing their international competitiveness and firming the social fabric at European, national, regional or local level. Through a broad co-operation of a wide set of stakeholders and efficient coordination between EU Member States, R&I activities will be oriented towards interdisciplinary research and actively involve the cultural and creative industries (CCIs)[[CCIs defined as in the European Commission Green Paper ‘Unlocking the Potential of Cultural and Creative Industries’: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52010DC0183&from=ENl]]. They will connect cultural heritage with the CCIs by supporting new forms of cultural and artistic expression that build on existing cultural assets and provide access to both tangible and intangible heritage. R&I will also promote the competitiveness of cultural and creative industries. It will provide evidence about their role as innovation drivers in the wider economy. In line with the Commission priorities, the R&I activities of this Destination will help promote the European way of life, contribute to achieving the Green Deal goals and support an economy that works for people. They will also contribute to the New European Bauhaus[[The New European Bauhaus initiative was launched by European Commission President von der Leyen in her State of the European Union speech autumn 2020. More information here:https://europa.eu/new-european-bauhaus/index_en]] initiative, to realising the UN Sustainable Development Goals and to building a stronger crisis-resilient society and economy by taking into account experiences, challenges and lessons learnt also from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Concretely, R&I activities under this Destination and its calls will support these policy objectives by monitoring, safeguarding and transmitting cultural heritage, fostering the CCIs and promoting cultural diversity. They will aim at protecting historical sites and monuments, artefacts, heritage sites, cultural landscapes, museums and other cultural institutions, languages, customs, traditions and values. Through new or existing cutting-edge conservation and restoration technologies and methods, they will help restore and preserve monuments and artefacts in a green way. They will advance the protection of cultural heritage from natural hazards and anthropogenic threats, including the looting and illicit trafficking of cultural goods. Research and innovation across the cultural and creative sectors will foster their inbuilt innovation potential and will promote transformation in many parts of the economy and social development across Europe. Through new approaches, R&I will offer innovative, integrated, sustainable and participative management and business models for museums and other cultural institutions, with a view to spur inclusive growth, jobs, social cohesion and diversity. It will also contribute to develop a sustainable and quality-driven intervention on built environment in line with the New European Bauhaus initiative. Research in old and new forms of cultural and artistic expression will promote intercultural cooperation, while engaging citizens and young people. It will valorise traditional skills and the reuse of existing assets. Exploring the economic role of CCIs and investigating the impact of creative and artistic intervention into innovation processes will provide capacities to boost Europe’s competitiveness. European cultural heritage, arts and creativity can be harnessed to further develop the design and identity of products, and to shape the public image of our countries and regions. Cultural and intellectual experiences can be marketed at a premium: CCIs are at the frontline of this action, by investing in knowledge and creativity. Furthermore, the use of existing and the development of new digital methodologies will offer innovative approaches to share and increase access to and engagement with cultural heritage. Altogether, these actions will enable real cooperation and participation of a wide range of communities, including stakeholders, citizens and industry.

Through all these activities, research and innovation will underpin the European Union’s leading role in protecting, preserving and enhancing Europe’s cultural heritage and scale-up the competitiveness of its cultural and creative industries.

Proposals under this destination should consider and promote in a cross-cutting way, and whenever appropriate and applicable:

  • The use of digital and cutting-edge technologies;
  • An active and sustainable engagement with stakeholders, social innovators and citizens;
  • The active involvement of local, regional or national authorities and sectoral social partners, particularly in the uptake and implementation of research results and recommendations;
  • A clear strategy for the uptake of research outcomes, recommendations or results, in particular where CCIs are participating or are concerned;
  • Training and education activities for targeted groups of users and/or stakeholders;
  • A robust plan for how projects will use or build on outputs and results from research already undertaken and technology already available;
  • Increased participation of CCIs, SMEs and industry;
  • Lessons learnt from the COVID-19 crisis in view of a sustainable management of the post-crisis society;
  • Contribution to the European Green Deal, the New European Bauhaus as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.

Expected impacts:

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to the following expected impact of the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan:

The full potential of cultural heritage, arts and cultural and creative sectors as a driver of sustainable innovation and a European sense of belonging is realised through a continuous engagement with society, citizens and economic sectors as well as through better protection, restoration and promotion of cultural heritage.


Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 2 - Destination 3: Innovative research on social and economic transformations

Europe is being transformed by changes that impact the livelihoods and wellbeing of its citizens. Such changes present important opportunities for the EU to innovate and shape forward looking inclusive societies and economies, while avoiding the mistakes of the past and promoting an inclusive recovery that strengthens economic and social resilience. However, demographic changes, digitalisation, automation, environmental degradation, the transition to a low carbon economy and globalisation all pose multidimensional, interconnected and complex social and economic challenges. At the same time, there has been an increase in inequality, poverty and social exclusion, a polarisation of skill needs in the labour market, and a slowdown in convergence in income and employment in most European countries. Inequalities threaten social and territorial cohesion, economic growth and wellbeing. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the pervasive inequalities across European societies, with significant differences in the way losses and costs of the COVID-19 pandemic and the crisis that followed are distributed in society. To seize the opportunities emerging from socio-economic transformations in a strongly connected and integrated world, these challenges need to be better understood and tackled.

Population ageing increases social protection spending on pensions, health and long-term care and restricts the capacity of the redistributive system to reduce inequality. Societies also need to adapt to a new role elderly people may have, with their experience and capacity to remain productive. Policies need to support a transition towards more environmentally-friendly ways of producing and providing private and public services, while ensuring all regions and individuals equally benefit from these transitions and that no one is left behind, in particular when it comes to access to essential services. Access to social protection for those in need should be ensured, while making sure that everyone can participate in economic, social, political and cultural developments. Social protection supports individuals in emergencies that they can no longer cope with on their own and, in addition, protect them by means of long-term measures – whether in the event of illness, accident, need for care, unemployment or old age. Moreover, mitigation and adaptation strategies are essential to make sure population movements shaped by these transitions are positive for all areas, and do not contribute to deepening the divide between regions or countries.

Education and training are key long-term factors in preventing and reversing inequalities and promoting equal opportunities, inclusion and social mobility. However, the educational outcomes of younger generations are still determined to a large extent by the socio-economic background of their parents rather than by their own potential. Promoting and ensuring inclusion and equity in education and training is thus fundamental in breaking these patterns.

In this context, it is important to reflect on the nature of economic growth and the need to better capture the different dimensions of social progress. It is increasingly important to distinguish between the different purposes of measurement: economic activity, social and cultural wellbeing and sustainability, and to develop relevant indicators. This is particularly the case as the pervasive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the economic performance and socio-economic fabric of many countries in Europe.

Migration has been a critical component of the makeup of European societies, one that is likely to dominate policy and political agendas for many years to come. It is an issue requiring comprehensive and coordinated European responses in order to ripen its benefits, both inside and outside the EU, involving Member States, Associated and partner countries, EU actors, as well as local and regional authorities, civil society organisations, migrants’ representatives – including migrant organisations – and economic and social partners. Partnerships between these stakeholders are needed to make the most of the positive consequences of migration, as well as ensuring that migration occurs in an orderly and dignified manner. The task of research is to better understand migration in a global and EU context, assist in its governance, support security and help the socio-economic as well as civil-political inclusion of migrants in European societies. It can enhance policies by providing evidence on the causes and consequences of the phenomena and facilitate timely response by identifying trends and suggesting possible policy solutions.

The implementation of the research activities in the two calls of this Destination will contribute to a comprehensive and reflective European strategy for inclusive growth, including social, economic, ecological and historical dimensions. This will strengthen the resilience of the EU and of its citizens, and will ensure that no one is left behind, including through the accumulation and preservation of human capital in the face of old and new risks. It will equally support productivity gains and their fair distribution, as well as boosting social and economic resilience that is essential to face situations of crisis such as in the case of COVID-19. Activities will contribute to EU migration and mobility policies, both internal and external. The overall knowledge generated, including a holistic understanding of societal wellbeing, will feed into the design of policy strategies in line with the above mentioned objectives and will facilitate the assessment of policy needs and outcomes in the field of the societal and economic transformations.

The Destination calls for proposals that may help in reaching these key strategic policy objectives in the EU. It invites proposals to do so by integrating feedback loops with stakeholders and policymakers that may help in developing suggestions and recommendations throughout their lifecycles. These proposals should take into consideration the stakeholders associated to the decisions that are suggested, and should also account for the context in which decisions are made. Therefore, in order to maximize and facilitate the uptake of group-sensitive recommendations in policy, they should include analyses of political and financial trade-offs associated to the recommendations produced, reflecting also on contextual changes needed to implement proposals developed. Proposals are also invited to build upon previous research funded by Horizon 2020, valorising its experience and findings.

Expected impacts:

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to the following targeted expected impacts of the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan:

  • Social and economic resilience and sustainability are strengthened through a better understanding of the social, ethical, political and economic impacts of drivers of change (such as technology, globalisation, demographics, mobility and migration) and their interplay.

Inclusive growth is boosted and vulnerabilities are reduced effectively through evidence-based policies for protecting and enhancing employment, education, social fairness and tackling inequalities, including in response to the socio-economic challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 4 - Destination 1: Climate neutral, circular and digitised production

This destination will directly support the following Key Strategic Orientations, as outlined in the Strategic Plan:

  • KSO C, ‘Making Europe the first digitally led circular, climate-neutral and sustainable economy through the transformation of its mobility, energy, construction and production systems.’
  • KSO 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 human-centred technologies and innovations.’
  • KSO 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.’

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to the following expected impact of Cluster 4:

  • Global leadership in clean and climate-neutral industrial value chains, circular economy and climate-neutral digital systems and infrastructures (networks, data centres), through innovative production and manufacturing processes and their digitisation, new business models, sustainable-by-design advanced materials and technologies enabling the switch to decarbonisation in all major emitting industrial sectors, including green digital technologies.

Accelerating the twin green and digital transitions will be key to building a lasting and prosperous growth, in line with the EU’s new growth strategy, the European Green Deal. Europe’s ability to lead the twin transitions will require new technologies, with investment and innovation to match. Research and innovation will be fundamental to create the new products, services and business models needed to sustain or enable EU industrial leadership and competitiveness, and to create new markets for climate neutral and circular products. The shift towards a sustainable and inclusive economic model will be further enabled by the broader diffusion and uptake of digital and clean technologies across key sectors.

As Europe transitions towards climate neutrality, some sectors will have to make bigger and more transformative changes than others, due to their centrality in a variety of value chains and their large potential contribution to emissions reductions. Activities under this Destination focus on the twin green and digital transition providing a green productivity premium to discrete manufacturing, construction and energy-intensive industries, including process industries. This will make an essential and significant contribution to achieving climate neutrality in the European Union by 2050, and to the achievement of a circular economy. It will also enhance the Union’s open strategic autonomy with regard to the underlying technologies. To achieve these goals, the activities in this Destination are complementary to those in Destination 2, which will enhance open strategic autonomy in key strategic value chains for a resilient industry.

The gross added value of the European manufacturing sector is EUR 2,076 billion (2019). The sector employs more than 30 million people in the Union and represents 22% of the world’s manufacturing output. The Union’s trade surplus in manufactured goods is EUR 421 billion (2019). Similarly, the construction ecosystem (driven mainly by SMEs) offers 22 million jobs and contributes 10.5% of EU-27 global value added[['Updating the 2020 New Industrial Strategy: Building a stronger Single Market for Europe's recovery', COM(2021)350 final and associated Staff Working Documents]]. However, the manufacturing and construction sectors must significantly reduce their pollution and waste, and increase their recycling. Moreover, the potential of digital technologies is underused in manufacturing industry, e.g. 12% of EU enterprises use big data technologies and only 1 out of 5 SMEs is highly digitised, and in construction, which remains one of the least digitised sectors with a notable underinvestment in R&D.[[The digital intensity of the construction sector is below 10%, meaning that the sector has a very slow absorption rate of digital technologies, according to the Digital Transformation Scoreboard 2018, https://ec.europa.eu/information_society/newsroom/image/document/2018-20/4_desi_report_integration_of_digital_technology_B61BEB6B-F21D-9DD7-72F1FAA836E36515_52243.pdf]] A key issue for the manufacturing sector is that its complex supply and value chains are heavily affected by the current pandemic crisis, and the sector needs to further develop resilience against financial and technical disruptions.

In addition, the Union’s process industries are important to its economy, its resilience and its environmental credentials. Process industries are responsible for a turnover of > 2 trillion, 8.5 million direct jobs and 20 million indirect jobs. They represent 0.5 million enterprises and 5 % of the EU27 GDP. The process industry however faces two key challenges: a strong global competition, and an environmental challenge. In particular, energy-intensive industries are resource intensive, using extensive amounts of raw materials (often imported and fossil based). In their operations, they generate large amounts of waste, 20% of global greenhouse gases (GHG) but also pollutants. The industries need to transform itself to decrease GHG and pollutant emissions, its resource utilisation and its overall environmental impact. It will have to achieve climate neutrality, near zero waste, zero pollution and zero landfill by 2050 at the latest. By 2030, decisive steps need to be taken given the long investment cycles these industries are facing. As the process industry is transforming primary raw materials into materials ready for use by the manufacturing industry, it will play a key role in the pathways toward circularity of materials by transforming industrial and end-of-life waste into secondary raw materials leading to the same quality output in the newly produced materials.

In the first Work Programme, outcomes of R&I investments in the long-term will focus on the following impacts:

  • Accelerate the twin green and digital transition of the manufacturing and construction sectors;
  • Create a new green, flexible and digital way to build and produce goods. This will lead to sustainable, flexible, responsive and resilient factories and value chains, enabled by digitisation, AI, data sharing, advanced robotics and modularity. At the same time it will help reduce CO2 emissions and waste in these sectors, and enhance the durability, reparability and re-cycling of products/components. It will also ensure better and more efficient use of construction-generated data to sustain competitiveness and greening of the sector;
  • Make the jobs of the humans working in the manufacturing and construction sectors more attractive and safer, and point the way to opportunities for upskilling;
  • Set out a credible pathway to contributing to climate neutral, circular and digitalised energy intensive industries;
  • Increase productivity, innovation capacity, resilience, sustainability and global competitiveness of European energy intensive industries. This includes as many as possible new large hubs for circularity by 2025 (TRL 7 or above); developing sustainable ways for circular utilisation of waste streams and CO2/CO streams; and electrifying industry to enable and foster a switch to a renewable energy system;
  • Contribute to a substantial reduction of waste and CO2 emissions, turning them into alternative feedstocks to replace fossil-based raw materials and decrease reliance on imports.

In order to achieve the expected outcomes, for particular topics international cooperation is clearly not mandatory but advised with some regions or countries to get internationally connected and add additional specific expertise and value to the activities.

In line with the European Green Deal objectives, research and innovation activities should comply with the ‘do no significant harm’ principle[[as per Article 17 of Regulation (EU) No 2020/852 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment (EU Taxonomy Regulation)]]. Compliance needs to be assessed both for activities carried out during the course of the project as well as the expected life cycle impact of the innovation at a commercialisation stage (where relevant). The robustness of the compliance must be customised to the envisaged TRL of the project. In this regard, the potential harm of Innovation Actions contributing to the European Green Deal will be monitored throughout the project duration.

To achieve wider effects activities beyond R&I investments will be needed. Three co-programmed partnerships will enhance dissemination, community building and foster spillover effects: Made in Europe for the manufacturing sectors, Clean Steel and Processes4Planet for the energy intensive industries. This destination has strong links to other clusters in Pillar II, notably Cluster 5 for the activities related to the integration of renewables and thermal energy management in industry, and with the European Innovation Council and Pillar III of Horizon Europe given the strong role of SMEs in the development of the innovations planned. Synergies will be sought to access blended funding and finance from other EU programmes; testing and deployment activities under the Digital Europe Programme (DEP); links to the EIT (Manufacturing and Digital KICs); and links to the thematic smart specialisation platform on industrial modernisation.

Much of the research and innovation supported under this Destination may serve as a cradle for the New European Bauhaus: this is about designing sustainable ways of living, situated at the crossroads between art, culture, social inclusion, science and technology. This includes R&I on manufacturing, construction, advanced materials and the circular economy approaches.

Business cases and exploitation strategies for industrialisation: This section applies only to those topics in this Destination, for which proposals should demonstrate the expected impact by including a business case and exploitation strategy for industrialisation.

The business case should demonstrate the expected impact of the proposal in terms of enhanced market opportunities for the participants and enhanced manufacturing capacities in the EU, in the short to medium term. It should describe the targeted market(s); estimated market size in the EU and globally; user and customer needs; and demonstrate that the solutions will match the market and user needs in a cost-effective manner; and describe the expected market position and competitive advantage.

The exploitation strategy should identify obstacles, requirements and necessary actions involved in reaching higher TRLs, for example: matching value chains, enhancing product robustness; securing industrial integrators; and user acceptance.

For TRLs 7-8, a credible strategy to achieve future full-scale manufacturing in the EU is expected, indicating the commitments of the industrial partners after the end of the project.

Activities beyond R&I investments will be needed to realise the expected impacts: these include the further development of skills and competencies (also via the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, in particular EIT Manufacturing); and the use of financial products under the InvestEU Fund for further commercialisation of R&I outcomes.

Where relevant, in the context of skills, it is recommended to develop training material to endow workers with the right skillset in order to support the uptake and deployment of new innovative products, services, and processes developed in the different projects. This material should be tested and be scalable, and can potentially be up-scaled through the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+). This will help the European labour force to close the skill gaps in the relevant sectors and occupational groups and improve employment and social levels across the EU and associated countries.

The topics serving these objectives are structured as follows:

  • Green, flexible and advanced manufacturing
  • Advanced digital technologies for manufacturing
  • A new way to build, accelerating disruptive change in construction
  • Hubs for circularity, a stepping stone towards climate neutrality and circularity in industry
  • Enabling circularity of resources in the process industries, including waste, water and CO2/CO
  • Integration of Renewables and Electrification in process industry

Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 4 - Destination 3: World Leading Data and Computing Technologies and Data Computing Technologies

This destination will directly support the following Key Strategic Orientations, as outlined in the Strategic Plan:

  • KSO 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 human-centred technologies and innovations.’
  • KSO C, ‘Making Europe the first digitally led circular, climate-neutral and sustainable economy through the transformation of its mobility, energy, construction and production systems

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to the following expected impact of Cluster 4 as set out in Horizon Europe Strategic Plan:

  • Globally attractive, secure and dynamic data-agile economy, by developing and enabling the uptake of the next-generation computing and data technologies and infrastructures (including space infrastructure and data), enabling the European single market for data with the corresponding data spaces and a trustworthy artificial intelligence ecosystem.

As data becomes the new fuel of the economy and a key asset to address our societal challenges, the EU cannot afford to have the data of its businesses, public sector and citizens stored and exploited largely outside its borders. This is affecting not only our economic performance but also our security, safety and sovereignty.

As announced in the EU data strategy (COM(2020) 66), the EU has the means to become the world’s most secure and trustful data hub. For that to happen, an important investment effort in the development of data technologies is needed to support the use, interoperability and analytical exploitation of EU-wide common data spaces targeting essential economic sectors and areas of public interest. The COVID-19 crisis showed how essential it is to master data technologies to address our societal challenges and to incentivize public and private stakeholders to trustfully share data.

