On 16 June 2021, the European Commission adopted the long-awaited main work programme of Horizon Europe for 2021-2022. It sets out funding opportunities with the total amount of €14.7 billion, most of which will be invested in research and innovation to accelerate the green and digital transitions, and to contribute to the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. The work programme covers calls for proposals under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions and research infrastructures under Pillar 1, clusters under Pillar 2, European innovation ecosystems under Pillar 3, and the horizontal part on widening participation and strengthening the European Research Area. The first calls will open on the Commission's Funding and Tenders Portal on 22 June.
The adoption of the main work programme was postponed several times, partially due to the lack of agreement on third-country participation in Horizon Europe space and quantum technology calls. The consensus reached earlier this month between the member states and the European Commission foresees that non-EU countries can participate in the programme’s calls, but limitations will apply in some cases. The European Commission will now define the exact terms of such exceptions.
Updates to rules for participation
Among the novelties in the rules for participation, higher education institutions, research organisations and legal entities that are public bodies must have, starting in 2022, a gender equality plan covering several requirements. These include a formal document published on the institution’s website, a commitment of resources and gender expertise to implement the plan, gender disaggregated data on personnel and students and annual reporting based on indicators, awareness raising/trainings on gender equality and unconscious gender biases for staff and decision-makers.
The excellence section of the project evaluation will now include the quality of Open Science practices, including sharing and management of research outputs (with the exception of the European Research Council calls). The General Model Grant Agreements specifies that applicants will need to describe how appropriate Open Science practices are implemented as an integral part of the proposed methodology. Immediate Open Access to peer-reviewed publications, through the publisher or a repository version of the final peer-reviewed manuscript will be required. Moreover, all data will need to be made FAIR and Data Management Plans are mandatory for all projects six months after the start. Where data cannot be made open – since exceptions on different grounds are possible – metadata will still need to comply with the FAIR principles.
As specified in the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan, all Horizon Europe projects will need to comply with the “Do No Significant Harm” principle of the EU Sustainable Finance Taxonomy, according to which the research and innovation activities should not be supporting or carrying out activities that make a significant harm to any of the European Green Deal objectives.
The hop-on facility will allow participants from low R&I performing countries to join R&I collaborative actions already selected under Horizon Europe. The scheme aims at achieving the inclusiveness ambition of the future European Research Area policy by involving research institutions from countries eligible for widening support under Horizon Europe Pillar 2 actions. This provision echoes EUA’s early proposals to ensure greater participation of excellent participants that may not benefit from highly supportive environments when applying. The first hop-on call will open in January 2022, to expand consortia selected during the second semester of 2021.
Universities should also note that, as part of the new rules, staff costs will be charged according to daily rates, rather than hourly rates as was the case in Horizon 2020. The European Commission has introduced this as a simplification measure. While EUA regrets that the Model Grant Agreement does not accommodate for various options to claim staff costs and does not fully consider the usual accounting practices of universities, the engagement by EUA and other stakeholders has ensured that the new version will not have disadvantages in the cost recovery.
Other work programmes under Horizon Europe
Other components of Horizon Europe are implemented through separate work programmes. This concerns the:
- European Research Council (ERC) - work programme 2021 adopted on 22 February 2021;
- European Innovation Council (EIC) - work programme 2021 adopted on 17 March 2021;
- Joint Research Centre (JRC) - work programme 2021-2022 adopted on 7 June 2021.
Horizon Europe Info-Days
The European Commission invites prospective applicants to join the Horizon Europe Info-Days organised between 28 June and 9 July. The events will address nine themes dedicated to different clusters or parts of the Horizon Europe work programme.