In 2021, the Horizon Europe programme succeeded the Horizon 2020 programme. It commences with a budget of € 95.5 billion to invest in innovative projects. The aim is to invest in a fair and prosperous future for people and planet based on European Values.

To achieve this, Horizon Europe will strengthen the connection between scientific and technological innovation, while tackling key societal challenges set out in the Sustainable Development Goals.

The goal is to increase European leadership in innovation and entrepreneurship, through world-class research. Additionally, it removes barriers to development and enables public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovations.

Table of contents

In this handbook, we’ll tell you all about:

  1. Focus areas
  2. The Correct Call
  3. Reading Carefully
  4. A winning consortium
  5. High-Quality Proposal
  6. What’s next?
  7. Case Study


1. Focus areas

Horizon Europe is focused on everyone contributing to scientific excellence and has a broad range of focus areas, divided across 3 pillars: Excellent Science, Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness, and Innovative Europe. Each pillar has a specific set of grants and tenders connected to it. This guide will provide a brief overview of each pillar.


Pillar 1

The Excellent Science pillar consists of three main calls

“Reinforcing & extending the excellence of the Union’s science base”

  • European Research Council (ERC)
    Funding frontier research designed and driven by the best researchers in Europe. ERC has a total budget of €1.9 billion in 2021 and €2.4 billion in 2022. The ERC grants are intended to fund excellent science and are open for researchers at different career stages. The program consists of 5 different grants: Starting, Consolidator, Advanced, Synergy and Proof of Concept.
  • Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA)
    The program funds individual fellowships and supports mobility of researchers internationally. Deadlines for 2021 and 2022 have been published for the MSCA Doctoral Networks, Postdoctoral Fellowship, Staff Exchange, COFUND, and MSCA and Citizens (European Researchers’ Night) grants. The budget for 2021 is €817M, and for 2022 is €874M.
  • Research Infrastructure (RI)
    Funding new world-class research infrastructures. The work programme supports research communities to conduct research and foster innovation in their field. The total budget for 2021 is €289M, and for 2022 is €318M.

Pillar 2

Global Challenges & European Industrial Competitiveness

“Boosting key technologies and solutions underpinning EU policies & Sustainable Development Goals”

Pillar 2 includes six clusters each with their own area of intervention and specific funding calls, plus the non-nuclear direct actions of the Joint Research Centre. The budgets and deadlines for 2021-2022 have been published.

  1. Health. Areas of intervention: health throughout the life course; Non-communicable and rare diseases; Tools, technologies and digital solutions for health and care, including personalised medicine; Environmental and social health determinants; Infectious diseases, including poverty-related and neglected disease; Health care systems.
  2. Culture, Creativity, and Inclusive Society. Areas of intervention: Democracy and Governance; Social and economic transformations; Culture, cultural heritage and creativity.
  3. Civil Security for society. Areas of intervention: Disaster-resilient societies; Protection and Security; Cybersecurity.
  4. Climate, Energy and Mobility. Areas of intervention: Climate science and solutions; Energy systems and grids; Communities and cities; Industrial competitiveness in transport; Smart mobility; Energy supply; Buildings and industrial facilities in energy transition; Clean, safe and accessible transport and mobility; Energy storage.
  5. Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment. Areas of intervention: Environmental observation; Agriculture, forestry and rural areas; Circular systems; Food systems; Biodiversity and natural resources; Seas, oceans and inland waters; Bio-based innovation systems in the EU; Bioeconomy.
  6. Joint Research Centre. Supporting policymakers, both European and national, with independent scientific evidence and support.

Pillar 3

Innovative Europe pillar

“Stimulating market-creating breakthroughs and ecosystems conducive to innovation”.