The investments should cover the necessary data infrastructure and service platforms to enable virtualisation, adaptation of data and meta-data (including standards for data sharing) as well as common analytics tools. Investment in this Destination will reinforce the cloud and data infrastructure supply industry and make data accessible to research, education, businesses and governments across the EU in a way that meets European values and requirements. It will focus on energy-efficient and trustworthy data infrastructures and related services. The EU also needs to swiftly develop generic cloud to edge to IoT technologies, methods, tools and platforms for the support of future hyper-distributed applications in any business/societal sector.

Europe’s lead in the data economy also increasingly depends on its capability to autonomously develop key High Performance Computing (HPC) technologies, provide access to world-class supercomputing and data infrastructures, maintain global leadership in HPC applications, and foster the acquisition of HPC skills. This is the purpose of the activities funded by the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking.

Investments in this Destination contribute substantially to climate change objectives. Energy efficiency is a key design principle in actions, which will lead to new technologies and solutions that are cornerstones for a sustainable economy and society. These solutions range from environmentally sustainable data operations to balancing loads among centralised clouds and distributed edge computing, from decentralised energy sources to energy-harvesting sensors/devices, etc.

Finally, a robust data ecosystem rests as much on the wide, practical availability of top solutions and results, as on the transparency of the research and innovation process. To ensure trustworthiness and wide adoption by user communities for the benefit of society, actions should promote high standards of transparency and openness. Actions should ensure that the processes and outcomes of research and innovation align with the needs, values and expectations of society, in line with Responsible Research and Innovation.

This Destination is structured into the following headings, which group topics together with similar outcomes to address a common challenge:

  • Data sharing in the common European data space

Data sharing and data interoperability are still at their infancy; few data markets for sharing industrial data exist. In a recent survey[[https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/sme-panel-consultation-b2b-data-sharing]], more than 40% of the SMEs interviewed claim they had problems in acquiring data from other companies. The diffusion of platforms for data sharing and the availability of interoperable datasets is one of the key success factors which may help to drive the European data economy and industrial transformation. On the other hand, Europe is developing a strong legal framework for data and is well positioned to exploit data from the public sector. The potential of European industrial data (from digitising industry) creates great synergies to feed European data ecosystems with industrial, personal, and public sector data, to be shared and exploited in full compliance with the ethical and legal framework.

In line with the FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable), the overall objective of the topics in this heading is to make Europe the most successful area in the world in terms of data sharing and data re-use while respecting the legal framework relating to security and privacy and fostering collaboration and building on existing initiatives.

  • Strengthening Europe’s data analytics capacity

Recent developments in sensor networks, cyber-physical systems, and the ubiquity of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have increased the collection of data (including health care, social media, smart communities, industry, manufacturing, education, construction, agriculture, water management finance/insurance, tourism, education, and more) to an enormous scale (by 2025, 463 exabytes of data will be produced every day in the world). There is significant potential for advances of data analytics at the intersection of many scientific, technology and societal fields (e.g. data mining, AI, complex systems, network science, statistics, natural language understanding, mathematics, particle physics, astronomy, earth observation…), and new methods and approaches are needed along the whole data life-cycle and value chain.

The overall objective of the topics in this heading is to make the EU fully autonomous in processing, combining, modelling and analysing such large amounts of data for efficiently predicting future courses of action with high accuracy and advanced decision-making strategies. The use of natural resources is reduced and waste avoided by making it possible to replace classical experiments by data-driven digital models. The technological achievements under this heading will support the development of responsible and useful AI solutions, built on high-quality and high-value data.

  • From Cloud to Edge to IoT for European Data

Today, 80% of the processing and analysis of data takes place in data centres and centralised computing facilities, and 20% in smart connected objects; only 1 European company in 4 use cloud technologies; 75% of the European cloud market is dominated by non-EU players. Considering the pace of development in this area outside of the EU, the implementation of the activities will require R&I instruments with great flexibility, including the support of SMEs and start-ups, to nurture a European ecosystem and deliver swift results.

In line with Europe’s data, green and industrial strategies, for capitalising on the paradigm shift to the edge, Europe needs to pool major investments. Focus must be on the development and deployment of the next generation computing components, systems and platforms that enable this transition to a compute continuum with strong capacities at the edge and far edge in an energy efficient and trustworthy manner.

The overall objective of the topics in this heading is to establish the European supply and value chains in cloud to edge computing to Internet of Things (IoT) and tactile internet by integrating relevant elements of computing, connectivity, IoT, AI cybersecurity. New cloud/edge technologies with enhanced performance enabled by AI will increase European autonomy in the data economy required to support future hyper-distributed applications.

Finally, actions on high-end computing for exascale performance and beyond will be entirely implemented in the Joint Undertaking EuroHPC.

Today, Europe critically depends on foreign High Performance Computing (HPC) technologies that are essential for scientific and industrial innovation and competitiveness. By 2022 the next generation supercomputers will reach exascale performance, none of them with European technology components.

The overall objective such actions is to ensure digital autonomy for Europe in key high-end supercomputing technology (hardware and software) and applications, and developing the first exascale supercomputer based predominantly on European technology by 2026.

Activities beyond R&I investments will be needed to realise the expected impacts: testing, experimentation, demonstration, and support for take-up using the capacities, infrastructures, and European Digital Innovation Hubs made available under the Digital Europe Programme; large-scale roll-out of innovative new technologies and solutions (e.g. interconnections between High-Performance Computing centres) via the Connecting Europe Facility; further development of skills and competencies via the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, in particular EIT Digital; upscaling of trainings via the European Social Fund +; and use of financial instruments under the InvestEU Fund for further commercialisation of R&I outcomes.

Expected impact

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to world-leading data and computing technologies, and more specifically to one or several of the following impacts:

  • Improved European leadership in the global data economy
  • Maximised social and economic benefits from the wider and more effective use of data
  • Reinforced Europe’s ability to manage urgent societal challenges (e.g. data for crisis management, digital for clean energy).


Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 4 - Destination 4: Digital and Emerging Technologies for Competitivness and Fit for the Green Deal

This destination will directly support the following Key Strategic Orientations, as outlined in the Strategic Plan:

  • KSO 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 human-centred technologies and innovations.’
  • KSO C, ‘Making Europe the first digitally led circular, climate-neutral and sustainable economy through the transformation of its mobility, energy, construction and production systems

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to the following expected impact:

  • Open strategic autonomy in digital technologies and in future emerging enabling technologies, by strengthening European capacities in key parts of digital and future supply chains, allowing agile responses to urgent needs, and by investing in early discovery and industrial uptake of new technologies.

Electronic and photonic components, and the software that defines how they work, are the key digital technologies that underpin all digital systems. As the digitalisation of all sectors accelerates, most industries depend on early access to digital components. Dependence on these technologies represents a clear threat to Europe’s autonomy, particularly in periods of geopolitical instability, exposing Europe to risks of vulnerability. Actions under this Destination will build on EU strengths in low-power consumption and ultra-secure components, Europe needs to develop the essential electronic and photonic components for a wide range of applications such as healthcare equipment, electric and autonomous vehicles, manufacturing and production plants and equipment, telecom networks, aerospace vehicles, consumer products

R&I initiatives on 6G technologies are now starting in leading regions world-wide, with the first products and infrastructures expected for the end of this decade. 6G systems are expected to offer a new step change in performance from Gigabit towards Terabit capacities and sub-millisecond response times, to enable new critical applications such as real-time automation or eXtended Reality (“Internet of Senses”). Europe must engage now to be among the top influencers of - and competitors in - these technologies and ensure that emerging network technology standards are defined following European values and energy-efficiency requirements. Main actions on 6G technologies will be undertaken in the Smart Networks and Services Joint Undertaking.

Despite a strong European scientific community’s on AI and robotics, Europe lags behind in AI diffusion. Actions under this Destination will develop world-class technologies serving the needs of all types of European industries (e.g. manufacturing, healthcare, transport, agriculture, energy, construction), providing top-performing solutions that businesses will trust and adopt to maintain their competitiveness and maximise their contribution to environmental sustainability.

While Europe is strong in many sectors, it must take ownership of its unavoidable future transformations for competitiveness, prosperity and sustainability, by early leadership in new and emerging enabling technologies, e.g. alternative computing models such as bio- and neuro-morphic approaches, use of biological elements as part of technology, and sustainable smart materials. In particular, the far-reaching impact of quantum and graphene technologies on our economy and society cannot be fully estimated yet, but they will be disruptive for many fields. Actions in this Destination will ensure that Europe stays ahead in this global race and is in a position to achieve game-changing breakthroughs.

In line with the vision set out in the Digital Decade Communication (COM(2021)118), in particular its ‘secure and performant sustainable digital infrastructures’ pillar, actions under this Destination will support Europe’s open strategic autonomy, and reinforce and regain European industry’s leaderships across the digital supply chain. It will direct investments to activities that will ensure a robust European industrial and technology presence in all key parts of a greener digital supply chain, from low-power components to advanced systems, future networks, new data technologies and platforms. Autonomy will require sustaining first-mover advantage in strategic areas like quantum computing and graphene, and investing early in emerging enabling technologies.

Investments in this Destination contribute substantially to climate change objectives. Energy efficiency is a key design principle in actions, which will lead to new technologies and solutions that are cornerstones for a sustainable economy and society. These solutions range from ultra-low-power processors to AI, Data and Robotics solutions for resource optimisation and reduction of energy consumption and CO2 emissions; from highly efficient optical networking technologies and ultra-low-energy 6G communication networks to robotics that overcome the limitation of energy autonomy. Furthermore, promising emerging avenues are addressed via ultra-low power operations enabled by spintronics and 2D materials-based devices and systems for energy storage and harvesting.

Actions should devote particular attention to openness of the solutions and results, and transparency of the research and innovation process. To ensure trustworthiness and wide adoption by user communities for the benefit of society, actions should promote high standards of transparency and openness. Actions should ensure that the processes and outcomes of research and innovation align with the needs, values and expectations of society, in line with Responsible Research and Innovation.

As a result, this Destination is structured into the following headings, which group topics together with similar outcomes to address a common challenge:

  • Ultra-low power processors

Today Europe is not highly present in the microprocessor market. The objective of this heading is to ensure EU open strategic autonomy through the development of low-power, low environmental impact, secure and trusted components and software for strategic value-chains.

Proposals are invited under the topics of this heading in this work programme and under the topics of the ‘Key Digital Technologies’ Joint Undertaking addressing the electronics value chain (including software technologies).

  • European Innovation Leadership in Electronics

Europe currently has a leading position in key digital technologies for the strategic sectors of automotive, industrial manufacturing, aerospace, defence and security and healthcare. In the emerging area of post-Moore components, there is a number of promising technological approaches with no established players or dominant regions.

The objective of this heading is to secure access in Europe to cutting-edge digital technologies, to strengthen current leadership in strategic value-chains, and to seize emerging opportunities addressing existing technological gaps.

Proposals are invited under the topics of this heading in this work programme and under the topics of the ‘Key Digital Technologies’ Joint Undertaking addressing the electronics value chain (including software technologies).

  • European Innovation Leadership in Photonics

The European photonics industry has an excellent position in core segments, far above the average EU market share. The objective of the topics grouped in this heading is to strengthen current leadership in photonic technologies and applications, and to secure access in Europe to cutting-edge photonic technologies.

The topics of this heading are under the co-programmed Partnership ‘Photonics’.

  • 6G and foundational connectivity technologies

Today European suppliers of connectivity systems are well placed with around 40% of global 5G market share, but with high competitive pressure from Asian and US players. In terms of technology, first 5G standards are available since end of 2017 enabling Gigabit/s speeds and ~millisecond latencies. Trusted industrial services based on 5G technology are at very early stage.

The objective of this heading is to develop a strong supply chain for connectivity, increase European competitiveness and autonomy in Internet infrastructures, and to contribute to a reduction of the growing global energy consumption of the Internet and of the industry vertical users of the Internet, and to other key SDG’s such as affordability and accessibility to infrastructures. The topics under this work programme address in particular the need to develop micro electronic components and systems supporting future disaggregated Radio Access Networks and components enabling the advent of all optical networks for ultra low consumption and ultra high security networks.

Proposals are invited under the topics of this heading in this work programme and under the topics of the ‘Smart Networks and Services” Joint Undertaking addressing the future connectivity platforms including edge cloud and IoT technologies.

  • Innovation in AI, Data and Robotics

Europe has an outstanding track record in key areas of AI research, Europe’s scientific community is leading in AI and robotics, but substantial efforts are needed to transform this into (disruptive) European AI technology products that can withstand international competitors. Europe also lags behind in technology diffusion, less than half of European firms have adopted AI technology, with a majority of those still in the pilot stage. 70% of these adopter companies, only capture 10% of full potential use, and only 2% percent of European firms in healthcare are using those technologies at 80% of potential[[See https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/artificial-intelligence/tackling-europes-gap-in-digital-and-ai (based on data from 2017 and 2018)]]. Moreover, as demonstrated during the COVID-19 crisis, many AI, Data and Robotics solutions exist today but only a limited number of them reaches the level of maturity and adoption necessary to solve the problems at hand. Therefore, there is room for improved adoption by industry, which requires a drastic increase of industry-driven R&I, from basic research to large-scale piloting. In general, industry acknowledges the potential of AI technologies, but often lacks demonstrable benefits for their particular use cases.

The objective of this heading is to ensure autonomy for Europe in AI, data and robotics in developing world-class technologies serving the needs of all types of European industries, from manufacturing to healthcare, public sector, utilities, retail, finance, insurance, transport, agriculture, energy, telecommunications, environmental monitoring, construction, media, creative and cultural industries, fashion, tourism, etc. providing top-performing solutions that industries will trust and adopt to maintain their competitiveness and maximise their contribution to environmental and resources sustainability.

Several topics of this heading are under the co-programmed Partnership ‘AI, Data and Robotics’.

  • Tomorrow’s deployable Robots: efficient, robust, safe, adaptive and trusted

Europe is leading in robotics industry, with a high intensity of use of robots. Europe is also scientifically leading in robotics’ cognition, safety, manipulation, soft robotics, underwater and aerial robotics, with demonstrated impacts in many use-cases in key industrial sectors (e.g.: healthcare, agri-food[[The term Agri-Food is intended to cover a wide range of food production sectors including livestock farming, fisheries,

horticulture etc as well as produce processing, ingredient preparation and food manufacture and assembly.]], forestry, inspection and maintenance, logistics, construction, manufacturing, etc.) and across multiple modalities (aerial, marine, ground, in-vivo and space).

The objective of this heading is to ensure autonomy for Europe in robotics, leading the way in research, development and deployment of world-class technologies.

Several topics of this heading are under the co-programmed Partnership ‘AI, Data and Robotics’.

  • European leadership in Emerging Enabling Technologies

Europe’s leading industry sectors have a solid track-record in constant improvement, but less so for embracing transformative ideas. The pathway from research to industry uptake is often long and staged, with no intertwining of research and industry agendas. In the age of deep-tech, though, this intertwining is essential.

The objective of this heading is to identify early technologies that have the potential to become Europe’s future leading technologies in all areas of this cluster and to establish industry leadership in these technologies from the outset. This heading has a unique focus on off-roadmap transformations with a longer time-horizon but profound potential impact.

  • Flagship on Quantum Technologies: a Paradigm Shift

Since 2018, the Quantum Technologies Flagship has been consolidating and expanding Europe’s scientific leadership and excellence in quantum, in order to foster the development of a competitive quantum industrial and research ecosystem in Europe. The EU’s aims for quantum R&I in the next decade are set out in detail in the Quantum Flagship’s Strategic Research Agenda (SRA[[https://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/dae/document.cfm?doc_id=65402]]) and its associated main Key Performance Indicators,[[Link to provide later]] which drafted and published in 2020 on quantum computing, quantum simulation, quantum communication, and quantum sensing and metrology. Projects in each of these areas are currently supported by the Flagship, by other EU research initiatives and by national programmes.

The objective of this heading is to further develop quantum technologies and their applications in the areas of quantum computing, simulation, sensing and communication, in order to strengthen European technological sovereignty in this strategic field and achieve first-mover industry leadership, capitalising on Europe’s established excellence in quantum science and technology maintaining and developing quantum competences and skills available in the EU and raising the capabilities of all Member States in this field.

The aim of the Commission’s Digital Decade strategy is for the EU to become digitally sovereign in an interconnected world, and in the coming years quantum technologies will be a key element of this digital sovereignty, as they are of global strategic importance. Quantum technologies will be also used, among others, for sensitive applications in the area of security, and in dual-use applications. Other world regions are already investing heavily in all areas of quantum technologies research. In this context, the EU must take action to build on its strengths, and to carefully assess and address any strategic weaknesses, vulnerabilities and high-risk dependencies which put at risk the attainment of its ambitions. This will enable it to safeguard its strategic assets, interests, autonomy and security, while advancing towards its goal of open strategic autonomy.

The Quantum Technologies Flagship conducts research and development activities in the key domains of quantum computing and simulation, quantum communication, and quantum sensing. The Flagship will contribute to world-leading quantum computers and simulators, that will be acquired by the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking, and will be crucial to achieving its Digital Decade goal of having its first computer with quantum acceleration by 2025, with a view to being at the cutting edge of quantum capabilities by 2030. These machines will have a profound impact, with applications in medicine, manufacturing, or new material and new drugs design but also in cryptography, finance and many other sensitive domains.

Moreover, the Flagship’s research into quantum communication will support the development of a European quantum communication infrastructure (EuroQCI). This key component of the EU Cybersecurity Strategy will provide an extremely secure form of encryption to shield the EU’s government data and critical infrastructures against cyber-attacks. Ensuring that the latest quantum communication technologies remain accessible in the EU is crucial to maintaining European security in the face of future threats.

Research in quantum sensing technologies is also vital to the EU’s interests, as it will develop European expertise in quantum clocks for navigation (including for embarkation on Galileo satellites) and precise timing applications, sensors for autonomous vehicles, and the next generation of medical sensors.

It is therefore clearly in the EU’s interests to protect European research in these domains, the intellectual property that it generates, and the strategic assets that will be developed as a result, while taking steps to avoid situations of technological dependency on non-EU sources (in line with the call of the October 2020 European Council to reduce Europe’s strategic dependencies). With this in mind, the Commission has decided that, in the research areas covered by 12 actions in this work programme in quantum computing and simulation, communication, and sensing, only Associated Countries that meet certain conditions will be eligible to participate in these actions.

As agreements with candidate Associated Countries are not yet in force, the eligibility to participate in such actions is limited for the moment to legal entities established in the EU, Norway and Iceland. However, in view of ensuring maximum excellence of R&I for the EU and to maintain EU’s spirit of global openness, before opening these actions for applications, the eligibility to participate in these 12 actions will be extended to include legal entities established in (candidate) Associated Countries which provide assurances concerning the protection of EU’s strategic assets, interests, autonomy or security. On the basis of the outcome of the discussions in the relevant configurations of the Horizon Europe Programme Committee, the Commission will reflect the changes in the work programme in full consistency with the decision establishing the Horizon Europe specific programme, especially through comitology procedures as foreseen in articles 13 and 14(4) of it.

