It is increasingly accepted that major EU policy objectives cannot be achieved without significant innovation breakthroughs. The Framework Programme for Research and Innovation is a key instrument in the high-level objective of delivering on such aims, including securing Europe’s future global competitiveness – reducing support gaps throughout the entire innovation life-cycle to bring outstanding new research developments successfully from idea stage to the market. Horizon 2020 applies a broad definition of ‘’innovation’’ to encompass concepts such as non-technological approaches; new combinations of existing technology; non-commercial applications; end-user interaction; and business models.

Visit Programme website

EU Budget

€77 billion (co-financing per project varies between 50% and100% depending on scheme).


The programme’s approach is largely three-fold:

  • Strengthening Europe’s position in cutting-edge science talent and infrastructure development (Pillar 1 – ’Excellent Science’) (€24.4 billion)
  • Bolstering the performance of the private sector through investment in the development of the key technologies of the future (including ICT) and providing greater access to capital and growth support for innovative SMEs (Pillar 2 – ‘Industrial Leadership’) (€17 billion).
  • Deploying R&I for the development of ground-breaking multi-disciplinary solutions in response to 7 broad areas of major and urgent concern to citizens in Europe and elsewhere, which are heavily based on the policy priorities of Europe 2020 Strategy (Pillar 3 – ‘Societal Challenges’) (€29.7 billion), focussing on:
  • Health, demographic change and wellbeing (€7.472 billion)
  • Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research and the Bioeconomy (€3.851 billion)
  • Secure, clean and efficient energy (€5.931 billion)
  • Smart, green and integrated transport (€6.339 billion)
  • Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials (€3.081 billion)
  • Europe in a changing world – Inclusive, innovative and reflective societies (€1.309 billion)
  • Secure societies – protecting freedom and security of Europe and its citizens (€1.695 billion).

This third area’s focus on activities, such as real-world piloting, demonstration, testbeds and scaling to verify promising ideas, as well as support for public procurement and market uptake makes it an interesting target for local authorities – provided partnerships are in place with knowledge providers and business actors in particular.

A Work Programme covering 2018-2020 and signalling all planned calls across the programme has been published.

Project example

‘Smart cities and communities’ is a concept supported under the ‘Secure, clean and efficient energy’ societal challenge of Horizon 2020. As an element of its Smart Gateway initiative to target using technology to drive economic growth, improve public services and promote better engagement between residents, visitors and the Local Authority, Cork City Council has partnered as one of three ‘follower cities’ in the €25 million GrowSmarter project. This is allowing Cork to learn from the experiences of Stockholm, Cologne and Barcelona as ‘lighthouse cities’ in implementing 12 (industry-led) smart city solutions – ranging from advanced ICT and better connected urban mobility, to energy efficiency – and to develop a replication plan to provide a market for solutions suitable for their specific local context. In Cork, the project is focussing on 5 elements: a low energy district (climate shell refurbishment of buildings); electricity management (including a Virtual Power Plant and integrated infrastructure); street lighting; alternative fuel driven vehicles infrastructure; and mobility solutions (including a green parking index in combination with an electric vehicles car sharing pool).


Enterprise Ireland manages a team of National Contact Points providing hands-on support across the various Horizon 2020 schemes.