The third pillar consists of three different entities:

  • European Innovation Council (EIC)
    Focus on market-creating innovation and SME growth. The EIC work programme has been published, and includes the EIC Pathfinder, EIC Transition and EIC Accelerator. EIC has a total budget of €10 billion for the period of 2021-2027.
  • European Innovation Ecosystems
    Connecting with regional and national actors to improve the overall innovation ecosystem across Europe. Ecosystems should become more connected and efficient. The work programme has been published with a total budget of €60M for 2021, and €69.8M for 2022.
  • European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)
    Focusing on integrating research, higher education, business and entrepreneurship. EIT is an independent EU body that supports entrepreneurial talent and innovative ideas through specific calls for proposals.

HORIZONTAL FOCUSWidening Participation and Strengthening the European Research Area

“Optimising strengths & potential for a more innovative Europe ”

  • Widening Participation and Spreading Excellence
    Encouraging teaming & twinning, cooperation in science and technology (COST), ERA chairs continue to bring excellence to institutions in Widening countries with potential for research excellence, support to NCPs, brain circulation and excellence initiatives. It includes two new additions, the Hop On Facility and the Excellence Hubs. The total budget is €456.3M for 2021 and €478.45M for 2022. Deadlines have now been published.
  • Reforming and enhancing the European R&I system
    Building scientific evidence & foresight, continuation of the Horizon Policy Support Facility, promoting Open Science, attractive researcher careers, citizen science, Responsible Research & Innovation, and gender equality


2. The Correct Call

It all starts with choosing the correct call. The chance of getting funding increases when applying for grants best suited for your research. But how do you make sure it’s the right fit? Follow the tips below:

Eligibility Criteria

The first question is: “Am I eligible?”. Horizon Europe calls have different types of calls, each with varying requirements.

For Research Innovation Action (RIA), Innovation Action (IA) and Coordination and Support Actions (CSA’s), all European legal entities are eligible to apply. For these calls, an academic partner is required to lead.

Get funding updates with Catalyze Alerts

Staying up-to-date is important, but takes a lot of time. With Catalyze Alerts you will receive all relevant updates on upcoming funds, including under Horizon Europe.

Our experts will notify you when new grant information, deadlines or requirements are available. So you will have plenty of time to prepare your Horizon Europe application.

You can subscribe to Catalyze Alerts today via

Financial Considerations

  • In order to determine whether your project fits the grant, consider the following questions:
  • Is the funding offer what you are looking for?
  • Is the budget sufficient to fund your project?
  • Are you able to co-finance the amount of money required for this project, and are you allowed to co-finance this in-kind?
  • What are the eligible costs for the grant?
  • Can you pay salaries, get equipment and consumables from the grant?
  • Are your overheads eligible for this specific funding opportunity?

Knowing the answer to these questions helps you to select the right grant. But keep in mind, it can still be a very complex process, influenced by many factors – both internal and external to your research.


3. Reading Carefully

‘Reading’ increases your chances of getting funded

A call text describes all the information that needs to be included in your perfect proposal. Reading it properly increases your chances of getting funded. A typical RIA/CSA/IA call is carefully built in the same structure throughout the entire Work Programme. These are the components you’ll find:

  • The Title is the first hint of the topic. Ask yourself: ‘does it provide information about which societal challenge or goals my project falls under? Does the title provide me with information on the scope of the call?’
  • The Expected Impact describes the envisioned results from the project once executed. It provides a more defined description, which is to the point and more specific compared to the scope description.
  • The Scope gives information on how the European Committee would see this problem be solved, which topics should be addressed, or what type of activities should be performed. Also described in the scope is information about what consortium members should be included or if a collaboration should be built with specific organizations or previously funded projects.
  • The Type of Call provides information on what conditions and funding rules apply to this specific tender. For example, there is a difference in co-finance requirements and consortium requirements between RIA, IA and CSA.


4. A winning consortium

A strong, complementary, and often large multi-partner consortium that addresses all ambitious objectives is key for a winning proposal. This is how you build one:

1. Start on time

Most important: start on time! Getting the right consortium partners on board is a lengthy and challenging process. Establishing a consortium is one thing but managing all partners during the preparation phase and aligning their interests into one coherent project plan is more tricky.