  • Graphene: Europe in the lead

The starting point is the Graphene Flagship, launched in 2013, which already reached European leadership in graphene and related 2D materials. The work is now coming to a critical point where first simple products are being launched. R&I activities would now need to be pursued and accelerated in order to translate achieved technology advances that are at TRL 3-5 into concrete innovation opportunities and into production capabilities in many industrial sectors (e.g. aviation, automotive, electronics, batteries, healthcare).

The objective of this heading is to strengthen and accelerate the technology developments that support a strong European supply and value chain in graphene and related materials and provide first-mover market advantages of scale.

Activities beyond R&I investments will be needed to realise the expected impacts: testing, experimentation, demonstration, and support for take-up using the capacities, infrastructures, and European Digital Innovation Hubs made available under the Digital Europe Programme; large-scale roll-out of innovative new technologies and solutions (e.g. new energy-efficient connectivity technologies) via the Connecting Europe Facility; further development of skills and competencies via the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, in particular EIT Digital; upscaling of trainings via the European Social Fund +; and use of financial instruments under the InvestEU Fund for further commercialisation of R&I outcomes.

Expected impact

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to digital and emerging technologies for competitiveness and fit for the Green Deal, and more specifically to one or several of the following impacts:

  • Europe’s open strategic autonomy by sustaining first-mover advantages in strategic areas including AI, data, robotics, quantum computing, and graphene, and by investing early in emerging enabling technologies.
  • Reinforced European industry leadership across the digital supply chain.
  • Robust European industrial and technology presence in all key parts of a greener digital supply chain, from low-power components to advanced systems, future networks, new data technologies and platforms.


Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 4 - Destination 5: Open Strategic Autonomy in Developing, Deploying and Using Global Space-based Infrastructures, Services, Applications and Data

Today EU citizens enjoy watching satellite TV, increasingly accurate global navigation services for all transport modes and users (e.g. mobile phones and car navigation systems), extended Earth monitoring for land, marine, atmosphere and climate change, global meteorological observation and accurate cartographies of a wide number of variables. Space also makes important contributions to security crisis management and emergency services. These are key assets for the EU policies on climate, environment, transport, agriculture and secure society (e.g. Maritime Strategy, the Arctic Strategy, the Digital Agenda, the Common Security and Defence Policy, the Sustainable Development Strategy, the SGDGs). Finally, the space sector is a source of economic growth, jobs and exports.

This destination will directly support the following Key Strategic Orientations, as outlined in the Strategic Plan:

  • KSO 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 human-centred technologies and innovations.’
  • KSO B, 'Restoring Europe’s ecosystems and biodiversity, and managing sustainably natural resources to ensure food security and a clean and healthy environment.
  • KSO C, ‘Making Europe the first digitally led circular, climate-neutral and sustainable economy through the transformation of its mobility, energy, construction and production systems.’
  • KSO 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.’

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to the following expected impact:

Open strategic autonomy in developing, deploying and using global space-based infrastructures, services applications and data, including by reinforcing the EU’s independent capacity to access space, securing the autonomy of supply for critical technologies and equipment, and fostering the EU's space sector competitiveness.

This expected impact is fully in line with the Space Strategy for Europe and the proposal for the Space Programme. Horizon Europe R&I funds will contribute to this expected impact along 2 main axes by:

  • providing support with R&I funding to the EU space sector at large
  • making a specific impact with the EU action with R&I to prepare the future evolutions of the Space programme components

This Destination is therefore structured along the following headings:

  1. Foster competitiveness of space systems
  2. Reinforce EU capacity to access to space
  3. Evolution of Space and ground infrastructures for Galileo/EGNOS
  4. Evolution of services: Copernicus
  5. Development of applications for Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus
  6. Innovative space capabilities: SSA, GOVSATCOM, Quantum
  7. Space entrepreneurship ecosystems (incl. New Space and start-ups) and skills
  8. Targeted and strategic actions supporting the EU space sector

While headings 1, 2, 7 and 8 will support the EU space sector at large and are largely based on the recommendation of the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda, headings 3), 4), 5), and 6) will be supporting the Space Programme components as well as the emerging quantum initiative.

All headings will contribute to the 'Open strategic autonomy in developing, deploying and using global space-based infrastructures'. This is the underlying goal when investing in R&I to ensure the future of existing space programme component infrastructures, services and applications (Heading 3) and with R&I to investigate new future services (Heading 4) or to develop innovative space capabilities such as SSA, GOVSATCOM and Quantum (Heading 6). This autonomy would however not be complete if we did not have the capacity to access space, to launch these infrastructures (Heading 2) and to propose opportunities for In-Orbit Demonstration and In-Orbit Validation (Heading 8). As the EU space sector relies on a smaller share of institutional investments compared to other regions, this difference needs to be compensated by a more competitive sector (Heading 1). R&I and a strategy for critical technologies for non-dependence is another important axis of action (Heading 8). A guarantee for such autonomy is also to have a vivid and competitive downstream sector and entrepreneurship eco-systems in the EU (Headings 5 and Heading 7). A description of the headings objectives and targeted achievements is provided below.

Foster competitiveness of space systems

The European space sector and space economy need to improve space-based capabilities, capture new markets, adapt to rapidly changing markets whilst staying competitive in the satellite communication, navigation and Earth observation sectors. This requires the development of new competitive technologies for space and ground systems, such as very high throughput and flexible satellites, very high-resolution sensors, radiation-hardened electronics, on-board and ground Artificial Intelligence (AI), optical communication and quantum technologies, as well as advanced robotics. We also need to prepare the ground for future modular, flexible and intelligent satellites. In the mid to long term, the future space ecosystem should include hybrid, smart and reconfigurable satellites, which can be manufactured, assembled and serviced directly in-orbit, and with a de-orbiting capacity.

Digitalisation and automation will enable advanced design and manufacturing methods (including additive manufacturing) and “Digital Twins”, plug-and-play modularity, as well as model based system engineering. This will yield reductions in mass, cost, emission, energy consumption and development time.

Disruptive technologies and concepts should be further developed to bring breakthrough innovation to the space sector, while at the same time advancing technology maturation in the view of qualification on ground or via In-Orbit Demonstration and Validation activities.

Reinforce EU capacity to access to space

Two specific challenges stand out. Firstly, the highly competitive global market for launch services, which is characterised by an increasing number of competitors, secondly, the emerging opportunities in space transportation that have not been yet seized by European launch actors characterised by new uses of space (e.g. small satellites, larger constellations, payload recovery, payload quick deployment), new services (e.g. direct orbit injection, in-orbit servicing) and in-space transportation. This will require, amongst others, new concepts for reducing the production and operation cost such as reusability (including stage recovery and landing) of launcher and vehicle components, and low cost, high thrust and green propulsion, modular avionics, autonomous systems, micro launchers, re-entry vehicles and modern and flexible test and launch facilities. Both will require urgent activities to enable operational capacities by at the latest 2030.

Disruptive technologies, methodologies and concepts should be developed to bring breakthrough innovation to the launcher systems sector as well as to contribute to cost reduction and contribute to the preparation of a competitive European Space Transportation beyond 2030.

Evolution of Space and ground infrastructures for Galileo/EGNOS

For Galileo/EGNOS, the international context, the competitive environment with emerging actors and novel techniques in the value chain, the increasing threats, and the evolution of the technologies, components and systems, including dual-use technology, call for a constant adaptation of the EU space infrastructure to these changing realities.

To meet these challenges, EU needs sustained investments in R&D for innovative mission concepts, technology and systems. These will ensure the continuity of the EGNSS service, minimise the risks for technology inclusion in the infrastructure, thanks to anticipated development and testing including in-orbit, protect better this infrastructure against modern threats (notably cyber, jamming/spoofing, natural hazards), and increase the strategic autonomy in key technologies. Overall, they will maintain the EU´s leadership position in the Global Navigation Satellite Systems.

Evolution of services: Copernicus

Copernicus core services (Climate, Marine environment, Land monitoring, Atmosphere monitoring, Emergency management and Security) must evolve and improve to better respond to new and emerging policy needs, such as anthropogenic CO2, green house gas and pollutant monitoring, climate change mitigation and adaptation, EU arctic policy, coastal area, sustainable development goals, environmental compliance, protection of natural resources, ecosystems and biodiversity, food security, agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture, crisis management, safe transport, sustainable and clean energy, border management, preserving cultural heritage, as well as other new domains that could bring key contributions to the European Green Deal and to other EU priorities.

Similarly, the Galileo service portfolio (High precision positioning, navigation and timing, authentication, search and rescue and Public Regulated Service, PRS) must be adapted to the evolution of the user needs and market trends. This requires new services and capabilities to better serve the downstream application sector, so that EGNSS remains at the fore front of the provision of satellite positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) services and keeps the pace with increasing global competition in the sector (USA, China, 5G, etc.). Europe should extend Galileo services to various societal challenges and offer it as a complementary service to emerging markets like 5G, CCAM and AI.

Development of applications for Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus

EGNSS and Copernicus capacities are unique and world-class and should be fully utilised for EU citizens, companies and society. Research and innovation should therefore foster the development of EGNSS downstream applications and promote their adoption in the EU and worldwide, in particular in markets with a long lead-time (e.g. maritime, rail, aviation), and in areas where Galileo offers unique differentiators (high accuracy, authentication, Search and Rescue, PRS

Copernicus based applications and services can serve, for example, polar research, monitoring of the environment, maritime and coastal monitoring, natural disasters, civil security, migration and agriculture. They and can bring, with EGNSS, a key contribution to the European Green Deal and to the sustainable management of natural resources. The public sector should be supported as customer of space based technologies via innovation procurement. Synergies between Galileo/EGNOS and Copernicus, as well as synergies with non-space programmes, leveraging the combination of space data with non-space data, will open new avenues for the creation of a wealth of new and innovative applications and services. The use of Copernicus and Galileo/EGNOS for the EOSC and DestinE initiatives should equally be taken into account and promoted.

Innovative space capabilities: SSA, GOVSATCOM, Quantum

Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and GOVSATCOM innovative components will be developed in the EU Space programme fostered by Horizon Europe R&I. Quantum Technologies, as an emerging field with great potential to be applied in the EU Space programme, requires foundational research and validation activities for its space component.

Space Situational Awareness (SSA) will provide services to European users including spacecraft owners/operators and governmental entities that will reinforce the protection and resilience of European space and ground infrastructures against various hazards and risks (mainly collisions in/from space, Near Earth Objects or space weather events). New challenges are posed by the ever-increasing orbital population of smaller satellites and space debris and the associated increased risk of orbital collisions, fragmentations and re-entries. R&I activities shall address these challenges by developing novel architectures and technical solutions for ground/space sensors, data processing, networking and operation centres (including critical technological elements for the realisation of crucial future space weather applications and services) to ensure safety and sustainability of space operations in Europe as well as by improving current EUSST services and implementing new ones (space debris mitigation and remediation services; space weather services).

The GOVSATCOM initiative aims to provide reliable, secured and cost-effective satellite communications services to EU and Member State authorities with an infrastructure supporting secure critical missions and the ability to exchange sensitive information in a environment of worldwide hybrid threats (including the Arctic). Research and innovation activities will foster the development of European satcom security related technologies and increase European independence from foreign critical technologies and exploiting synergies with Copernicus and Galileo and with defence /security assets.

Space will pave the way for quantum technologies in EU space infrastructure and for space-based services (e.g. quantum inter-satellite communication, next generation atomic clocks or quantum sensors). It is of the highest strategic importance for the EU and its industry to be competitive and to become a global leader in this area. It will provide enhanced services to EU citizens and allow overcoming limitations and challenges of the current generation of quantum technologies. Therefore, R&I shall foster the development and use of EU sourced space qualified quantum components, including mission design, integration and in-orbit demonstration and validating. The availability of adequate ground segment infrastructure for testing and validating the quantum space mission needs to be ensured too. Synergies with GOVSATCOM will be thought.

Space entrepreneurship ecosystems (incl. New Space and start-ups) and skills

Business development, acceleration and upscaling of start-ups will be fostered across all space areas under the CASSINI Space Entrepreneurship Initiative.

CASSINI will provide support to business and innovation-friendly ecosystems, including the strengthening business skills in the space market segments and digital services based on space data. The objective is to make start-ups and scale-ups investment-ready and able to secure venture capital funding. Synergies with the InvestEU programme and the Space programme will be established.

Targeted and strategic actions supporting the EU space sector

Development of associated technologies and actions of key importance to the sections described above will be pursued. These actions will at the same time contribute to foster the competitiveness of the EU space sector, to reinforce our capacity to use and access space and to perform R&I for the Space Programme.

These targeted and strategic actions will include the development of critical technologies for EU non-dependence, the establishment of regular and cost-effective flight opportunities for In-Orbit Demonstration/In-Orbit Validation (IOD/IOV), space science activities, as well as outreach, education and international cooperation activities.

Limiting participation in certain actions to Member States (and certain candidate associated countries to Horizon Europe)

The Space research part of the Horizon Europe Programme is by default open to the world, promoting international cooperation to drive scientific excellence.

However, an important aspect of the Space Programme consists in ensuring security and strengthening strategic autonomy across key technologies and value chains, taking advantage of the possibilities that space offers for the security of the Union and its Member States. This objective requires special rules in specific cases to set the requisite eligibility and participation conditions to ensure the protection of the integrity, security and resilience of the Union and its Member States. Hence, on an exceptional basis and duly justified, the work programme may foresee a limited participation to entities from selected countries. Such exceptional circumstances would relate to prevalent considerations to safeguard the Union’s strategic assets, interests, autonomy or security. Possibilities for such limitations are framed by Article 22(5)and by Annex IV(11a) of the Horizon Europe Regulation. Out of 45 actions, 30 remain fully open while 15 are proposed for limited participation

For six space actions, the restrictions to only Member States are justified under Annex IV of the Horizon Europe Regulation which foresees that, where appropriate the eligibility criteria of the Space Programme Regulation shall apply for the Horizon Europe space research topics and actions. In the current work programme this includes SST and GOVSATCOM which relate to sensitive Union space infrastructure.

Nine space actions are open to Member States, Norway and Iceland, under Protocol 31 of the EEA Agreement. Opening to other associated countries is to be assessed and confirmed in a future amendment to the work programme. These nine actions include Copernicus Security R&D and actions involving technologies critical to strategic autonomy/dual-use.

As agreements with candidate Associated Countries are not yet in force, the eligibility to participate in such actions is limited for the moment to legal entities established in the EU, Norway and Iceland. However, in view of ensuring maximum excellence of R&I for the EU and to maintain EU’s spirit of global openness, before opening these actions for applications, the eligibility to participate in these 12 actions will be extended to include legal entities established in (candidate) Associated Countries which provide assurances concerning the protection of EU’s strategic assets, interests, autonomy or security. On the basis of the outcome of the discussions in the relevant configurations of the Horizon Europe Programme Committee, the Commission will reflect the changes in the work programme in full consistency with the decision establishing the Horizon Europe specific programme, especially through comitology procedures as foreseen in articles 13 and 14(4) of it.

Horizon Europe - Cluster 4 - Destination 6: A Human-centred and Ethical Development of Digital and Industrial Technologies

This destination will directly support the following Key Strategic Orientations, as outlined in the Strategic Plan:

  • KSO 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

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway contributing to the following expected impact:

  • A human-centred and ethical development of digital and industrial technologies, through a two-way engagement in the development of technologies, empowering end-users and workers, and supporting social innovation.

As Europe takes the lead in the green and digital transitions, workers, regions, and societies are faced with extremely fast transformations, and will be differently affected by these changes. The rapid adoption of new technologies offers an immense potential for improved standards of living, safer mobility, better healthcare, new jobs, or the personalisation of public services. At the same time, it presents risks such as skills mismatches, digital divides, customer lock-in, or serious breaches of security or privacy.

As Europe sets off on its path to recovery towards a greener, digital and more resilient economy and society, the need to improve and adapt skills, knowledge and competences becomes all the more important. Developments in digital and enabling technologies have the potential to enhance social inclusion, can inform up-skilling training programmes and ensure a two-way engagement with society with regard to developing technologies.

The issue of trust has become central in the use of technologies, following revelations about the exploitation of personal data, large-scale cybersecurity and data breaches, and growing awareness of online disinformation. As outlined in the White Paper on Artificial Intelligence (COM(2020)65), for AI technologies, trust requires in particular improving transparency (explainability, expected levels of performance). For the Internet, increasing trust requires new tools and services to ensure that GDPR is a reality for end-users.

It is also an opportunity for Europe to re-gain presence on the consumer electronics market, by developing new interactive applications in various sectors with solutions meeting European values and requirements in terms of privacy and security. The COVID-19 crisis has also shown how important distance and innovative learning is for society.

Actions under this Destination will support EU objectives of inclusiveness, by supporting a human-centred approach to technology development that is aligned with European social and ethical values, as well as sustainability. These actions will further contribute to addressing the challenges faced by European industry and support the creation of sustainable, high-quality jobs by targeting skills mismatches, the need to empower workers, and ethical considerations relating to technological progress.

Actions should devote particular attention to openness of the solutions and results, and transparency of the research process. To ensure trustworthiness, public awareness and support, wide adoption by user communities for the benefit of society, actions should promote the highest standards of transparency and openness. Actions should ensure that the processes and outcomes of research and innovation align with the needs, values and expectations of society, in line with Responsible Research and Innovation.

This Destination is structured into the following headings, which group topics together with similar outcomes to address a common challenge:

Leadership in AI based on trust

The objective of this heading is to ensure autonomy for Europe in AI, leading the way in research, development and deployment of world-class technologies that are beneficial to humans individually, organisationally and societally, and that adheres to European values, such as the principles reflected in our fundamental rights and environmental sustainability. Technologies need to be developed that industries and citizens will trust, so and that they could be applied in a wide range of applications and industrial sectors. Trustworthy AI is particularly key in applications such as (but not limited to) healthcare or in diverse critical infrastructures such as energy and transportation.

Some topics of this heading are under the co-programmed Partnership ‘AI, Data and Robotics’.

Proposals are encouraged to link with relevant European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and its Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs), in particular the EIT Digital.

EIT Digital plays role in shaping technologies and innovations that work for people. At least two of its focus areas, Digital Wellbeing and Digital Cities, address directly topics such as ethical artificial intelligence, predictive analytics or augmented and virtual reality that are relevant to this areas. The solutions will benefit from the increasing will of citizens to participate in the sharing economy. EIT Digital, through projects with cities for example, improves engagement and inclusiveness of the citizens and of the visitors by increasingly organising and exposing data, especially in real time and along with analytics and machine learning. Augmented and virtual reality of the cities are another facet of exposing or simulating city data from the past, present or future to the benefit of citizens. ​

An Internet of Trust

The issue of trust in the internet has become central, following revelations about the exploitation of personal data, large-scale cybersecurity and data breaches, and growing awareness of online disinformation. A 2019 survey[[]] shows that half of the global internet users are more concerned about their online privacy compared to a year previously. Distrust in the Internet is causing people to change the way they behave online, for example by disclosing less personal information. Users also express an increasing level of distrust of social media platforms.

