What’s up with Horizon Europe (part 2)

What’s up with Horizon Europe (part 2)

Jeroen Schuermans Posted 23 February 2021

Exciting times ahead for the ones watching Horizon Europe’s every move. Bit by bit, more information is about to be released. But before the first calls are being published, let’s have a look at what we know about the Health cluster in Pillar 2 and the increased focus on impact.

Horizon Europe: status check

Horizon Europe is the 7-year European Union scientific research initiative succeeding the Horizon 2020 programme. Much discussion preceded the final €95.5 billion budget when researchers and lobbies were advocating for a much higher number. With the budget agreed, the programme can finally take shape.

Significant elements, such as the terms for public private partnerships and the scope of the research missions, are yet to be agreed, nevertheless, a symbolic launch of the programme was scheduled for February 2nd. Although the specific goals of each of its components is still under discussion, the European Commission is planning to publish details on the first calls in April. This timeline will allow the first proposals to be approved in the fourth quarter of 2021, with potentially the first Grant Agreements being signed in the first quarter of 2022.

The four pillars of Horizon Europe

The preliminary structure of the programme has been announced for quite some time now and will consist of three pillars and one additional component:

  • The Excellent Science pillar will promote fundamental, scientific excellence and will maintain a bottom-up approach (e.g., fellowships, exchanges, and projects driven by researchers).
  • The pillar of Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness will feed into the strategic priorities of Europe and will be divided into six thematic clusters covering topics like health, climate change, clean energy, mobility, security, digital, but also culture and creativity.
  • The Innovative Europe pillar will target market-creating innovation and SME growth. The core and new feature of this pillar, the European Innovation Council (EIC), was covered in a previous Modis blog post ‘What’s up with Horizon Europe’.
  • A fourth component on Widening Participation and Strengthening the European Research Areas will focus on activities that will increase the participation of low R&I performing member states and strengthen the European Research Area.

Horizon Europe’s Health cluster

A central aim of the health cluster in Horizon Europe is promoting health and well-being. Building on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis, The European Commission has set up a stand-alone health programme called EU4Health to build resilient health systems in the EU to better equip us for the future. Synergies and complementarities between the EU programmes need to be ensured to reach maximum public health impact. Therefore, Horizon Europe will focus on creating new knowledge, while the EU4Health programme will focus on making the best possible use of this new knowledge for the benefit of citizens and health systems.
A draft of the work programme for the Health cluster 2021-2022 outlines 6 overarching topics with the first calls to be launched in 2021:

  1. Staying healthy in a rapidly changing society
    This topic includes new evidence, methodologies, and tools for understanding the transition from health to disease, preventing disease and promoting health.
  2. Living and working in a health-promoting environment
    This topic will address calls on improving the understanding of the influence of pollution on health and thereby contributing to clean and healthy air, water and soil. It will also address calls to better understand the health impacts of climate change, thereby impacting climate change mitigation and adaptation policies and contributing to smart and sustainable transport.
  3. Tackling diseases and reducing disease burden
    Proposals under this topic will need to address either (i) innovative health technologies and better ability and preparedness to manage epidemic outbreaks or (ii) global health security, including combating infectious diseases, reduction of the global burden of non-communicable diseases, and strengthening patient safety.
  4. Ensuring access to innovative, sustainable & high-quality healthcare
    Under this topic, research and innovation aims at supporting health care systems in their transformation to ensure fair access to sustainable healthcare services of high quality, for all citizens.
  5. Unlocking the full potential of new tools, technologies, and digital solutions for a healthy society
    This topic will be home to projects promoting health-data exchange and will support research on new preventive strategies, as well as on treatments, medicines, medical devices and health outcomes.
  6. Maintaining an innovative, sustainable and globally competitive health industry
    This topic will support those activities that aim at encompassing and integrating various health technologies (medical technologies, pharmaceuticals, biotechnologies, digital health technologies) to strengthen the single market. This topic will be the home of the Innovative Health Initiative projects, the revamped IMI programme.

Based on this draft work programme for Health, some research organisations are concerned that the focus is not enough on fundamental science. The coordinator of EU-LIFE said to Science Business “There is too much focus on implementation, on using tools, and on developing methodologies”. The latter will “immediately deliver impact but neglects research that generates new knowledge, which is key for long term success of healthcare innovation”. We will monitor whether and how this might impact our clients and the work they are doing.

Impact, impact and impact

In a recent Modis blog post we highlighted the importance of a strong impact sections in project proposals. In Horizon Europe, achieving impact plays a pivotal role. The new programme comes with a specific implementation strategy focussing on how it will achieve its ambitious objectives. The strategy provides a framework for carefully designed rules and effective processes throughout the life cycle of the programme and projects, allowing the programme to deliver its impacts efficiently.

At the level of the work programme, there will be a clearer specification of the expected impacts. Unlike H2020, these targeted impacts will be given at the level of a call, or group of topics, while expected outcomes will be set out for each topic.

At the level of proposal evaluation, the impact criteria and the proposal template will refer to the work programme targeted impacts. Applicants will need to specify how their proposal could contribute to these targeted impacts. A project-specific dissemination and exploitation plan will be required and evaluated at proposal stage. Where indicated in the programme, a selection of high-quality proposals that go well together will be made to maximise the expected impacts of the portfolio.

For monitoring and reporting, appropriate indicators will be identified to better measure the impacts. In addition to the usual obligation to report on dissemination and exploitation activities, efforts will be made to incentivise beneficiaries to continue the reporting on these activities beyond the life of the project itself. These incentives will include the new Horizon Results Platform, helping beneficiaries show-case the outcomes and impacts in an appealing way. Also, the Horizon Impact Award and Innovation Radar will be continued, creating opportunities for networking and attracting potential users.

Our Modis Life Sciences grant team can support you in establishing EU consortia, analysing grant feasibility, and co-develop your proposal. This service is flexible and can easily be adapted to your needs. For more details, please do not hesitate to get in touch!

Jeroen Schuermans,
Grant Consultant and Project Manager Life Sciences

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