2. Envision your ideal partners

A strong consortium has the following characteristics:

  • Complementary. Each partner should have a unique role and bring in a special, required expertise or technology. Combine different roles and expertise to ensure you will be able to deliver the work and avoid redundancy.
  • Interdisciplinary. To tackle outstanding challenges, collaborations need to connect viewpoints and knowledge. Going beyond a single discipline and combining partners from various disciplines is essential.
  • Balanced. Think about aspects like geographical spread of the partners and balance between profit and non-profit partners. Pay attention to the gender balance of key investigators involved.
  • Excellent. A strong consortium brings together the brightest minds in their various key disciplines. Therefore, identify the true key opinion leaders (KOLs) within your field or topics.

3. Establish a core consortium with high excellence

Key Steps:

  • Build a strong consortium of partners with complementary expertise that are renowned KOLs within a specific field and establish a core consortium with them. This is more pragmatic compared to bringing in a large consortium on your own.
  • Ensure that all expertise is covered in the consortium to perform the activities, including patient and end-user associations.
  • Build consortia that include relevant geographical areas in the EU.
  • Have an established expert on board to help pull in other excellent parties and boost your profile.

4. Develop your exceptional plan

Together with this core consortium you want to further draft the scope, main objectives and rough outline of the project.

In order to maintain a clear focus of your project, a basic plan and consensus need to be generated. This plan will be your means to bring on board the other key players needed to strengthen your project.

5. Bring in your final partners

Start by building the rest of the consortium from this core, having a clear vision on this project. Use your network to approach key players in establishing your consortium.


5. High-Quality Proposal

You and your consortium partners are now ready to write a high-quality proposal. With these tips you will successfully make it to the finish line:

1. Writing clearly and concisely

How do you write down exactly what you mean? First, start each paragraph with the conclusion of that idea. Second, following this conclusion, focus on writing sentences that support the conclusion only. Then apply the same steps to the rest of the proposal to ensure concise writing.

2. Minimize the time the reviewer spends on reading

Take into account that reviewers must go through a large number of proposals. Get straight to the point. For example, it is not always necessary to explain a medical problem in detail if everybody already knows that a given disease is deadly. Knowing what to cut out and what to elaborate on is vital.

3. Address the topic and the aims of the scope

Nobody gives away free money just for the fun of it. Everyone providing a subsidy has some goal with it, and if you want that money, you better make sure your proposal addresses that goal. No matter how innovative your idea is, and how beneficial it may be, if it does not match with the scope of the subsidy tender, you will receive that dreaded rejection letter.

4. Submit on time

The application process can become overwhelming. Efforts to align the proposed work plan may need additional time.

Also, additional documentation may be needed in the project application portal. As an applicant it is easy to underestimate the time needed for the portal preparation and project submission.

Keep in mind that on the day of the deadline, portals are often overloaded with applications resulting in longer uploads.

The best way to avoid missing your deadline is to submit at least 48 hours before the deadline.


6. What’s next?

Grant agreement phase

Congratulations! You have been awarded a Horizon Europe grant. Before you can start to work on the project you have to finish the last preparation steps of the so-called ‘grant agreement phase’.

This phase must be finished within a strict timeframe set out by the European Commission (EC). During the grant agreement phase, you must provide necessary documentation and finish the grant agreement document.

The grant agreement consists of the formal agreements between the EC and the project consortium, the timeline and budget of the project and the description of the action.


7. Case Study

Optimizing atrial fibrillation disease management

The EHRA-PATHS project, is led by the European Society of Cardiology and its constituent the European Heart Rhythm Association, aims to address multimorbidity in elderly atrial fibrillation patients through establishing interdisciplinary patient-centered, systematic care pathways. EHRA-PATHS will lead to transformative improvements in the clinical practice of atrial fibrillation toward holistic, inclusive and personalized treatment strategies.

This will lead to an estimated reduction of €12-18 billion in the yearly European healthcare burden of multimorbid, elderly AF patients. The multidisciplinary team includes 12 renowned clinics and/or research centers in 10 European countries. Catalyze is a partner in the project where we are delivering the Project Management work package.

Read more about this case on our website