The objective of this heading is to develop a trustworthy digital environment, built on a more resilient, sustainable, and decentralised internet, to empower end-users with more control over their data and their digital identity, and to enable new social and business models respecting European values.

eXtended Reality (XR)

Due to its low presence in the consumer electronics industry, Europe is increasingly dependent on external providers in this area. This raises concerns about its digital sovereignty in crucial domains such as digital interaction services that are being adopted by a growing number of European users and industries. The COVID-19 crisis has shown how important distance and innovative learning is for society, our children, their parents and their teachers, maintaining social and educational links under challenging circumstances. Emerging technologies such as virtual reality, eXtended Reality or immersive environments provide numerous opportunities for personalised, innovative, efficient and inclusive learning, for learners of all ages, gender and condition

The objective of this heading is to gain industrial leadership in eXtended Reality technologies and immersive environments, while ensuring the European values of privacy, ethics and inclusiveness. It also aims to support the digital transformation of education through these technologies in particular.

Systemic approaches to make the most of the technologies within society and industry.

This heading promotes various systemic approaches to encourage creativity and make the most of the technologies developed elsewhere within society and industry. They include testing ideas in local communities; support for IP, standardisation and industry-academia exchanges; art-driven design; and assessments of complex socio-economic systems. These are complemented by support for a network of National Contact Points (NCPs), with a special emphasis on engaging with new actors.

Activities beyond R&I investments will be needed to realise the expected impacts: testing, experimentation, demonstration, and support for take-up using the capacities, infrastructures, and European Digital Innovation Hubs made available under the Digital Europe Programme; further development of skills and competencies via the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, in particular EIT Digital and EIT Manufacturing; upscaling of trainings via the European Social Fund +; use of financial instruments under the InvestEU Fund for further commercialisation of R&I outcomes; and links to the thematic smart specialisation platform on industrial modernisation

Expected impact

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to a human-centred and ethical development of digital and industrial technologies, and more specifically to one or several of the following impacts:

  • Increased inclusiveness, by supporting a human-centred approach to technology development that is aligned with European social and ethical values, as well as sustainability;
  • Sustainable, high-quality jobs by targeting skills mismatches, the need to empower workers, and ethical considerations relating to technological progress[[2019 CIGI-Ipsos Global Survey on Internet Security and Trust]].

Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 1: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

The EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 is a cornerstone of the European Green Deal that will put Europe’s biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030, for the benefit of people, the climate and the planet. It will also prepare the EU to take a leading role in the upcoming international negotiations on a new global framework to halt biodiversity loss. With the Green Deal’s ‘do no significant harm’ vision, all EU policies will become more biodiversity-friendly, focusing more on the sustainable use of ecosystems, supporting the recovery in a post-pandemic world[[COM/2020/380 EU biodiversity strategy for 2030: Bringing nature back into our lives]]. This policy vision is fully supported in the strategic plan of Horizon Europe for 2021-2024 in its first key strategic orientation ‘Protecting and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity and managing sustainably natural resources on land and at sea, and achieving climate neutrality and adaptation’. Consequently, Destination ‘Biodiversity and ecosystem services’ intends to achieve the following expected impact from Cluster 6 ‘Biodiversity is back on a path to recovery, and ecosystems and their services are preserved and sustainably restored on land, inland water and at sea through improved knowledge and innovation’. All actions funded under this destination must therefore help to deliver this main impact.

Research and innovation is key to delivering results that will have an important impact on biodiversity, food, health, water and climate, which are all interconnected, and to achieving the goal of healthy and resilient ecosystems by 2030. It will also enable transformational change engaging European society and economy and their global impacts, making decisions more biodiversity-friendly. R&I will support policy targets, develop nature-based solutions[[Nature-based solutions are “inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience. Such solutions bring more, and more diverse, nature and natural features and processes into cities, landscapes and seascapes, through locally adapted, resource-efficient and systemic interventions. Hence, nature-based solutions must benefit biodiversity and support the delivery of a range of ecosystem services.”]] and holistic approaches to address the main causes of biodiversity loss, particularly in connection to production systems, bringing all sectors together to be integrated in ecosystem-based management. Investments in R&I will help to protect and restore the integrity of terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems, currently under multiple pressures, and protect and restore their capacity to deliver a wide range of essential services. Under Horizon Europe, a long-term strategic research agenda for biodiversity will also be developed.

The sixth mass extinction is taking place: one million species are at risk of extinction, and the degradation of ecosystems severely affects the fabric of life that enables the survival of humankind[[IPBES global assessment (2019). Summary for policy-makers.]]. None of the globally agreed targets of the 2011-2020 strategic plan for biodiversity has been fully achieved[[United Nation’s 5th Global Biodiversity Outlook (2020).]], with the biodiversity crisis even deepening. Our knowledge on biodiversity status, pressures, impacts and responses needs to be improved, requiring even basic taxonomic work in certain ecosystems. Understanding biodiversity decline and addressing its main drivers through data-driven science, integrated multidisciplinary knowledge, new tools, models and scenarios, will support Europe’s policy needs and boost global biodiversity science. Solutions for preventing and addressing the individual and cumulative effect of direct drivers of biodiversity loss (land use change, overexploitation, climate change, invasive species, pollution) need to be further developed and made available to policy makers and practitioners, such as through the new EC Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity[[https://knowledge4policy.ec.europa.eu/biodiversity_en]]. For more impact on society and economic sectors, citizen science and crowdsourcing also require big data analysis, artificial intelligence, social sciences, communications and policy tools.

Valuing and restoring biodiversity and ecosystem services is necessary to develop tools to guide decisions, inform and implement policies on the environment, water, health, climate, disaster risk reduction, agriculture, forests and other land use types, protected areas management, the sustainable bioeconomy, the blue economy, maritime and cross-sectoral spatial planning, and responsible business practices. The continued degradation of the ecosystems and their services affects biodiversity and climate change[[https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-020-0738-8]], and increases the risk of severe ecological disasters and pandemics. The European Green Deal and its biodiversity strategy call for urgent action to restore damaged aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in order to increase biodiversity and deliver a wide range of ecosystem services.

The contribution of ecosystems to human wellbeing and the economy is not properly accounted for in market transactions, or in planning and investment decisions: the social and economic co-benefits of healthy ecosystems are often disregarded. Natural capital accounts need to be developed and mainstreamed. Investments in R&I will also lay the ground for scaling up and speeding up the implementation of technological, societal and nature-based solutions (NBS). NBS support vital ecosystem services, biodiversity and biomass provision, as well as access to drinking water, clean soil, improved livelihoods, healthy diets and food safety and security from sustainable food systems. NBS deployment will also create green jobs and build resilience to climate change and natural disasters. Citizens, authorities, businesses, social partners and the research community must be engaged at local, regional, national and European levels.

Managing biodiversity in primary production: Biodiversity is the basis for sustainable and resilient agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry, as also recognised in the farm to fork and biodiversity strategies under the Green Deal. With diverse genetic resources, it is possible to use in primary production plants and animals that are adapted to different environments, ecosystems and meet diverse needs. Furthermore, the interplay between species below and above ground delivers important ecosystem services, such as pollination, soil fertility, pest and risk control. Despite these recognised benefits, current production systems tend to be specialised and rely on a limited number of crops, breeds and forest tree species whose genetic basis is narrow. Reversing this trend and increasing their resilience is critical and of global concern in particular in the current context of accelerated climate change and a growing population whose production and consumption footprint is increasing.

Enabling transformative change [[Transformative change has been defined by IPBES as “A fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values”. IPBES global assessment (2019). Summary for policy-makers.]] in biodiversity: Science (IPBES and IPCC) and Policy (the global post-2020 biodiversity framework and the EU biodiversity strategy) clearly underline that biodiversity loss can only be successfully addressed if transformative changes are initiated, accelerated, and up-scaled. There is however hardly any knowledge on potentials and challenges arising from transitions focused on biodiversity. System-level change of this kind starts with social innovation in the form of, for example, regulations, incentives, local and participatory processes, and through the introduction of new technologies, new production processes, or new consumer products, which change how socio-technical and socio-ecological systems operate and impact their environment. Such transformative change must decrease the impacts of indirect drivers of biodiversity loss, which are in turn, underpinned by societal values and behaviours. Indirect drivers of biodiversity loss are understood to mean here: production and consumption patterns, human population dynamics and trends (including their footprints), trade, technological innovations, and local to global governance (including financing). Research and innovation can enable these transformative changes to happen and initiate processes, behaviour changes and actions which are transforming the way we impact biodiversity. Socio-economic and multidisciplinary research, including on the role of education, will develop knowledge and tools to understand the role of transformative change for biodiversity policy making, address the indirect drivers for biodiversity loss, and accelerate transformative changes in our society that are relevant to biodiversity.

Interconnecting biodiversity research and supporting policies refers to the establishment of the European Partnership ‘Rescuing biodiversity to safeguard life on Earth’ and to the support to other science-policy interfaces. The European partnership on biodiversity[[https://www.biodiversa.org/1759]] will connect national, local and European research, innovation and environmental programmes, combining resources in support of one goal, i.e. that by 2030 biodiversity in Europe is back on the path to recovery. It will co-develop multidisciplinary research and innovation programmes with stakeholders, set up a European network of coordinated observatories for biodiversity monitoring, and implement a broad range of activities to increase the relevance, impact and visibility of EU research and innovation in tackling the biodiversity crisis in line with the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030.

Science-policy interfaces on biodiversity and nature-based solutions have made good progress in recent years[[Good leverage effects have been achieved, notably through EKLIPSE, Oppla, the NBS platform, the EU4IPBES support action 2018-2021.]], and must be stepped up to achieve targeted impacts on biodiversity-relevant policies, that can in turn be used as structured policy input into the research cycle. These interfaces are also key to guiding biodiversity governance, and to implement the EU Green Deal and international conventions[[In particular, the UN Convention on Biodiversity, and the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030]]. In line with the Commission priority 'A stronger Europe in the world', the EU must take and demonstrate leadership in this field, notably by increasing its support to IPBES[[The Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services]] -to bring it up to the same level as the IPCC-, and to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Besides economic support, this also includes efforts to create synergies and cooperation between IPBES, regional Multilateral Environmental Agreements and other relevant research communities to ensure a full coverage of all relevant aspects of biodiversity and ecosystem services in order to underpin the full scope of the post 2020 global biodiversity framework.

All topics will directly contribute to the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 and to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 13, 14, 15, 17.

Several missions will also help to achieve biodiversity-related impacts, notably in the areas of ‘Adaptation to climate change including societal transformation’, ‘Climate-neutral and smart cities’, ‘Ocean, seas and waters’ and ‘Soil health and food’.

Expected impact

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway contributing to Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, and more specifically to one or more of the following impacts:

  • Biodiversity decline, its main direct drivers and their interrelations are better understood and addressed through the production, integration and use of open data, knowledge, education and training, innovative technologies, solutions and control measures, in collaboration with European and international initiatives.
  • Biodiversity and natural capital are integrated into public and business decision-making at all levels for the protection and restoration of ecosystems and their services; science base is provided for planning and expanding protected areas, and sustainably managing ecosystems.
  • Europe builds competitive sustainability and tackles climate change and natural disasters through the deployment of nature-based solutions, including ecosystem-based disaster risk-reduction approaches fully reaping their economic, social and environmental benefits for a green recovery across all European regions.
  • The interrelations between biodiversity, health, food, soil, water, air and climate are better known and communicated to citizens and policy-makers; in particular, risks associated with microbiomes and biodiversity-friendly prevention/mitigation measures, and opportunities for biodiversity recovery are identified.
  • Practices in agriculture and forestry support biodiversity and the provision of other ecosystems services based on a) a better understanding of functional biodiversity (above and below ground), b) effective knowledge and innovation systems and c) ready-to use solutions for land managers, adapted to specific conditions.
  • Access to a wider range of crops and breeds with a broadened genetic base is improved in line with global biodiversity commitments by gaining greater insight into the characteristics of genetic resources and by enhancing capacities for their preservation and use in breeding and in primary production (farming, forestry, fisheries, aquaculture). More (bio)diverse, resilient production systems will have positive knock-on effects on value chains, consumption, healthy diets and the wider, non-managed biodiversity.
  • Approaches for enabling transformative changes in society for biodiversity and ecosystems recovery are identified, tested and implemented in policy, governance, law business and society; all indirect drivers of biodiversity loss are addressed and ‘do not harm’ biodiversity policies become a mainstream part of all sectors.
  • Biodiversity research is interconnected across Europe, supporting and enhancing the ambition of national, EU and international environmental policies and conventions.

When considering the impact of the proposals, their compliance with the ‘do no significant harm’ principle[[As per Article 17 of Regulation (EU) No 2020/852 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment (EU Taxonomy Regulation)]] has to be assessed. Also it has to be ensured that the research and innovation activities do not cause a significant harm to any of the six environmental objectives of the EU Taxonomy Regulation.

The portfolio of actions under this destination will have impacts in the following areas: “Enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity on land and in waters”; “Climate change mitigation and adaptation”; “Clean and healthy air, water and soil”; “Sustainable food systems from farm to fork on land and sea”; and “A resilient EU prepared for emerging threats”.


Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 2: Fair, Healthy and Environmentally-friendly Food Systems from Primary Production to Consumption

National, EU and global food systems are facing sustainability challenges, from primary production to consumption, that could jeopardise food and nutrition security. The farm to fork strategy, which is key to the success of the European Green Deal and achievement of the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs), aims to address these challenges and to deliver co-benefits for environment, health, society and the economy, ensuring that actions leading to recovery from the COVID-19 crisis also put us onto a sustainable path going forward. Research and innovation (R&I) are key drivers steering and accelerating the transition to sustainable, safe, healthy and inclusive food systems, from farm to fork, thereby ensuring food and nutrition security for all.

Sustainable farming systems provide a number of economic, environmental, social and health benefits, and are the main prerequisite for food and nutrition security. For farmers, who are the backbone of food systems and the immediate managers of natural resources, the Green Deal sets ambitious targets with respect to the sustainability and safety of feed and food production. These targets are included in the core Green Deal policy initiatives, in particular the farm to fork strategy, the biodiversity strategy, zero pollution efforts and climate action. R&I in line with the strategic approach to EU agricultural research and innovation[[https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en/news/final-paper-strategic-approach-eu-agricultural-research-and-innovation]] will be key enablers if these challenging targets are to be achieved. They will speed up the transition to sustainable and competitive agriculture by unlocking the potential of agroecology[[http://www.fao.org/3/i9037en/i9037en.pdf]], including improving organic farming as part of the agroecological transition, boosting production of EU-grown plant proteins and advancing digital and data technologies (Destination ‘Innovative governance, environmental observations and digital solutions in support of the Green Deal’). R&I will support farmers to manage land, soil, water and nutrients in new, sustainable ways, in particular through the Horizon Europe mission in the area of ‘soil health and food’. New knowledge and innovative solutions will improve plant and animal health and welfare, prevent interspecies disease transmission through food production and trade systems, and reduce farmers’ dependency on pesticides, antimicrobials and other external inputs. Thanks to R&I, farming systems will maximise provision of a wide range of ecosystem services from more sustainably managed EU agro‑ecosystems and landscapes, and help to reverse the loss of biodiversity and soil fertility while ensuring resilient primary production (Destination ‘Biodiversity and ecosystem services’). Farmers will be better equipped to make a significant contribution to climate neutrality and become more resilient to climate change (Destination ‘Land, ocean and water for climate action’). Also, R&I will support the development of policy (in particular the common agricultural policy (CAP)), business models and market conditions enabling transition to sustainable food and farming systems. Effective agricultural knowledge and innovation systems (AKISs) will speed up innovation and the uptake of R&I results from farm to fork (Destination ‘Innovative governance, environmental observations and digital solutions in support of the Green Deal’). As a result, farmers will be able to transform their production methods and move to climate- and environment‑friendly, and resilient farming systems, thereby contributing to sustainable food value chains that provide producers with fair economic returns and consumers with affordable, safe, healthy and sustainable food (Destinations ‘Biodiversity and ecosystem services’ and ‘Land, ocean and water for climate action’).

Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture contribute directly to environment‑friendly, inclusive, safe and healthy food production by providing highly nutritional proteins, lipids and micronutrients for a healthy diet. Sustainably produced food from marine and freshwater bodies can and should account for a much bigger proportion of our overall food consumption. The farm to fork strategy seeks to help fishers and aquaculture producers to achieve better climate and environmental results and to strengthen their position in the supply chain. R&I will directly support the common fisheries policy (CFP) and deliver inclusive, diversified approaches to allow fisheries management to adapt to different realities, including in the international context. Sustainable and resilient aquaculture systems, including the use of low trophic species (e.g. algae and herbivores), high animal welfare standards and alternative sources of protein for food and feed, will increase seafood production and reduce its environmental impact while adding economic value to the chain. Seafood security will benefit from a drastic reduction in the current massive pre- and post-harvest losses in seafood biomass. Producers’ and consumers’ awareness, trust and behaviour with respect to the responsible production, consumption and disposal of seafood will contribute directly to the competitiveness and sustainability of the sector. An overarching partnership for a climate‑neutral, sustainable and productive blue economy will contribute to food security, added value, blue growth and jobs in Europe through a jointly supported R&I programme in the European seas, coastal and inland waters.

Transforming food systems for health, sustainability and inclusion requires robust, system-wide changes at all governance levels (from local to global and vice versa) as food systems are intertwined with all other sectors and are among the key drivers of climate change and environmental degradation. Food systems are to be understood as covering all the sectors, actors, stakeholders, organisations and disciplines relevant to and connecting primary production from land and sea, food processing, food distribution and retailing, food services, food consumption, food safety, nutrition and public health, and food waste streams. The European Green Deal and, in particular, the farm to fork strategy support a shift to more resilient and environmentally, socially and economically sustainable food systems, as required to deliver safe, healthy, accessible and affordable food and diets for all sourced from land and sea, while respecting planetary boundaries. This will involve a better understanding of the multiple interactions between the components of current food systems, to foster solutions that maximise co-benefits with respect to the four priorities of the Commission’s ‘Food 2030’ R&I initiative:

  • nutrition and health, including food safety;
  • climate and environmental sustainability;
  • circularity and resource efficiency; and
  • innovation and empowering communities.

R&I will accelerate the transition to sustainable, healthy and inclusive food systems by delivering in various areas: dietary shifts towards sustainable and healthy nutrition; supply of alternative and plant-based proteins; prevention and reduction of food loss and waste; microbiome applications; improving food safety and traceability; fighting food fraud; behavioural change; personalised nutrition; urban food systems (Destination ‘Resilient, inclusive, healthy and green rural, coastal and urban communities’); food systems governance and systems science; and digital and data-driven innovation (Destination ‘Innovative governance, environmental observations and digital solutions in support of the Green Deal’).

R&I activities supporting the partnership for safe and sustainable food systems for people, planet and climate will help identify and deliver innovative solutions providing co-benefits for nutrition, food quality, the climate, circularity and communities.

The EU also aims to promote a global transition to sustainable food systems. Targeted R&I activities, in particular under the EU-Africa Partnership on Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture (FNSSA) and global initiatives involving international research consortia, will contribute to this ambition.

