Horizon Europe

Framework Programme of the European Union for Research and Innovation during the years 2021-2027

On 7 June 2018, the European Commission adopted its proposal for the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon Europe for the years 2021-2027 followed by months of intensive negotiations with the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. The negotiations, particularly those regarding budget and eligibility requirements of associated countries (such as Switzerland), are still ongoing. The final adoption of Horizon Europe and the publication of the first calls are scheduled for the last quarter of 2020.

The familiar three pillars’ structure from the Horizon 2020 Programme remains in force; while some new topics and funding instruments are introduced. The characteristics of the three pillars of Horizon Europe are as follows:

Fig. 1 (Source: European Commission, THE NEXT EU RESEARCH & INNOVATION INVESTMENT PROGRAMME (2021 – 2027), May 2019)

Pillar 1 «Excellent Science»

This pillar contains the known and established funding instruments:

  1. Grants of the European Research Council (ERC);
  2. Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions with Individual Fellowships (IF) for postdocs and Innovative Training Networks (ITN) for the promotion of interdisciplinary and intersectoral graduate schools;
  3. Funding for the establishment and operation of research infrastructures of European importance.

Pillar 2 «Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness»

This 2nd pillar funds collaborative projects in which at least three partners from three different EU members states and/or associated states participate (see fig.1 for topics). This pillar also includes the so-called missions. They aim to tackle solving societal, economic and political challenges, similar to the National Research Programmes (NRPs) in Switzerland. The following five mission areas have already been determined: (i) Climate Change (ii) Cancer, (iii) Soil Health and Food, (iv) Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities, (v) Healthy Oceans

Pillar 3 «Innovative Europe»

With the creation of a European Innovation Council the European Commission aims to support the scaling up of innovative products, technologies and services in Europe. The funding instrument entitled Pathfinder shall enable the development of promising novel technologies from basic research to market maturity, comparable to the BRIDGE programme of the Swiss National Science Foundation and Innosuisse; Accelerator shall specifically support SMEs when entering the market and throughout their scaling up in new value chains. In addition, the 3rd pillar includes the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), which was set up in 2008. The EIT promotes research and innovation activities in the areas of climate and food, among others; several Swiss universities participate in some of these activities.


Switzerland’s association in the 9th Framework Programme Horizon Europe must be negotiated anew between Switzerland and the European Union. The goal is the full participation of Switzerland in all activities open to associated countries within the scope of Horizon Europe, Euratom/ITER and the Digital Europe Programme. Due to the political connection to the institutional agreement Switzerland-EU it is currently unclear whether Switzerland will be associated to the next generation of European Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation in time for the beginning of the Programme on 1 January 2021.

Additional information: and

Katharina Eggenberger (right)
Annika Glauner (left)

Horizon Europe Team