Background information on the Horizon Europe programme.

What is Horizon Europe?

Horizon Europe is the largest collaborative research and innovation (R&I) programme in the world with €95.5bn funding available over the seven year programme from 2021-2027. It provides funding support to researchers and innovators ranging from individuals to large scale businesses.

As part of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the UK and EU, the UK will associate to the Horizon Europe Programme, subject to formalisation of the association agreement and adoption of the protocols agreed under the EU-UK TCA. Association will give UK and Northern Ireland (NI) scientists, researchers and businesses access to funding under the programme on equivalent terms as organisations in EU countries.

The main work programme - website of Horizon Europe for the period 2021-2022 outlines the objectives and specific topic areas that will receive a total of €14.7bn in funding and despite the UK not having yet formally associated to the programme NI researchers and businesses have been able to participate from the start of the programme. The department strongly encourages NI researchers and businesses to continue to form collaborative partnerships with international counterparts and bid into Horizon Europe.

Horizon Europe will keep the same focus on excellent research of its predecessor, Horizon 2020. Funding calls will be based on three main areas:

  • excellent science
  • global challenges and European industrial competitiveness
  • Innovative Europe.   

Further details are available on the UK government and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) websites:

To date the UK has not yet formally associated to the Horizon Europe Programme however the UK government’s position remains that it is committed and ready to implement the association agreement and that UK entities should continue applying to Horizon Europe calls and forming consortia. The EU has indicated that the UK cannot join the programme until broader transversal political issues are resolved. To provide reassurance to the research and development sector and their European partners during the current delays, the UK government made an announcement on 29 November 2021 that a financial safety net would be made available for the first wave of successful UK Horizon Europe applicants who have been unable to sign grant agreements with the EU:  

The guarantee was extended in March 2022 and again in September 2022 and is now in place to cover all Horizon Europe calls that close on or before 31 December 2022.

The funding will be delivered through UKRI which has published details about eligibility, scope and how to apply:

Whilst the UK government has made it clear that its preference remains association, given the ongoing delays, there is a clear message from that the window of opportunity for finalising association is not indefinite and is closing fast. BEIS has allocated over £6 billion over the SR period for full funding of the UK’s association to Horizon Europe; if the UK does not associate to Horizon Europe this funding will be reallocated to UK transitional and ‘Plan B’ alternative funding streams.

In the short term, ‘Plan B’ transitional measures will focus on ensuring stability and funding for the sector and are to have a focus on ramping up existing UK-wide funding streams, alongside the guarantee and third country participation, with new programmes developed in the medium term focused on addressing the key elements where Horizon funding would be lost if association is not secured.

The UK government released a publication on 20 July 2022 setting out further detail on these plans and should delays continue, will be forced to consider putting in place these arrangements - Supporting UK R&D and collaborative research beyond European programmes - website

In parallel, the UK government has entered formal consultations with the European Commission asserting a breach in the TCA and requested a Specialised Committee on Union Programmes (SCPUP) meeting which took place on 21 September 2022. At the meeting HM Treasury set out its case as to why the EU’s actions had breached its obligations under the TCA. UKG issued the following statement after the meeting: September 2022: UK statement - website

Is there help available for potential Horizon Europe applicants?

Northern Ireland Contact Point (NICP) Network

The NICP network is a resource available to all potential applicants from Northern Ireland who are interested in engaging with Horizon Europe. Northern Ireland-based NICP network members on the Horizon Europe support contacts can provide support in the form of:

  • organising relevant events/workshops
  • assistance with identifying areas of relevance within the competitive Horizon Europe calls
  • help in identifying collaborative partners for applications
  • engaging with National Contact Points
  • practical advice and support with the process itself.

Further information and key points, events and news for the NI research community is available on the Horizon Europe NI website.

NI performance in Horizon Europe

The latest figures from the Horizon Dashboard - website (October 2022) show that NI researchers across academia, the private and public sectors have submitted 172 eligible proposals to Horizon Europe with 33 of these having been considered to be successfully mainlisted for funding of €10.5m.  

Horizon 2020 ends

The predecessor programme to Horizon Europe - Horizon 2020, or European Framework Programme 8 for Research and Innovation - ran under the seven year Multi-annual Financial Framework 2014-2020. It ended with a number of Green Deal calls, which closed in January 2021.

Projects funded under Horizon 2020 should be unaffected by the UK leaving the EU, apart perhaps from minor changes in relation to how data is handled. For current UK recipients of Horizon 2020 funding, the terms and conditions will remain the same as agreed under the Withdrawal Agreement:

Help and support continue to be available from the Horizon Europe support contacts for queries on Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe. 

NI performance under Horizon 2020

The Northern Ireland Executive Sub Committee on the Economy agreed a NI Horizon 2020 Strategy with an associated target to secure at least €145m from Horizon 2020. The strategy, which was launched in March 2015, set out the key actions required to deliver the Executive's target of €145m.

The latest figures show that there were 307 successful NI Horizion 2020 participations across academia, the private and public sectors who have secured up to €95.11m through competitive open calls under Horizon 2020, representing a significant increase in NI success and funding from the previous FP 7 programme.

Useful links

Back to top