Expected impacts:

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out credible pathways to fair, healthy, safe, climate- and environment‑friendly, resilient food systems from primary production to consumption, ensuring food and nutrition security for all within planetary boundaries in the EU and globally.

More specifically, proposals should contribute to one or more of the following impacts:

  • sustainable, productive, climate-neutral and resilient farming systems providing consumers with affordable, safe, traceable healthy and sustainable food, while minimising pressure on ecosystems, restoring and enhancing biodiversity, improving public health and generating fair economic returns for farmers;
  • sustainable fisheries and aquaculture increasing aquatic biomass production, diversification and consumption of seafood products for fair, healthy, climate‑resilient and environment‑friendly food systems with low impact on aquatic ecosystems and high animal welfare; and
  • sustainable, healthy and inclusive food systems delivering co-benefits for climate mitigation and adaptation, environmental sustainability and circularity, sustainable healthy nutrition, safe food consumption, food poverty reduction, the inclusion of marginalised people, the empowerment of communities, and flourishing businesses.

When considering their impact, proposals also need to assess their compliance with the ‘do no significant harm’ principle[[See Article 17 of Regulation (EU) No 2020/852 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment (EU Taxonomy Regulation).]], whereby R&I projects should not support or involve activities that significantly undermine any of the six environmental objectives of the EU Taxonomy Regulation.

To unlock the full potential of R&I and maximise impacts, participatory approaches, e.g. multi-actor approach, involving input from industry, technology providers, primary producers, the food, drink and hospitality industry, consumers, citizens, local authorities, etc. should be promoted with a view to co-creating innovative systemic solutions in support of food systems’ sustainability.

Topics under this destination should have impacts in the following impact areas of the Horizon Europe strategic plan for 2021-2024:

  • sustainable food systems from farm to fork on land and sea
  • climate change mitigation and adaptation;
  • enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity on land and in waters;
  • good health and high-quality accessible healthcare;
  • clean and healthy air, water and soil;
  • a resilient EU prepared for emerging threats; and
  • inclusive growth and new job opportunities.

Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 3: Circular Economy and Bioeconomy Sectors

This destination and its topics target climate-neutral circular and bioeconomy transitions, covering safe integrated circular solutions at territorial and sectoral levels, for important material flows and product value chains, such as the textile, electronics, plastics and construction sectors, as well as key bioeconomy sectors such as sustainable bio-based systems, sustainable forestry, small-scale rural bio-based solutions, and aquatic value chains. With this approach, the destination supports the European Green Deal, and other European initiatives such as the Industrial Strategy, SME Strategy, Circular Economy Action Plan, Bioeconomy Strategy, Biodiversity Strategy, Farm to Fork Strategy, Textile Strategy, Plastics Strategy, the Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials, and the Forest Strategy.

More specifically, the focus on circularity [[In synergy with Horizon Europe Clusters 4 and 5, in particular, Cluster 4 dealing with industrial and technological aspects and raw materials supply, including construction with lower environmental footprint, through modularisation, digital technologies, circularity and advanced materials, while Cluster 6 has a systemic approach across sectors including civil society, covering the whole value chain: including technological, business, governance and social innovation aspects.]] aims at less waste and more value by extending the lifetime and retaining the value of products and materials. It supports a sharing, reusing, and material-efficient economy, in a safe way, and minimises the non-sustainable use of natural resources. The cascading use of materials and innovative upcycling of waste to new applications is encouraged. The safe and sustainable use of biomass and waste [[EU Waste Framework legislation: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/legislation/]] for the production of materials and products, including nutrients, can reduce Europe’s dependence on non-renewable resources, cut GHG emissions, offer long-term circular carbon sinks and substitutes to fossil-based and carbon-intensive products, and reduce pressures on biodiversity and its wide range of ecosystem services. The potential of biological resources goes beyond biomass processing into renewable products. It includes the use of organisms and their parts in “green” (i.e. more environmentally friendly) bio-based industrial processes. Marine and land-based biotechnology can provide new sustainable and safe food and feed production methods, greener industrial products and processes, new health-related products, and can help characterise, monitor and sustain the health of marine and terrestrial ecosystems. The potential of marine resources and biotechnology will contribute to the coming “blue economy”, accelerating the transition towards a circular and climate-neutral economy that is sustainable and inclusive. The concepts of the circular economy, bioeconomy and blue economy converge and altogether provide an opportunity to balance environmental, social and economic goals, with their sustainability ensured by the life cycle assessment approaches.

Acknowledging the multiple benefits of circularized material/substance and energy flows, such circularity however has to be achieved in a safe, non-hazardous way without (re-)connecting epidemiological pathways or introducing pathogen/toxin enrichment cycles when involving biogenic materials. Established circularized material/substance flows have to be complemented with accompanying research in their safety and non-hazardous to health, society, economy and nature. In addition, a local and regional focus [[In synergy with Horizon Europe Cluster 4, with focus on the industrial dimensions; and Cluster 5, covering cross-sectoral solutions for decarbonisation (including on community level), whereas Cluster 6 targets systemic regional and local (i.e. territorial) circular and bioeconomy approach.]] is crucial for a circular economy and bioeconomy that is sustainable, regenerative, inclusive and just. Innovative urban and regional solutions and value chains can create more and better quality jobs and help our economies rebound from the COVID-19 crisis.

A systemic and science-based circular transition with the help of research, innovation and investments will address all issues from material selection and product design via resource efficiency along the value chain to an optimised after-use system, incorporating reuse, repair and upgrade, refurbishment, remanufacturing, collection, sorting and new forms of recycling and upcycling also to improve the waste cycle management. It will tackle all barriers and mobilise all key stakeholders. The development of definitions, taxonomies, indicators and targets will inform and support policy and decision making. The use of advanced life cycle methods such as the European Commission Product Environmental Footprint (PEF), data and information will enable economic actors, including consumers, to make sustainable choices. The development and deployment of specific technological and non-technological circular solutions, including new business models, will cover intra- and inter-value chain collaboration between economic actors. The development of a working after-use system for plastic-based products, incorporating reuse, collection, sorting, and recycling technologies will provide insights into the transition towards a circular economy for key material flows including plastics. The Circular Cities and Regions Initiative (CCRI)[[https://ec.europa.eu/research/environment/index.cfm?pg=circular]] under the European Circular Economy Action Plan will expand the circular economy concept beyond traditional resource recovery in waste and water sectors and support the implementation, demonstration and replication of systemic circular solutions for the transition towards a sustainable, regenerative, inclusive and just circular economy at local and regional scale. Water use will be tackled from a circularity perspective, aiming at pollution prevention, resource efficiency and business opportunities.

Bio-based innovation lays the foundations for the transition away from a fossil-based carbon-intensive economy by encompassing the sustainable sourcing, industrial [[In synergy with Horizon Europe Clusters 4, 5 (including their European Partnerships), whereas Cluster 4 targets industrial dimension (including digitisation and circular and climate neutral / low carbon industry, including developing bio-integrated manufacturing), and Cluster 5 covers cost-efficient, net zero-greenhouse gas energy system centred on renewables (including R&D necessary to reduce CO2 emissions from the power and energy-intensive industry sector, solutions for capturing, utilisation and storage of CO2 (CCUS), and bioenergy and other industrial sectors), while Cluster 6 covers the research and innovation based on sustainable biological resources (bioeconomy sectors), in particular for new sustainable feedstock development and through the development of integrated bio-refineries).]] [[In synergy with the European Partnership on Circular Bio-based Europe (CBE), under Horizon Europe Cluster 6.]] and small scale processing and conversion of biomass from land and sea into circular bio-based materials and products with reduced carbon and environmental footprint including lower impacts on biodiversity and long-term circular carbon sinks in sustainable products substituting carbon-intensive ones, with improved end-of-life including biodegradability in specific natural as well as controlled environments. It also capitalises on the potential of living resources, life sciences and industrial biotechnology for new discoveries, products, services and processes, both terrestrial and marine. Bio-based innovation can bring new and competitive economic activities and employment to regions and cities in the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, revitalising urban, rural and coastal economies and strengthening the long-term circularity of the bioeconomy, including through small non-food bio-based solutions. Furthermore, targeted and well-tailored investments can increase and diversify the income of primary producers and other rural actors (e.g. SMEs).

To enable the bio-based innovation, environmental objectives and climate neutrality will build on a robust understanding of environmental impacts and trade-offs of bio-based systems at the European and regional scale, including the comparisons to similar aspects on the fossil and carbon-intensive counterparts. Systemic impacts of bio-based systems on biodiversity and its wide range of ecosystem services as well as how we restore and use them, need to be assessed, and negative impacts avoided in line with the “do no harm” principle of the European Green Deal. Implementing sustainable and just bio-based value chain requires symbiosis across primary production and industrial ecosystems in regions, Member States and Associated Countries and improved environmental performance of products, processes, materials and services along value chains and life cycles.

The multifunctional and sustainable management of European forests as well as the environmentally sustainable use of wood and woody biomass as a raw material have a crucial role to play in the achievement of the EU’s climate and energy policies, the transition to a circular and sustainable bioeconomy as well as the preservation of biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services such as climate regulation, recreation, clean air, water resources and erosion control among many others. Furthermore, forestry and the forest-based sector offer important opportunities for wealth and job creation in rural, peripheral and urban areas. The condition of European forests is increasingly threatened by a growing number of social, economic and environmental and climatic pressures. The European Green Deal and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 recognise that the EU’s forested area needs to improve, both in quality and quantity, for the EU to reach climate neutrality and a healthy environment. The multifunctionality and the sustainable forest management under rapid climate change will be enabled through a variety of approaches, including the use of intelligent digital solutions, enhanced cooperation in forestry and the forest-based sector as well as the establishment of an open-innovation ecosystem with relevant stakeholders.

Aquatic biological resources and blue biotechnology are crucial to delivering on the Green Deal’s ambition of a ‘blue economy’, which alleviates the multiple demands on the EU's and the Associated Countries’ land resources and tackles climate change.

The immense marine and freshwater biodiversity both faces and offers solutions to multiple challenges such as climate, biodiversity loss, pollution, food security, green products, and health but remains largely unexplored. Unprecedented advances in the biotechnology toolbox (e.g. -omics, bioinformatics, synthetic biology) have triggered an increased interest in the potential of aquatic bioresources. Further research and innovation will be key to unlocking the value of the marine and freshwater biological resources available in Europe, including its outermost regions by learning from the functioning and processes of aquatic living organisms to provide a sustainable products and services to the society, whilst avoiding systemic impacts on biodiversity. Algae biomass is becoming increasingly important not only as food but also as a sustainable source of blue bioeconomy products such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and speciality chemicals. Although only a small fraction of marine microbial diversity has been characterised to date, advances in genetic and sequencing technologies are opening new avenues for the understanding and harnessing marine microbiomes such as for the biodiscovery of new products and services for the environment and society.

Expected impacts

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway to developing circular economy and bioeconomy sectors, achieving sustainable and circular management and use of natural resources, as well as prevention and removal of pollution, unlocking the full potential and benefits of the circular economy and the bioeconomy, ensuring competitiveness and guaranteeing healthy soil, air, fresh and marine water for all, through better understanding of planetary boundaries and wide deployment and market uptake of innovative technologies and other solutions, notably in primary production (forestry) and bio-based systems.

Specifically, the topics will target one or several of the following impacts, for circular economy, bio-based sectors, forestry and aquatic value chains:

  • Regional, rural, local/urban and consumer-based transitions towards a sustainable, regenerative, inclusive and just circular economy and bioeconomy across all regions of Europe based on enhanced knowledge and understanding of science, in particular regarding biotechnology-based value chains, for all actors, including policy makers, to design, implement and monitor policies and instruments for a circular and bio-based transitions.
  • European industrial sustainability, competitiveness and resource independence by lowering the use of primary non-renewable raw materials and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental footprint (including on biodiversity), enabling climate-neutrality and higher resource efficiency (e.g. by circular design, improved waste management, cascading use of biomass) along and across value chains, developing innovative and sustainable value-chains in the bio-based sectors, substituting fossil-based ones, increasing circular practices in textiles, plastics, electronics and construction, developing recycling technologies and industrial symbiosis, increasing circular bio-based systems from sustainably sourced biological resources replacing carbon-intensive and fossil-based systems, with inclusive engagement of all stakeholders;
  • Improved consumer and citizen benefits, including in the rural settings by establishing circular and bio-based systems based on sustainability, inclusiveness, health and safety; reaching a significantly higher level of involvement of all actors (manufacturers, retailers, consumers, public administration, primary biomass producers etc.);
  • Multi-functionality and management of forests in Europe based on the three pillars of sustainability (economic, environmental and social);
  • Enlarged potential of marine and freshwater biological resources and blue biotechnology to deliver greener (climate-neutral circular) industrial products and processes, and to help characterise, monitor and sustain the health of aquatic ecosystems for a healthy planet and people.

When considering their impact, proposals also need to assess their compliance with the “Do No Significant Harm” principle[[as per Article 17 of Regulation (EU) No 2020/852 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment (EU Taxonomy Regulation)]] according to which the research and innovation activities of the project should not be supporting or carrying out activities that make a significant harm to any of the six environmental objectives of the EU Taxonomy Regulation.

In addition to the impacts listed above, topics under this destination will address the following impact areas of the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan for 2021-2024: “Climate change mitigation and adaptation”, “Enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity on land and in waters”, “A resilient EU prepared for emerging threats”; “Inclusive growth and new job opportunities”; “Industrial leadership in key and emerging technologies that work for people”.


Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 4: Clean Environment and Zero Pollution

Anthropogenic pollution undermines the integrity of Earth ecosystems and severely affects natural resources essential for human life. Keeping our planet clean and our ecosystems healthy will not only contribute to addressing the climate crisis but also help regenerate biodiversity, ensure the sustainability of primary production activities and safeguard the well-being of humankind. In line with the objectives of the European Green Deal, particularly its zero pollution ambition, and the 2030 Climate Target Plan, and other relevant EU legislation[[cf. European Green Deal deliverables farm to fork strategy, biodiversity strategy, soil strategy, but also bioeconomy strategy, marine strategy, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development etc., the Missions on Soil Health and Food as well as on Ocean, seas and waters, etc.]], this destination seeks to halt and prevent pollution by focussing the work programme 2021-2022 on fresh and marine waters, soils, air, including from nitrogen and phosphorus emissions, as well as on the environmental performance and sustainability of processes in the bio-based systems. Synergies with other clusters (notably 1 and 5), relevant destinations as well as missions and partnerships will be exploited.

Halting emissions of pollutants to soils and waters is of fundamental significance for the planet. Diffuse emissions of pollutants from land and urban sources, including atmospheric depositions, are a major stress factor for terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, threatening the quality of surface waters and aquifers, and affecting soil quality and all water-dependent sectors that require a holistic understanding of the pollution sources, key vectors and pathways. Projected impacts of climate change will alter, and notably reduce, the hydrological flows in many parts of Europe, while eutrophication could be exacerbated by increasing temperatures. Climate change and increasing water demand will exert significant pressures on surface and groundwater quality[[Member States identified that diffuse pollution is still a significant pressure that affects 35 % of the area of groundwater bodies, while quality standards (pesticides, herbicides…) were exceeded in 15 % of the groundwater bodies]], notably where the combined effect of water table depletion and sea level rise will endanger the integrity of coastal aquifers and groundwater quality. This is due to saline water intrusion or extreme events (e.g. higher tides, storm surges or inland flooding events), which will put coastal wetlands and reservoirs, estuaries and ecosystems at risk. While recognising its essential role in aquatic ecosystems functioning and services, the sediments originating mostly from run-off and erosion are likely the major source of physical pollution of water bodies (excessive turbidity, impacts of deposition, accumulation of litter and debris) and contribute to a large extent to chemical and biological pollution of receiving waters. Beside land use practises, the increasing intensity and variability of precipitation will exacerbate erosion risks, affect the deposition and transport of sediments and could lead to a remobilisation of legacy contaminants and further deteriorate the quality of soils, sediments and water bodies, including aquifers, estuaries and coastal areas, and of their ecosystem function and services.

Keeping nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) cycles in balance is another crucial challenge. N and P flows from anthropogenic sources, mostly from excessive or inefficient input of fertilisers (including manure, sewage sludge, etc.) in agriculture, currently exceed planetary boundaries. Their leaching and run-off negatively affect soil biodiversity, pH, organic matter concentration and carbon sequestration capacity, and cause the eutrophication of water bodies while ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions affect air quality and climate. As all environmental media are concerned, a systemic approach is necessary to limit N/P emissions from different sources, for example through the deployment of alternative fertilising products, and considering regional conditions (geography, climate zones, economy activities, soil properties, eco-system condition, agricultural practices, governance structures etc.), and to bring N/P flows back within safe ecological boundaries.

Protecting drinking water and managing water pollution in rural settlements, and in increasingly dense urban areas requires innovative and holistic approaches at city/catchment level to ensure water quality, resilient to the impacts of climate and global change, by considering different spatial and temporal scales and contexts, aging water infrastructures, as well as pollution derived from point and non-point sources, and natural/human-made disasters. Protective measures should consider current and future land use, environmental needs and socioeconomic interests as essential elements for improving water quality and its management and governance. Re-emerging pollutants, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) or mercury, and contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) in water bodies may have impacts on ecological and human health, and some are not well regulated under existing environmental legislation. Sources of these pollutants include e.g. industry, agriculture, urban runoff, household products, coatings, paints and pharmaceuticals that are normally disposed of to sewage treatment plants and subsequently discharged into water bodies. Micro-pollutants, plastics, pathogens and CECs, individually or combined, represent a concern for a safe and good quality drinking water supply. Increasing water temperatures, notably due to climate change could deteriorate the quality of aquatic ecosystems and drinking water sources by favouring the conditions for enhanced eutrophication as well as pathogen development or the spread of invasive species. Emerging concerns are also growing at the level of drinking water treatment and distribution, notably in relation with disinfection operations and possible harmful effects of by-products and metabolites.

Addressing pollution on seas and ocean is a prerequisite for a healthy planet. The ocean is being polluted and destroyed due to the release of substances or energy in marine waters which initiate a range of subsequent effects. According to a new European Environment Agency report, all four regional seas in Europe have a large-scale contamination problem, ranging from 96% of the assessed area in the Baltic Sea and 91% in the Black Sea, to 87% in the Mediterranean and 75% in the North-East Atlantic Ocean. The main sources of pollution include industrial, agricultural and municipal waste runoff, other human activities (e.g. transport), underwater noise, light, atmospheric deposition, etc. into marine waters.

Increasing the environmental performance and sustainability of processes and products plays a significant role in keeping our planet clean. Environmental pollution resulting from human activity is detrimental to ecosystems at different functional levels, representing, also, an important economic burden for society. Circular bio-based systems, including biotechnology, have the potential to substantially contribute to the European Green Deal objectives, provided that they are developed sustainably and systemically aiming at mitigating the climate change and its impacts, increasing resource efficiency and circularity, preserving and restoring ecosystems services, natural resources, air/water/soil quality and biodiversity. Indicators of such sustainability are needed, building on dynamic perspectives at scales ranging, in space, from planetary to local ecosystems and, in time, from next decade to the end of century and beyond. Environmental impacts should be traced along value chains and trades to enable responsible production and consumption.

