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Just like at the start of the previous framework programme, Horizon 2020, the players on the Horizon Europe board are not yet quite sure about the details of the structure, terminology, and calls.

To clarify some of the points, now that the programme has been formally approved (a good 5 months later than was originally planned) and several calls will be started, we at @talk2much have prepared this brief article, focusing on the parts of the Horizon Europe programme that offer the best opportunities for technologies dealing with the environment, decarbonization and ecological transition.

Very simply put, Horizon Europe has 3 pillars, whose official names you can see in the image above. I simply call them: basic research, applied research, and hybrid, which is dedicated to the diffuse concept of “innovation” (basically EIC and EIT). The Horizon Europe also comes with the traditional transversal pillars resonant with political correctness and correct policies.

For companies and technology centres dedicated to developing or implementing environmental solutions, the most interesting pillar of all is the second one, the one that sounds like the title of a Terminator sequel: Global Challenges.

In this second pillar, “Global Challenges”, the blocks that were previously called “challenges” are now “clusters”. The 3 most interesting clusters for environmental projects are 4, 5 and 6.

📌 Cluster 4: Digital World, Industry and Space

📌 Cluster 5: Climate, Energy and Mobility

📌 Cluster 6: Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment

As always, each cluster publishes its calls in a document called work programme. The first work programme for each cluster will be the one covering the years 2021-2022, and its definitive publication is expected to happen in June 2021, although, first drafts have already been published months ago in a public and transparent way. So how are work programmes structured?

Within each work programme, the different themes are organized in destinations, and each of these destinations has one or more calls, which are yet again divided into topics.

For example:

Cluster 6 – Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment

Destination 4 – Clean environment and zero pollution

Call – Clean environment and zero pollution (2021)

Topic: HORIZON-CL6-2021-ZEROPOLLUTION-01-03: Preventing and managing diffuse pollution in urban water runoff

So, the topic is the basic unit (though, sometimes, the Commission likes to overcomplicate things and divide a unit again into various sub-topics). The title of the topic shows the specific theme. However, to fully understand everything, it’s necessary to read it very carefully. Within the topic description, we then find many other interesting data, such as the kind of project that the Commission or its agencies wish to receive (for example, RIA – Research and Innovation Actions or IA – Innovation Actions), the recommended grant for each project (for example, between €2 and €4 M), the total budget allocated to this topic (for example, €10 M), and the TRL level expected at the end of the project. And, of course, the two most important sections: Expected Outcomes and Scope.

Useful tip: in each of the titles we can also find the year of the call (2021 or 2022), which allows us to easily find those closest in time.

However, at this point, the European Commission surprises us again with its distinct concept of “simplification”, which is never such. Turns out, the work programmes are not the only documents to which we must pay attention. Within the clusters we also find partnerships.

And this is where things get complicated because there are many types of partnerships and NOT all of them follow the rules of participation common to Horizon Europe.

A large majority of these partnerships will correspond to clusters 4, 5 and 6. Some of them will be fully integrated into the corresponding work programme, while others may have their very own multi-year program and even page to launch the calls. Additionally, the funding ratios can differ from the 70% or 100% that Horizon Europe in general provides. The bad news: several of these very particular partnerships are like a whole new programme, meaning that they need to be unraveled from scratch. The good news: the special partnerships will not be launched until 2022, so we have all the time we need to understand them better.

Lastly, we must not forget that for bottom-up projects the first and third pillars are important. In the third pillar, the EIC Pathfinder programme for ideas with low TRL* (in which all types of organizations can participate) and the EIC Accelerator, solely dedicated to SMEs with advanced TRLs are of special interest to us. Naturally, we will put together all the information about EIC in a future post.

Irene Larroy

Co-founder and CEO



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