Expected impacts

Pollution must be halted and eliminated to guarantee clean and healthy soils, air, fresh and marine water for all. To reach this objective, it will be paramount to advance the knowledge of pollution sources and pathways to enable preventive measures, improve monitoring and control, apply planetary boundaries in practice and introduce effective remediation methods.

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway to contribute to the aforementioned goal to achieve a clean environment and zero pollution, and more specifically to one or several of the following impacts:

  • Advanced understanding of diffuse and point sources of water pollution in a global and climate change context, enabling novel solutions to protect water bodies, aquatic ecosystems and soil functionality, and further enhancing water quality and its management for safe human and ecological use, while fostering the EU’s and Associated Countries’ position and role in the global water scene.
  • Balanced N/P flows well within safe ecological boundaries at EU and Associated Countries, regional and local scale, contribute to restoring ecosystems.
  • Clean, unpolluted seas in the EU and Associated Countries as a result of successful behavioural, social-economic, demographic, governance and green-blue transitions.
  • Circular bio-based systems reversing climate change, restoring biodiversity and protecting air, water and soil quality along supply chain of biological feedstock and industrial value chains, within the EU and Associated Countries and across borders.
  • Innovative biotechnology creating zero-pollution bio-based solutions.

When considering their impact, proposals also need to assess their compliance with the “Do No Significant Harm” principle[[as per Article 17 of Regulation (EU) No 2020/852 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment (EU Taxonomy Regulation)]] according to which the research and innovation activities of the project should not be supporting or carrying out activities that make a significant harm to any of the six environmental objectives of the EU Taxonomy Regulation.

Actions should develop scientifically robust and transparent approaches and methodologies, building on achievements from previous research activities, where possible and appropriate. To ensure deployment, trustworthiness, swift and wide adoption by user communities, and to support EU and national policy-makers, they should adopt high standards of transparency and openness, going beyond ex-post documentation of results and extending to aspects such as assumptions, models and data quality during the life of projects.

Topics under this destination will address the following impact areas of the Horizon Europe strategic plan for 2021-2024: “Climate change mitigation and adaptation”; “Enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity on land and in waters”; “Good health and high-quality accessible healthcare”; “Clean and healthy air, water and soil”; “A resilient EU prepared for emerging threats”; and “Inclusive growth and new job opportunities”.


Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 5: Land, ocean and water for climate action

Assessing the impacts of climate change on our land and marine environments, natural resources, agriculture and food systems, and identifying mitigation options and adaptation pathways, requires interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research and investments across a broad range of activities. Research is needed to better understand who or what is exposed and sensitive to these changes, their underlying vulnerability, the associated costs and adaptive capacity. Research is also required to provide mitigation options that reduce the risk of long-term climate change

The conservation and enhancement of Earth’s natural carbon sinks such as soils and plants, forests, farmed lands, wetlands and the oceans is crucial. The European Green Deal green oath to “do no harm”, requires a careful examination of the trade-offs and synergies among the sustainability goals, including health protection, food and nutrition security, ecosystem services and biodiversity preservation both on land and at sea. R&I has a significant role to play to support the design and implementation of policies that will ensure the achievement of EU climate objectives.

Agriculture has a significant role to play to reduce and mitigate GHG emissions and to enhance carbon sinks. It also needs to strengthen its capacity to adapt to climate change and its resilience. The forestry sector faces similar challenges.

Freshwater resources are increasingly under stress as a consequence of overuse and climate change with wide-ranging consequences for human societies and ecosystems. It is therefore necessary to define the safe operating space in terms of water quantity and availability, reduce the vulnerability to change and enhance our adaptive capacity.

Strengthening the ocean and climate nexus is another priority for the EU. There is growing political awareness of the importance of ocean and polar regions as an integral part of the Earth’s climate system and of the need to ensure the integrity and resilience of these ecosystems.

While new knowledge leading to a better understanding of the impacts of climate change is necessary, a strong priority needs to be granted to the large-scale deployment and uptake of solutions for climate adaptation and mitigation. Environmental observations and related solutions will be necessary throughout, from understanding to deployment.

Understanding the impacts of climate change on primary production and natural systems is a pre-requisite for policy and societal action on climate change adaptation and mitigation. At present, our understanding of the interactions between climate change and ecosystem management, protection and restoration is limited, yet it is crucial to enabling sound decision making for mitigation and adaptation measures. Monitoring and evaluation of the impacts of climate change, land use change and associated biodiversity loss on a range of key issues related to agriculture and forestry are crucial with respect to the transition to net-zero emissions in the EU. R&I are also needed to close knowledge gaps in support of decision-making aimed at preserving the integrity of ocean and aquatic ecosystems through a better understanding of the drivers of change and of emerging threats. Moreover, since water availability is vulnerable to climate change, it is necessary to improve the projections of changes to the water cycle at different relevant scales and projections of the frequency and intensity of extreme events. We also require improved long-term observations and assessment of the effects of climate change on diverse water uses and on the state of ecosystems and their services.

Reducing GHG emissions and enhancing carbon sinks in primary production and natural systems are key elements of the European Green Deal. Achieving sustainable land management and efficient use of natural resources that foster climate change mitigation implies finding the right balance between productivity, climate, biodiversity and environmental goals in the agriculture and forestry sectors, with a long-term perspective. R&I activities will support solutions for climate- and environmentally-friendly practices, to reduce emissions of major greenhouse gases and the environmental footprint of land use changes and agricultural activities. R&I, new technologies and business models are expected to unlock the full potential of LULUCF[[LULUCF stands for land use, land use change and forestry.]] activities in the mitigation of climate change. Results of funded activities will benefit land and forest management and the delivery of multiple services provided by land and forests, such as the provision of goods as long-term carbon stocks in harvested wood products, peatlands and wetlands, the protection of soils, water and biodiversity and finally climate change adaptation and mitigation. Ocean is also a large storage system for the global reservoirs of climate-regulating factors. R&I will advance knowledge innovations to foster ocean-based solutions/mitigation options, helping to close the emissions gap.

Climate action calls also for fostering adaptation to climate change of ecosystems, primary production, food systems and the bioeconomy. Climate change is exacerbating existing risks to livelihoods, biodiversity, human and ecosystem health, infrastructure and food systems. There are growing concerns regarding the role of climate change in the spreading of new plant and terrestrial and aquatic animal diseases, which can jeopardise food safety and security. Human activities relying on the availability and use of water are particularly impacted by variable and extreme weather events, which may at the same time lead to desertification. Agriculture and forestry in the EU are vulnerable to climate change. There is in particular growing evidence about the effects of climate change, and of extreme weather events, on agricultural production and crop yields, which need to be mitigated, and also on the forest sector. Coastal areas are also threatened by sea level rise, saline water intrusion, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, extreme events and a shrinking cryosphere. R&I will, therefore, be critical to foster adaptation and build resilience in agriculture, forestry and coastal areas. They will aim to deliver on the urgent need to foster the adaptation of primary production, notably by providing farmers and other actors in bioeconomy value chains with better-adapted crop varieties and animal breeds with lower impacts on the related ecosystems. R&I efforts are critical to avoiding, reducing and reversing desertification. Water adaptation strategies and approaches will be developed and tested. Appropriate solutions including water allocation schemes will be developed for businesses, farmers and ecosystems. Potential trade-offs, and measures to mitigate and avoid them, will be assessed to ensure environmental sustainability and to keep the objectives of enhancing soil fertility, increasing carbon storage in soils and biomass, benefitting agricultural productivity and food security and reducing biodiversity loss. R&I will also aim at better understanding how institutions and behaviour shape vulnerability and offer opportunities for adaptation.

Expected impacts

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to climate action on land, oceans and water and more specifically to one or several of the following impacts:

  • Better understanding and enhancing the mitigation potential of ecosystems and sectors based on the sustainable management of natural resources;
  • Advanced understanding and science to support adaptation and resilience of natural and managed ecosystems, water and soil systems and economic sectors in the context of the changing climate;
  • Efficient monitoring, assessment and projections related to climate change impacts, mitigation and adaptation potential in order to bring out solutions for tackling emerging threats and support decision-making in climate change mitigation and adaptation policies at European and global levels;
  • Fostered climate change mitigation in the primary sector , including by the reduction of GHG emissions, maintenance of natural carbon sinks and enhancement of sequestration and storage of carbon in ecosystems;
  • Improved adaptive capacity of water and soil systems and sectors including by unlocking the potential of nature-based solutions;
  • Better managed scarce resources, in particular soils and water, thus mitigating climate related risks, in particular desertification and erosion, thanks to informed decision-makers and stakeholders and integration of adaptation measures in relevant EU policies.

When considering their impact, proposals also need to assess their compliance with the “Do No Significant Harm” principle [[as per Article 17 of Regulation (EU) No 2020/852 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment (EU Taxonomy Regulation)]] according to which the research and innovation activities of the project should not be supporting or carrying out activities that make a significant harm to any of the six environmental objectives of the EU Taxonomy Regulation.

This destination contributes to support R&I on climate for areas covered by Cluster 6 notably on the implementation of climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions while Destination “Climate sciences and responses for the transformation towards climate neutrality” in Cluster 5 concentrates on activities related to climate science and modelling.

Topics under this destination will have impacts in the following impact areas of the Horizon Europe strategic plan for 2021-2024 [[Footnote indicating link to the document.]]: “Climate change mitigation and adaptation”; “Enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity on land and in water”; “Clean and healthy air, water and soil”; “Sustainable food systems from farm to fork on land and sea”; ”A resilient EU prepared for emerging threats”; “A secure and open EU society”; and “Inclusive growth and new job opportunities”.


Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 6: Resilient, Inclusive, Healthy and Green Rural, Coastal and Urban Communities

Places and people matter to the achievement of a more sustainable Europe. The Sustainable Development Goals and the ecological and digital transitions brought forward by the European Green Deal [[https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal_en]] and digital strategy [[https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/europe-fit-digital-age/shaping-europe-digital-future_en]], alongside the recent pandemic, bring challenges and opportunities that differ for different places and people. Rural (including mountains and sparsely populated areas) and coastal areas, play a key role in managing, protecting and using natural resources. The provision of both private and public goods from these areas depends on the resilience and attractiveness of rural and coastal communities and the capacity of people who live and work there to access a sufficient level of well-being. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted deficiencies in digital infrastructures and economic opportunities that hamper resilience. Urban communities generally offer better access to many services but are also more vulnerable to supply-chain disruptions, as shown during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, they have a key role to play in fostering sustainable production and consumption as major demand drivers. In all communities, social and behavioural drivers play an important role in enabling or slowing down transitions. Knowledge and innovative solutions need to be developed to enhance every community’s resilience and capacity to contribute to and benefit from the upcoming transitions in an economy that works for all territories and ensures a fair and just transition leaving no one behind.

Under this destination, transdisciplinary R&I with a strong social and behavioural sciences dimension, and attention to gender aspects, will foster a sustainable, balanced and inclusive development of rural [[R&I will support the implementation of an EU-level long-term vision for rural areas to be published in the 2nd quarter of 2021.]], coastal and urban areas in three different ways. Firstly, it will aim to increase our understanding of the differential impacts of climate, environmental, socio-economic and demographic changes on rural, coastal and urban areas in order to identify ways to turn these changes into equal opportunities for people wherever they live, enhancing territorial cohesion and enabling a just transition. Secondly, it will explore innovative ways to tailor policy responses to the place-based challenges identified at various levels of governance. Thirdly, it will support bottom-up community-led innovation to empower communities to develop, test and upscale solutions that answer global challenges in locally adapted ways. Achieving policy goals require providing people with more equitable access to the knowledge and skills required to make informed choices and be actively engaged in the sustainable and circular management of natural resources, from production or service provision to consumption. Rural, coastal and urban communities, in particular women, youth, the most vulnerable groups like indigenous people and those hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, need to see their labour conditions, quality of life and long-term socio-economic prospects improved in the context of major transitions and rising threats to climate, resources and health. Their capacity to drive community-led innovations must be enhanced and their resilience increased across the diversity of European territories including remote places such as mountains and sparsely populated areas. Mobilising the forces of digital transformation, start-up ecosystems, nature-based solutions, as well as social and policy innovation will facilitate necessary changes and support smart, environment and climate friendly and resilient lifestyles.

Activities under this destination are complementary to Cluster 2 activities with attention to spatial differences and specifics in relation with democracy (Destination ‘Innovative research on democracy and governance’), socio-economic transformations (Destination ‘Innovative research on social and economic transformation’) and cultural heritage (Destination ‘Innovative research on the European cultural heritage and the cultural and creative industries). They are also complementary to Cluster 5’s Destination ‘Cross-sectoral solutions for the climate transition’ on cities and communities that should explore place-based approaches to climate, energy and mobility specifically for all places.

To maximise the intended impacts and to ensure uptake by the communities, actions in the cluster should aim for high standards of transparency and openness for the solutions developed, going beyond ex-post documentation of results and extending to aspects such as assumptions, processes, models and data during the life of projects.

Expected impacts

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to resilient, inclusive, healthy and green rural, coastal and urban communities and more specifically one or several of the following expected impacts:

  • Rural, coastal and urban areas are developed in a sustainable, balanced and inclusive manner thanks to a better understanding of the environmental, socio-economic, behavioural, cultural and demographic drivers of change as well as deployment of digital, nature-based, social and community-led innovations.
  • Rural, coastal and urban communities are empowered to act for change, better prepared to achieve climate neutrality, adapt to climate change, and turn digital and ecological transitions into increased resilience to various types of shocks, good health and positive long-term prospects, including jobs, for all including women, young people and vulnerable groups.
  • Rural communities are equipped with innovative and smarter solutions that increase access to services, opportunities and adequate innovation ecosystems, including for women, youth and the most vulnerable groups, improve attractiveness and reduce the feeling of being left behind, even in the most remote locations like mountains.
  • The sustainable development of coastal areas including coastal protection and resilience reaps the benefits of social, digital and community-led innovations, to deliver nature-based and scientifically validated solutions to existing coastal socio-economic and environmental threats. In this way, applications of new social, economic and governance frameworks are enabled.
  • Tourism, recreational and leisure activity development in natural and coastal areas respects long-term environmental carrying capacity, and social goals.
  • Urban and peri-urban communities – including the most vulnerable individuals and families – can access, afford and choose healthier, nutritious and environmental-friendly food.

When considering their impact, proposals also need to assess their compliance with the “Do No Significant Harm” principle [[as per Article 17 of Regulation (EU) No 2020/852 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment (EU Taxonomy Regulation)]] according to which the research and innovation activities of the project should not be supporting or carrying out activities that make a significant harm to any of the six environmental objectives of the EU Taxonomy Regulation.

Topics under this destination will have impacts in the following impact areas of the Horizon Europe strategic plan for 2021-2024 [[[Link to the strategic plan]]]: “Climate change mitigation and adaptation”; “Enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity on land and in water”; “Sustainable food systems from farm to fork”; “Good health and high-quality accessible healthcare”; “A resilient EU prepared for emerging threats”; “A competitive and secure data-economy”; and “Inclusive growth and new job opportunities”.


Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 7: Innovative Governance, Environmental Oberservations and Digital Solutions in Support of the Green Deal

Transformative changes such as the ones required within the Green Deal are dynamic processes that require appropriate governance. At the same time, to ensure coordination and for collaborative decision-making, governance requires multiple channels and networks that provide readily available data and information coming from different sources.

R&I activities under this destination aim at both: experimenting with new ways to govern the transition process and modernising the governance, in particular by making information and knowledge available and accessible. R&I for governance to support the Green Deal shall provide insights into institutional barriers such as lock-ins, path dependency, political and cultural inertia power imbalances and regulatory inconsistencies or weaknesses.

Innovative governance supporting the Green Deal objectives needs to recognise, cope with and promote resilience in the face of on-going shocks and disruptions both globally and across Europe, whether these be climatic, ecological, economic, social, geo-political or related to health. Critical risk assessment and reduction strategies need to be incorporated, including the diversification of infrastructures, resources and knowledge through more self-sufficiency and autonomy.

Taking advantage of the use, uptake, deployment and exploitation of environmental observations[[The capacity to observe the environment, including space-based, in-situ-based (air, sea, land) observation, and citizen observations]] as well as digital solutions, assessed through the “do not harm” principle of the Green Deal, is key for innovative governance models and a more science-based policy design, implementation and monitoring. To maximise impacts of R&I on the ground and spark behavioural and socio-economic change, the knowledge and innovation produced throughout the whole cluster should be widely disseminated to key stakeholders of the relevant sectors of the cluster. In particular, the Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems (AKIS) needs to be reinforced to accelerate the required transformative changes.

Data and information obtained through Environmental Observation is of great value when assessing the state of the planet and is delivering crucial information to support the Green Deal and the climate and ecological transition. Integration of this information from different sources (space-based, airborne including drones, in-situ and citizens observations) with other relevant data and knowledge while ensuring (better) accessible, interoperable or deployable information, delivers information necessary for shaping the direction of the development of policies in the broad context of Cluster 6 of Horizon Europe. A strong link to the European Earth observations programme Copernicus (in Cluster 4) and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Earth observation programme, as well as support to the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), its European regional initiative (EuroGEO) and the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) is foreseen for topics on environmental observations under this destination. R&I activities relevant to ocean, seas and coastal waters will complement and support the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and UN Decade on Restoration, the G7 Future of the Seas and Oceans Initiative, the pan-Commission Destination Earth initiative, the European Global Ocean Observing System (EOOS) and the GOOS 2030 strategy.

Digital innovation, in complementarity with Cluster 4 and Digital Europe Programmes activities, should bring benefits for citizens, businesses, researchers, the environment, society at large and policy-makers. The potential of the ongoing digital transformation, and its wider impacts, positive and negative, need to be better understood and monitored in view of future policy design and implementation, governance, and solution development

This destination will develop innovative digital and data based solutions to support communities and society at large, and economic sectors relevant for this cluster to achieve sustainability objectives. R&I activities will add value to the knowledge and cost-effectiveness of innovative technologies in and across primary production sectors, food systems, bioeconomy, ocean and biodiversity.

Knowledge and advice to all actors relevant to this cluster are key to improve sustainability. For instance, primary producers have a particular need for impartial and tailored advice on sustainable management choices. Knowledge and Innovation Systems are key drivers to enhance co-creation and thus speed up innovation and the take-up of results needed to achieve the Green Deal objectives and targets. This will include promoting interactive innovation and co-ownership of results by users, as well as strengthening synergies with other EU Funds in particular the CAP, reinforcing the multi-actor approach and setting up structural networking within national/regional/local AKISs. AKIS goes beyond agriculture, farming and rural activities and covers environment, climate, biodiversity, landscape, bio-based economy, consumers and citizens, i.e., all food and bio-based systems including transformation and distribution chains up until the consumer.

Expected impacts

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to innovative governance and sound decision making in policy for the green transition, and more specifically to one or several of the following impacts:

  • Innovative governance models enabling sustainability and resilience notably to achieve better informed decision-making processes, societal engagement and innovation;
  • Green Deal related domains benefit from further deployment and exploitation of Environmental Observation data and products ;
  • A strengthened Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) [[The European Commission is a member and co-chair of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), as such the European Commission adopted the GEO Canberra Declaration (https://earthobservations.org/canberra_declaration.php and Commission Decision C(2019)7337/F1) and committed to contribute to the GEO objectives, including to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).]];
  • Sustainability performance and competitiveness in the domains covered by Cluster 6 are enhanced through further deployment of digital and data technologies as key enablers;
  • More informed and engaged stakeholders and end users including primary producers and consumers thanks to effective platforms such as Agriculture Knowledge and Innovation Systems (AKIS)
  • Strengthened EU and international science-policy interfaces to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

When considering their impact, proposals also need to assess their compliance with the “Do No Significant Harm” principle [[as per Article 17 of Regulation (EU) No 2020/852 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment (EU Taxonomy Regulation)]] according to which the research and innovation activities of the project should not be supporting or carrying out activities that make a significant harm to any of the six environmental objectives of the EU Taxonomy Regulation.

Topics under this destination will have impacts in the following areas: “Climate change mitigation and adaptation”; “Clean and healthy air, water and soil”; “Enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity on land and in water”; “Sustainable food systems from farm to fork on land and sea”; “High quality digital services for all”; and “A Competitive and secure data-economy”.

Social innovation is recommended when the solution is at the socio-technical interface and requires social change, new social practices, social ownership or market uptake.


Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 3 - Destination 2: Effective management of EU external borders

This Destination addresses, among other, objectives identified by the Security Union Strategy [[COM(2020) 795 final.]] as well as the border management and security dimensions of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum [[COM(2020) 609 final.]]. As such, topics included under the Destination are aimed at ensuring strong European land, air and sea external borders. This includes by developing strong capabilities for checks at external borders hence safeguarding the integrity and functioning of the Schengen area without controls at the internal borders, by compensating the absence of intra-EU border checks; being capable to carry out systematic border checks, including identity, health and security checks as necessary, while facilitating the travel of bona fide travellers and respecting rights and possible vulnerabilities of individuals; providing integrated and continuous border surveillance, situational awareness and analysis support; combating identity and document frauds; supporting future technology for the European Border and Coast Guard; supporting the interoperability and performance of EU data exchange and analysis IT systems; supporting better risk detection, incident response and crime prevention; improving European preparedness to, and management of, future rapidly evolving changes; and updating our maritime security management including migration, trafficking as well as search and rescue capabilities.

Taking into account the central role of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) in defining capability requirements for the European Border and Coast Guard, it will be closely associated with, and will assist the European Commission in drawing up and implementing, relevant research and innovation activities. The European Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (eu-LISA) could also assist the European Commission on relevant research and innovation activities and specific topics. Research should also consider how future management of borders can develop protection of human rights, and how it can facilitate protection of refugees.

This research will also contribute to the implementation of the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) and the development of tools and methods for Integrated Border Management.

Regarding maritime security, the topics under this Destination will also support the implementation of the relevant actions under the Capability development, research and innovation area of the EU Maritime Security Action Plan[[https://ec.europa.eu/maritimeaffairs/sites/maritimeaffairs/files/2018-06-26-eumss-revised-action-plan_en.pdf]]. Research activities will therefore enable better security and management of EU maritime borders, maritime critical infrastructures, maritime activities and transport, contributing as well to a better performance and cooperation on coast guard functions. Research and innovation in the area of maritime security will also support the development of future capabilities for the protection of sea harbours and related sea lines of communication including entry/exit routes. The objective of maritime security research activities in this regard covers prevention, preparedness and response to expected and unexpected events including, anthropogenic and natural disasters, accidents, climate change as well as threats such as terrorism and piracy, cyber, hybrid and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) ones. The EU Maritime Security Research Agenda lays down in this regard specific areas to address, including cybersecurity, interoperability and information sharing, autonomous systems, networking and communication systems and multi-purpose platforms. Specific EU maritime security legislation [[Regulation (EC) No 725/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 on enhancing ship and port facility security, Directive 2005/65/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2005 on enhancing port security.]] also emphasises maritime passenger transport, and the threats to passengers. Innovative and more efficient capabilities for the security of maritime passenger transport could therefore also be a useful area of research.

Regarding security in the movements of goods across external borders, research will address requirements identified by the European Commission and EU customs authorities and should contribute to capabilities for detecting illegal activities both at external border crossing points and through the supply chain. EU customs authorities face increasing volumes of commerce, trade and traffic of goods, as well as having a range of tasks to fulfil besides security. International smuggling has the potential to become more sophisticated and/or increase in the coming years and decades, and could be facilitated by cybercrime. Criminal networks may exploit potential weaknesses of global supply chains, transport and logistics to pursue illicit trade and other crimes. At the same time, threats and hazards that may need to be detected in the flow of goods are very diverse and often need different sensors and technologies to be detected (from chemical, biological, nuclear, radiological and explosive material to drugs, firearms, money, waste, trafficked wildlife, cultural goods, etc.). Hence, customs need innovation to enable detection and to ensure security without at the same time disrupting or unnecessarily hampering trade flows. Capabilities built through research will contribute to the implementation of the new EU Customs Union action plan to reinforce customs risk management and effective controls. Capabilities include those on threat detection in postal flows; automated controls and detection that reduce the need to open or stop containers, packages, baggage or cargo; decision support; portability of control solutions; and technologies to track cross-border illicit trade.

Furthermore, in order to accomplish the objectives of this Destination, additional eligibility conditions have been defined with regard to the active involvement of relevant security practitioners or end-users.

Successful proposals under this Destination are invited to cooperate closely with other EC-chaired or funded initiatives in the relevant domains, such as the Networks of Practitioners projects funded under H2020 Secure Societies work programmes, the Knowledge Networks for Security Research & Innovation funded under the Horizon Europe Cluster 3 Work Programme, the Community of Users for Secure, Safe and Resilient Societies (future CERIS –Community of European Research and Innovation for Security) or with other security research and innovation working groups set-up by EU Agencies.

Furthermore, successful proposals under this Destination should be complementary and not overlap with relevant actions funded by other EU instruments, including projects funded by the Digital Europe Programme as well as European Defence Fund and the European Defence Industrial Development Programme, while maintaining a focus on civilian applications only.

Proposals submitted under this Destination should demonstrate how they plan to build on relevant predecessor projects; to consider the citizens’ and societal perspectives; to include education, training and awareness raising for practitioners and citizens; to measure the achieved TRL; and to prepare the uptake of the research outcomes.

Proposals involving earth observation are encouraged to make use primarily of Copernicus data, services and technologies.

This Destination will develop knowledge and technologies that may be taken up by other instruments, such as the Integrated Border Management Fund, that will enable exploitation of research results and final delivery of the required tools to security practitioners.

Expected impacts:

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to the following expected impact of the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan 2021-2024:

“Legitimate passengers and shipments travel more easily into the EU, while illicit trades, trafficking, piracy, terrorist and other criminal acts are prevented, due to improved air, land and sea border management and maritime security including better knowledge on social factors.”

More specifically, proposals should contribute to the achievement of one or more of the following impacts:

  • Improved security of EU land and air borders, as well as sea borders and maritime environment, infrastructures and activities, against accidents, natural disasters and security challenges such as illegal trafficking, piracy and potential terrorist attacks, cyber and hybrid threats;
  • Improved border crossing experience for travellers and border authorities staff, while maintaining security and monitoring of movements across air, land and sea EU external borders, supporting the Schengen space, reducing illegal movements of people and goods across those borders and protecting fundamental rights of travellers;
  • Improved customs and supply chain security though better prevention, detection, deterrence and fight of illegal activities involving flows of goods across EU external border crossing points and through the supply chain, minimising disruption to trade flows.

Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 3 - Destination 1: Better protect the EU and its citizens against Crime and Terrorism

One of the main purposes of this Destination is to contribute significantly to the implementation of the Security Union Strategy [[COM(2020) 605 final.]], i.e. to include Research and Innovation as one of the key building blocks enabling the achievement of the overall policy objectives. As such, the topics in this Destination aim at fully addressing all the key issues underlined in the Strategy. In addition, this Destination touches upon the Counter-Terrorism Agenda [[COM(2020) 795 final.]] as well as the security dimension of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum [[COM(2020) 609 final.]], notably the issues related to criminal networks. More specifically, this Destination includes research topics aiming at fighting crime and terrorism more effectively, particularly through better prevention of crime and enhanced investigation capabilities concerning both traditional crime and cybercrime, as well as at better protection of citizens from violent attacks in public spaces, through more effective prevention, preparedness and response while preserving the open nature of such spaces. This Destination will develop the knowledge and technologies to be taken up by the Internal Security Fund, as a complementary instrument that will enable exploitation of research results and final delivery of the required tools to security practitioners.

The goal of this Destination is to bring improved prevention, investigation and mitigation of impacts of crime, including of new/emerging criminal modi operandi (such as those exploiting digitisation and other technologies). Such an approach needs to be based on a deeper knowledge of human and social aspects of relevant societal challenges, such as child sexual exploitation, violent radicalisation, trafficking of human beings, disinformation and fake news, corruption and cyber criminality, including support to victims. Research can further help to transpose such knowledge into the operational activities of Police Authorities [[In the context of this Destination, ‘Police Authorities’ means public authorities explicitly designated by national law, or other entities legally mandated by the competent national authority, for the prevention, detection and/or investigation of terrorist offences or other criminal offences, specifically excluding police academies, forensic institutes, training facilities as well as border and customs authorities.]], as well as civil society organisations.

Research and innovation will support Police Authorities and, when applicable, other relevant end-users in better tackling crime, including cybercrime, and terrorism as well as different forms of serious and organised crime (such as smuggling, money laundering, identity theft, counterfeiting of products, trafficking of illicit drugs and of falsified/substandard medicines, environmental crime or illicit trafficking of cultural goods) by developing new technologies, tools and systems (including digital tools, e.g. artificial intelligence, interoperability solutions, etc.). This support refers especially to capabilities to analyse in near-real-time large volumes of data to forestall criminal activities, or to combat disinformation and fake news with implications for security.

In addition to improved knowledge, preparedness, prevention and response, projects within this Destination will deliver operational tools for enhanced criminal investigation capabilities for Police Authorities and, when applicable, other relevant end-users. Thus, this Destination covers a broad range of activities from forensics, big data management to the investigation of cybercriminal activities, improved cross-border cooperation and exchange of evidence.

With regards to CBRN-E (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives) threats, research and innovation within this Destination allows, among others, to generate knowledge for counter-terrorism on the continuously evolving methods related to dangerous chemicals, contaminants and unknown substances, and the development of technologies to counter and respond to related incidents.

Furthermore, this Destination aims at improved security of public spaces and public safety, while at the same time preserving the open nature of urban public spaces. All measures to be explored by research and innovation in this area should ensure that citizens can continue their daily lives without major intrusions. To achieve higher security for public space, research in this Destination will identify concepts for prevention, preparedness and response of urban actors (city authorities, Police Authorities, public/private service providers, first responders and citizens) in response to threats of terrorist attacks in public spaces. Innovations can be used to design/improve public spaces to be more secure, also with the help of advanced vulnerability assessments. They can increase the capacity to protect spaces against attacks with manned or unmanned vehicles and can help to detect firearms and other weapons, as well as CBRN-E materials being brought into public spaces. In case attacks cannot be prevented, enhanced effectiveness of mitigation measures including through strategies to reduce vulnerability and strengthening the resilience of possible targets have the potential to reduce the potential impacts of such attacks. Advanced data analysis in real time can critically reduce the time-to-react for first responders.

This Destination will also promote, whenever appropriate and applicable, the proposals with:

  • the involvement of the Police Authorities in their core,
  • a clear strategy on how they will adapt to the fast-evolving environment in the area of fight against crime and terrorism (evolution of related technologies, evolution of criminal modi operandi and business models related to these technologies, etc.),
  • a minimum-needed platform, i.e. tools that are modular and can be easily plugged into another platform (in order to avoid platform multiplication),
  • tools that are developed and validated against practitioners’ needs and requirements,
  • a robust plan on how they will build on the relevant predecessor projects,
  • the (active) involvement of citizens, voluntary organisations and communities,
  • education and training aspects, especially for Police Authorities and other relevant practitioners, as well as information sharing and awareness raising of the citizens,
  • a clear strategy on the uptake of the outcomes, defined in consultation with the involved stakeholders,
  • a well-developed plan both on how research data for training and testing will be obtained, in order to reach the requested Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs), and on how the specific TRL will be measured.

The Destination will also create opportunities for collaboration on research and innovation among different communities of practitioners operating in the area of fighting crime and terrorism, such as Police Authorities, border and coast guard authorities, and customs authorities. International cooperation is also encouraged where appropriate and relevant.

Expected impacts:

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to the following expected impact of the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan 2021-2024: “Crime and terrorism are more effectively tackled, while respecting fundamental rights, […] thanks to more powerful prevention, preparedness and response, a better understanding of related human, societal and technological aspects, and the development of cutting-edge capabilities for police authorities […] including measures against cybercrime.”

More specifically, proposals should contribute to the achievement of one or more of the following impacts:

  • Modern information analysis for Police Authorities, allowing them to efficiently fight criminals and terrorists who use novel technologies;
  • Improved forensics and lawful evidence collection, increasing the capabilities to apprehend criminals and terrorists and bring them to the court;
  • Enhanced prevention, detection and deterrence of societal issues related to various forms of crime, including cybercrime, and terrorism, such as violent radicalisation, domestic and sexual violence, or juvenile offenders;
  • Increased security of citizens against terrorism, including in public spaces (while preserving their quality and openness);
  • Improved intelligence picture and enhanced prevention, detection and deterrence of various forms of organised crime;
  • More secure cyberspace for citizens, especially children, through a robust prevention, detection, and protection from cybercriminal activities.

Furthermore, in order to accomplish the objectives of this Destination, additional eligibility conditions have been defined. They refer to the active involvement of relevant security practitioners or end-users.

Proposals involving earth observation are encouraged to primarily make use of Copernicus data, services and technologies.

Projects funded under this Destination are invited to closely cooperate with other EC-chaired or funded initiatives in the relevant domains, such as the Networks of Practitioners projects funded under H2020 Secure Societies work programmes, the Knowledge Networks for Security Research & Innovation funded under the Horizon Europe Cluster 3 Work Programme (”Strengthened Security Research and Innovation” Destination), or the Community of Users for Secure, Safe and Resilient Societies (future CERIS –Community of European Research and Innovation for Security).


Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 3 - Destination 3: Resilient Infrastructure

The reliable, robust and resilient operation of infrastructures is vital for the security, well-being and economic prosperity of people in Europe. They provide the basis for our daily lives, connect people to each other and guarantee different kinds of social and economic interactions. To be able to allow for such interactions, be it in transport, communications or services, infrastructures has grown more complex to keep up with the development of modern societies, while at the same time ensuring their resilience against disasters and the impacts of climate change and other factors that affect society e.g. demographic changes. Infrastructures operate and function in a rapidly evolving socio-technological and threat environment with increasingly interconnected networks highly reliant upon one another, which presents both risks and opportunities for their protection. They must be resilient towards different expected and unexpected events, emerging risks, be they natural or man-made, unintentional, accidental or with malicious intent.

The Security Union Strategy [[COM(2020) 605 final.]] identifies the protection of critical infrastructures as one of the main priorities for the EU and its Member States for the coming years. Specific reference is established to growing interconnectivity as well as emerging and complex threats: technological trends like the use of Artificial Intelligence and the rapid development of sophisticated unmanned vehicles, the impact of natural and man-made disasters, as well as major crisis scenarios like the COVID-19 pandemic and unexpected events. Infrastructure preparedness and protection is a technologically complex domain, affected by various global developments and thus needs to be supported by targeted security research. This Work Programme aims at supporting the protection of European infrastructures with relevant projects, enabling public and private actors to meet current and emerging challenges.

Technologically complex applications offer the possibility for better prevention and preparedness, can enable efficient response to different threats and faster recovery. But at the same time, they create new vulnerabilities. The potential damage resulting from their disruption can escalate rapidly and negatively affect wider parts of vital societal functions. For instance, this is the case of satellite-based positioning and timing systems, which provide a wealth of high quality Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) services that are exploited by critical infrastructures such as transport and logistics, energy grids, drinking water network, dams, telecom networks or financial markets. Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) disruption or denial of services is recognised as an important economic and societal threat.

Infrastructures in the European Union are a high-value target for terrorist groups as well as agencies of third countries. With the Directive on identification and designation of European critical infrastructures and assessment of the need to improve their protection [[Directive (EU) 2008/114.]] the EU and its Member States have created a basis for a common approach towards protection. Under the umbrella of the new Security Union Strategy, the regulatory framework for critical infrastructure protection is currently under revision. The Proposal for additional measures on Critical Infrastructure Protection which is part of the European Commission work programme for 2020 [[COM(2020) 440 final. ]] is also making use of the significant results that security research has produced over the last decade.

Especially in the cyber-domain, the risks have been constantly growing in recent years, with both more frequent and more sophisticated attacks. In addition, criminals, and state-sponsored entities are utilising different tools for carrying out cyber-attacks on infrastructures with the help of cyber-tools for personal or political gain (e.g. extortion, blackmailing). The EU has acknowledged the strong role of the cyber dimension in infrastructure protection, most notably in the Directive on security of network and information systems [[Directive (EU) 2016/1148.]] and its revision, proposed in December 2020 [[COM(2020) 823 final.]] . Large-scale data mining of cross-sectoral information should be supported by targeted research on appropriate AI techniques and infrastructure. For instance for mission-critical systems it is essential to be able to react quickly, efficiently, safely and secure to different and complex scenarios enabling effective and informed decision-making based on sufficient available and trustworthy data.

Physical attacks are less frequent, but cases in the EUs neighbourhood have shown the destructive potential of new technologies used for attacks such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), which can also be used for intentional disruptions that pose danger to safe operations of infrastructures and create significant economic losses.

Hybrid threats are of particular relevance in the overall risk scenarios, since they are designed to target vulnerabilities and aim in many cases at disrupting infrastructure and its services, making use of different methods. Hybrid threats, techniques and means encompass a combination of physical and cyber-attacks or disruptions, diplomatic, military and political as well as economic means. The effects of cyber-instruments and disinformation are crucial elements of such malevolent strategies and create the need for comprehensive preparedness to avoid large scale disruptions. As such, both the Joint Framework on Countering Hybrid Threats (2016) [[JOIN/2016/018 final.]] and the Joint Communication on Increasing Resilience and Bolstering Capabilities to Address Hybrid Threats (2018)[[JOIN/2018/16 final.]] pay special attention to the role of infrastructures and state that research should provide better means to counter hybrid threats.

Europe is exposed to a wide range of natural hazards and the vulnerabilities of infrastructures need to be addressed also from that perspective. With certain disasters striking more frequently and more severely, as well as long-term challenges such as climate change, there is a need to deploy innovative solutions to ensure the continuous functioning of European infrastructures exposed to such natural extremes. Security research should in this regard support the regulatory and cooperation measures at European level, such as the Union Civil Protection Mechanism [[Decision No 1313/2013/EU on a Union Civil Protection Mechanism and subsequent amendments.]] and the new EU Adaptation Strategy. On the other hand, new infrastructures technologies themselves (for example energy production and storages, new materials, water protection, etc.) can pose a potential risks for society due to accidents. Therefore, the role of civil protection needs to be reflected in targeted research at the same level as it is the case for different security authorities.

The COVID-19 crisis presents a challenge that is unprecedented in recent European history and it concerns infrastructures in two main dimensions. Pandemics are an extreme stress-test for the function of certain infrastructures (most notably: health, transport and supply-chains) by disrupting established procedures, threatening the function due to infection of workforces and massively scaling up the need for resources. In addition, infrastructures themselves can increase pandemic risk if unsuited to different mitigation measures and promoting virus transmission. This area will build on lessons learnt from the COVID-19 crisis. It will be for certain topics essential also to ensure synergies and coordination of actions with the Health Programme [[Regulation (EU) 2021/522 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 March 2021 establishing a Programme for the Union’s action in the field of health (‘EU4Health Programme’) for the period 2021-2027, and repealing Regulation (EU) No 282/2014.]].

Increased complexity in the area of infrastructure protection is not only related to the amplified role of the cyber dimension, but also by the mix of man-made and natural hazards and the growing interdependence. The development of European cities into smart cities has opened up a new domain in infrastructure protection, expanding the perspective beyond classical sectors of (critical) infrastructure since more complex, connected and vulnerable assets are deployed in urban areas. This consideration unveils the still fragile building blocks of smart cities’ technological features and underlines the need to put a stronger emphasis on broader societal challenges and needs. Security research can help to make use of the knowledge acquired in other sectors and to make it usable for local authorities to protect and empowers people and assets in cities and urban areas.

Furthermore, in order to accomplish the objectives of this Destination, additional eligibility conditions have been defined with regard to the active involvement of relevant security practitioners or end-users.

Proposals involving earth observation are encouraged to primarily make use of Copernicus data, services and technologies.

Expected impacts:

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to the following expected impact of the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan 2021-2024:“[…] resilience and autonomy of physical and digital infrastructures are enhanced and vital societal functions are ensured, thanks to more powerful prevention, preparedness and response, a better understanding of related human, societal and technological aspects, and the development of cutting-edge capabilities for […] infrastructure operators […]”

More specifically, proposals should contribute to the achievement of one or more of the following impacts:

  • Ensured resilience of large-scale interconnected systems infrastructures in case of complex attacks, pandemics or natural and man-made disasters;
  • Upgraded infrastructure protection systems enable rapid, effective, safe and secure response and without substantial human intervention to complex threats and challenges, and better assess risks ensuring resilience and strategic autonomy of European infrastructures;
  • Resilient and secure smart cities are protected using the knowledge derived from the protection of critical infrastructures and systems that are characterised by growing complexity.

Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 3 - Destination 4: Increased Cybersecurity

Europe is in the midst of a digital transformation. Digital technologies are profoundly changing our daily life, our way of working and doing business, and the way people travel, communicate and relate with each other. Digital communication, social media interaction, artificial intelligence, e-government, e-commerce and digital enterprises are steadily transforming our world. They are generating an ever-increasing amount of data, which, if pooled and used, can lead to a completely new means and levels of value creation. The more interconnected we are, however, the more we are vulnerable to cyber threats.

Digital disruption, notably caused by malicious cyber activities, not only threaten our economies but also our way of life, our freedoms and values, and even try to undermine the cohesion and functioning of our democracy in Europe.

Regardless of the economic, political or personal motivations behind the cyber threats, securing our future wellbeing, freedoms, democratic governance, and prosperity depend on improving our capacity to shield the EU from malicious attacks and to address digital security weaknesses in general. The digital transformation requires improving cybersecurity substantially, so as to ensure the protection of the increasing number of connected devices and the safe operation of network and information systems, including the ones used in power grids, drinking water supply and distribution services, vehicles and transport systems, hospitals and the overall health system, finances, public institutions, factories, and homes. Europe must build resilience to cyber-attacks and create effective cyber deterrence, while making sure that data protection and freedom of citizens are strengthened. These efforts should include considerations for particularly vulnerable organisations and citizens.

The technological tools of cybersecurity are strategic assets, as well as being key growth technologies for the future. It is in the EU's strategic interest to ensure that the EU retains and develops the essential capacities to secure its digital economy, society and democracy, to protect critical hardware and software and to provide key cybersecurity services.

Cybersecurity research and innovation activities will support a Europe fit for the digital age, enabling and supporting digital innovation while highly preserving privacy, security, safety and ethical standards. They will contribute to the implementation of the digital and privacy policy of the Union, in particular the NIS Directive [[Directive (EU) 2016/1148 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 July 2016 concerning measures for a high common level of security of network and information systems across the Union (NIS Directive).]], the EU Cybersecurity Act [[Regulation (EU) 2019/881 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 on ENISA (the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity) and on information and communications technology cybersecurity certification and repealing Regulation (EU) No 526/2013 (Cybersecurity Act).]], the EU Cybersecurity Strategy [[Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council The EU's Cybersecurity Strategy for the Digital Decade JOIN/2020/18 final.]], the GDPR[[Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation).]], and the future e-Privacy Regulation.

Research and innovation will build on the results of Horizon 2020 such as the pilot projects funded under SU-ICT-03-2018 [[Establishing and operating a pilot for a Cybersecurity Competence Network to develop and implement a common Cybersecurity Research & Innovation Roadmap.]].and other relevant H2020 topics and cybersecurity activities (e.g. carried out by ENISA [[https://www.enisa.europa.eu/]] or relevant parts of work of the EIT Digital[[https://www.eitdigital.eu/]]). The activities will be aligned as relevant with the future objectives of the Cybersecurity Competence Centre and Network of National Coordination Centres (Commission proposal COM(2018) 630). They will be complementary to actions under the Digital Europe Programme, Specific Objectives 3 and 4, which will strengthen EU cybersecurity capacity by support to deployment of cybersecurity infrastructures and tools across the EU, for public administrations, businesses, and individuals, and support digital skills including in cybersecurity. For example support is foreseen to specialised education programmes or modules in key capacity areas such as cybersecurity. Generally, cybersecurity is a horizontal challenge and is not be limited to Horizon Europe Cluster 3. In addition to the calls of the Horizon Europe of Cluster 3 - Civil Security for Society, other activities relevant for Cybersecurity will be supported in particular in the Work Programme part of Cluster 4 - Digital, Industry and Space.

Research and innovation results may feed into the operational work on preparedness and response in the Joint Cyber Unit [[see section 2.1 in The EU's Cybersecurity Strategy for the Digital Decade, JOIN(2020) 18 final. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/GA/TXT/?uri=CELEX:52020JC0018]].

Expected impacts:

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway contributing to the following impact of the Strategic Plan 2021-2024: "Increased cybersecurity and a more secure online environment by developing and using effectively EU and Member States’ capabilities in digital technologies supporting protection of data and networks aspiring to technological sovereignty in this field, while respecting privacy and other fundamental rights; this should contribute to secure services, processes and products, as well as to robust digital infrastructures capable to resist and counter cyber-attacks and hybrid threats".

More specifically, proposals should contribute to the achievement of one or more of the following impacts:

  • Strengthened EU cybersecurity capacities and European Union sovereignty in digital technologies
  • More resilient digital infrastructures, systems and processes
  • Increased software, hardware and supply chain security
  • Secured disruptive technologies
  • Smart and quantifiable security assurance and certification shared across the EU
  • Reinforced awareness and a common cyber security management and culture

Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 3 - Destination 5: Disaster-Resilient Society for Europe

This Destination supports the implementation of international policy frameworks (e.g. the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Agreement, Sustainable Development Goals), EU disaster risk management policies tackling natural and man-made threats (either accidental or intentional), European Green Deal priorities including the new EU Climate Adaptation Strategy [[COM(2021) 82 final., as well as the Security Union Strategy [[COM(2020) 605 final.]] and the Counter-Terrorism Agenda [[COM(2020) 795 final.]] .

The world and our societies are facing growing risks from anthropogenic and natural hazards, which call for enhanced capacities in risk and resilience management and governance [[Overview of natural and man-made disaster risks the European Union may face, SWD(2020) 330.]], including instruments for better prevention and preparedness, technologies for first and second responders [[A “second responder” is a worker who supports "first responders" such as police, fire, and emergency medical personnel. They are involved in preparing, managing, returning services, and cleaning up sites during and after an event requiring first responders, including crime scenes and areas damaged by fire, storm, wind, floods, earthquakes, or other natural disasters. These types of services may include utility services (shutdown or reinstatement of electrical, gas, sewage, and/or water services), wireless or wireline communication services, specialty construction (i.e. shelter construction), hazardous waste clean-up, road clearing, crowd control, emergency services (i.e. Red Cross), first aid, food services, security services, social services (i.e., trauma counsellors), and sanitation.]], and where relevant for citizens, and overall societal resilience. The increasing severity and frequency of extreme weather events (e.g. floods, heat and cold waves, storms) and associated events (e.g. forest fires) resulting from climate change compounded vulnerabilities and exposure require a specific research focus while geological hazards (e.g. earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions) and slow-onset trends (e.g. sea-level rise, glacier melt, droughts) also deserve a continuous attention. Anthropogenic threats also demand strengthened crisis management capacities, as shown by recent industrial accidents and terrorist attacks associated with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive materials (CBRN-E). Finally, the COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated how societies have become more exposed and vulnerable to pandemic risks and has shown that existing global inequalities often exacerbate both the exposure and vulnerability of communities, infrastructures and economies.

Risk reduction of any kind of disasters is regulated by a number of international, EU and national and local policies and strategies covering various sectors and features such as awareness raising and communication, prevention, mitigation, preparedness, monitoring and detection, response, and recovery. Our societies nowadays have to deal with complex and transboundary crises within which a more systemic approach with strict interconnection between risk reduction and sustainable development is needed. Complex crises affect scientific, governance, policy and social areas and require inter-sectoral cooperation. A wide range of research and technological developments, as well as capacity-building and training projects, has supported the development and implementation of policies and strategies. However, integrating further research and innovation needs is often difficult owing to the complexity of the policy framework and the high level of fragmentation of research and capacity-building initiatives. In addition, enhanced cooperation and involvement of different sectors and actors are essential, including policy-makers, scientists, industry/Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), public administration (both at national and regional/local level), scientists, credit/financial institutions, practitioners, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and Civil-Society Organisations (CSOs), notwithstanding the citizen dimension.

In this respect, the implementation of international policy frameworks (e.g. the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Agreement), EU disaster risk management policies, in particular the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM), the European Green Deal policies such as the new EU Climate Adaptation Strategy, as well as the Security Union Strategy and the Counter-Terrorism Agenda (in particular for disasters linked to terrorism), requires cross-border and cross-sectoral cooperation an enhanced collaboration among different actors and strengthened knowledge covering the whole disaster management cycle, from prevention and preparedness to response and recovery (and learning). Understanding and exploiting the existing linkages and synergies among policy frameworks represents in this sense a global priority for future research and innovation actions in the field of natural hazards and man-made disasters.

For the response side, international cooperation on research and innovation with key partners has the potential to identify common solutions and increase the relevance of outcomes. As such, the International Forum to Advance First Responder Innovation (IFAFRI) and other Expert Networks involved in UN and/or NATO initiatives have provided overviews of existing gaps and are in the position to engage in cooperation with partners inside and outside the EU, the results of which can provide a valuable source for identifying most urgent needs concerning disaster management (e.g. knowledge, operational, organizational and technological) of relevance to international cooperation, in particular in support to the implementation of international policies such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Integrated approaches are essential to bridge different policy areas including civil protection, environment (including water, forestry, biodiversity / nature and Seveso-related policies), climate adaptation and mitigation, health and consumer protection, and security (in particular in the CBRN-E area). Common resilience pathways emerging from different scientific and operational domains still need to be explored in terms of their implementation potential. It also requires the strengthening of opportunities for transdisciplinary and transboundary joint efforts in order to organise and structure, a new strategy for the Horizon Europe Framework with all the relevant actors. In particular, the paradigm shift from managing “disasters” to managing “risks” and enhancing resilience needs to be supported by research and innovation actions, including innovative methods and solutions addressed to decision-makers, to support complementary education and training needed in all the domains of interventions (from public administration to private companies, citizens, NGOs), complementary procedural and organisational changes that have impact on the overall society as well as on technologies, processes, procedures and various tools in support of first and second responders operations. A huge body of knowledge and technology has been developed in the Seventh Framework Programme and Horizon 2020. This forms a strong legacy that will pave the way for future research in support of an enhanced resilience of European society to disasters of any kind, and previous findings will need to be fully recognised and used in forthcoming research developments.

Successful proposals under this Destination are encouraged to closely cooperate with other EC-chaired or funded initiatives in the relevant domains, such as the Networks of Practitioners projects funded under H2020 Secure Societies work programmes, the Knowledge Networks for Security Research & Innovation funded under the Horizon Europe Cluster 3 Work Programme, the Community of Users for Secure, Safe and Resilient Societies (future CERIS –Community of European Research and Innovation for Security) or other Knowledge Networks set-up by European Commission services (e.g. the Union Civil Protection Knowledge Network [[Article 13 of Decision No 1313/2013/EU on a Union Civil Protection Mechanism and subsequent amendments.]]).

Furthermore, in order to accomplish the objectives of this Destination, additional eligibility conditions have been defined with regard to the active involvement of relevant security practitioners or end-users.

Proposals involving earth observation are encouraged to primarily make use of Copernicus data, services and technologies.

Expected impacts:

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to the following expected impact of the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan 2021-2024:

“Losses from natural, accidental and man-made disasters are reduced through enhanced disaster risk reduction based on preventive actions, better societal preparedness and resilience and improved disaster risk management in a systemic way.”

More specifically, proposals should contribute to the achievement of one or more of the following impacts:

  • Enhanced understanding and improved knowledge and situational awareness of disaster-related risks by citizens, empowered to act, thus raising the resilience of European society;
  • More efficient cross-sectoral, cross-disciplines, cross-border coordination of the disaster risk management cycle (from prevention, preparedness to mitigation, response, and recovery) from international to local levels.

Enhanced sharing of knowledge and coordination regarding standardisation in the area of crisis management and CBRN-E.

Strengthened capacities of first responders in all operational phases related to any kind of (natural and man-made) disasters so that they can better prepare their operations, have access to enhanced situational awareness, have means to respond to events in a faster, safer and more efficient way, and may more effectively proceed with victim identification, triage and care.


Open Calls


Horizon Europe - Cluster 3 - Destination 6: Strengthened Security Research and Innovation

The EU-funded security research and innovation framework was launched with the Preparatory Action for Security Research[[COM(2004) 72]]. Since then, the programme has contributed substantially to knowledge and value creation in the field of internal security and to the consolidation of an ecosystem better equipped to capitalise on research and innovation to support the EU security priorities.

While the success of the programme has materialised in relevant scientific findings, maturation of promising technology areas, operational validation of innovative concepts or support to policy implementation, a key challenge remains in improving the uptake of innovation.

The extent to which innovative technologies developed thanks to EU R&I investment are industrialised and commercialised by EU industry, and later acquired and deployed by end-users, thus contributing to the development of security capabilities[[For the purpose of this work programme, the terms “Capability” should be understood as "the ability to pursue a particular policy priority or achieve a desired operational effect”. The term “capability” is often interchanged with the term “capacity”, but this should be avoided. “Capacity” could refer to an amount or volume of which one organisation could have enough or not. On the other hand, “capability” refers to an ability, an aptitude or a process that can be developed or improved in consonance with the ultimate objective of the organisation.]], could give a valuable measure of the impact achieved with the programme. However, there are factors inherent to the EU security ecosystem (often attributed to the market) that hinder the full achievement of this impact. These include market fragmentation, cultural barriers, analytical weaknesses, programming weaknesses, ethical, legal and societal considerations or lack of synergies between funding instruments, among others.

It is worth noting that such factors affect all the security domains addressed in Cluster 3; that there is not one predominant factor with sufficient leverage by itself to change the overall innovation uptake dynamics; and that they exhibit complex relationships among them which are difficult to disentangle. It should also be noted that the innovation uptake process starts before the R&I cycle is triggered, and it is not finalised with the successful termination of a research project. Therefore, the uptake challenge extends beyond the realm of R&I. However, from within R&I it is possible, if not to materialise the uptake in every case, at least to pave the way towards its materialisation.

To that aim, there is a need to create a favourable environment that is designed with the main purpose of increasing the impact of security R&I, that is visible and recognisable to those interested in contributing to this aim, and which provides bespoke tools that serve to tackle the factors that hinder innovation uptake.

The SSRI Destination has therefore been designed with this purpose to serve equally to all the expected impacts of Cluster 3. Research applied in this domain will contribute to increasing the impact of the work carried out in the EU security Research and Innovation ecosystem as a whole and to contribute to its core values, namely: i) Ensuring that security R&I maintains the focus on the potential final use of its outcomes; ii) Contributing to a forward-looking planning of EU security capabilities; iii) Ensuring the development of security technologies that are socially acceptable; iv) Paving the way to the industrialisation, commercialisation, acquisition and deployment of successful R&I outcomes; and v) Safeguarding the open strategic autonomy and technological sovereignty of the EU in critical security areas by contributing to a more competitive and resilient EU security technology and industrial base.

While the other Destinations of this Horizon Europe Cluster 3 Work Programme offer research and innovation activities to develop solutions to address specific security threats or capability needs, the SSRI Destination will contribute with instruments that will help bringing these and other developments closer to the market. Such instruments will help developers (including industry, research organisations and academia) to improve the valorisation of their research investment. They will also support buyers and users in materialising the uptake of innovation and further develop their security capabilities.

In addition, the SSRI Destination will offer an open environment to create knowledge and value through research in matters (including technology, but also social sciences and humanities) that are not exclusive of only one security area, but cross-cutting to the whole Cluster. This will contribute to reducing thematic fragmentation, bringing closer together the actors from different security domains, and expanding the market beyond traditional thematic silos.

Finally, SSRI will allow the allocation of resources to the development of tools and methods to reinforce the innovation cycle itself from a process standpoint, thus increasing its effectiveness, efficiency and impact. This Destination will contribute to the development of an analytical capacity tailored to the specific needs of security stakeholders for the materialisation of a structured long-term capability based planning of research and innovation for security.

In order to accomplish the objectives of this Destination, additional eligibility conditions have been defined with regard to the active involvement of relevant security practitioners or end-users.

Expected impacts:

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to the following impacts:

  • A more effective and efficient evidence-based development of EU civil security capabilities built on a stronger, more systematic and analysis-intensive security research and innovation cycle;
  • Increased industrialisation, commercialisation, adoption and deployment of successful outcomes of security research reinforces the competitiveness and resilience of EU security technology and industrial base and safeguards the security of supply of EU-products in critical security areas;
  • R&I-enabled knowledge and value in cross-cutting matters reduces sector specific bias and breaks thematic silos that impede the proliferation of common security solutions.

Open Calls


News

Published on 27.07.2021

Climate Change Mitigation

LIFE - sub-programme “Clean Energy Transition”

Link to Call

Published on 27.07.2021

Climate Change Adaptation

LIFE - sub-programme “Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation”

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