HORIZON 2020 – the new European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation

TRANSFER talks to Professor Dr. Norbert Höptner

Professor Höptner, last January, the European Union kicked off a new round of funding with HORIZON 2020. What’s new about this programme compared to its predecessor, the 7th Framework Programme for Research?

HORIZON 2020 is the first programme to combine activities that were previously kept separate – things like the Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP), and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology have now been brought together. The European Commission hopes this move will better harmonise the funding instruments. With a total funding of €77 billion earmarked for the time period between 2014 and 2020, the programme has a much bigger budget than the 7th Framework Programme for Research. HORIZON 2020 is an important pillar of the Innovation Union, one of the primary initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy that was developed to foster European competitiveness worldwide. To ensure that Europe can continue to tap into opportunities in the future, the European Commission has decided to focus on three main issues. These include excellence in science, industrial leadership, and societal challenges. This places explicit emphasis on three very relevant areas: science, industry, and society.

Who is the program’s target group? What opportunities are available for companies based in Baden-Wurttemberg?

The issues of societal challenges and industrial leadership are subsidized by funding programmes that might well be of interest to businesses and research facilities in Baden-Wurttemberg. These programmes support transnational cooperation. Any legal entity within EU member states, associated states, or third countries is eligible to apply. Unlike with previous SME programmes, this new SME instrument allows for individual applications. To receive funding, the SME must produce a business case defining the scientific scope and involvement of a research service provider, which is obligatory. It should also outline the company’s business needs and opportunities. The SMEs can subcontract scientific partners. This SME instrument is part of the programmes focus on societal challenges and industrial leadership. 20% of the budget is reserved for SMEs in these two programme pillars. We have excellent researchers in Baden- Wurttemberg and they should definitely apply to the program for excellence in science. Doing so could garner them project funding through the European Research Council. A lot of potential options are also open in the area of research infrastructures.

Have the funding instruments changed? What do companies have to consider?

The EU Commission funds projects throughout the complete innovation cycle – from initial research to market launch. As a general rule – with the exception of support for individual projects – a project is applicable for funding if it includes at least three independent institutes from three different EU member states or associated countries, but the consortia are generally larger. HORIZON 2020 only offers two different funding levels for direct costs: 100% for research projects and 70% for innovation projects (activities deemed “close to the market”). This funding quota then generally holds for each project and all of its activities. Exceptions apply to non-profit organizations – they can receive up to 100% funding allowance to cover their direct costs, even for innovation projects. The funding of indirect costs is set at a fixed level of 25% for all project types. More and more market-ready products are based on research, and funding measures for this have been simplified.

What are the chances of an application being accepted? To what extent does the Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum offer support?

Our experience shows that it isn’t easy to apply for EU funding, especially for SMEs. It is particularly difficult for first-time project coordinators. We recommend that newcomers join a project as a partner first. The Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum offers help in preparing the application. Our consulting substantially increases the project’s chances of receiving the funding. We help companies, universities of applied science, and research institutes apply for project support and also help them manage and coordinate projects. For example we support them look for suitable project partners and negotiate contracts with the European Commission. Our newsletter and our many informative events in Baden-Wurttemberg provide free information about these European programmes and the available funding options. What’s more, our special training series on the project bidding process and project management provides detailed training in small groups. The trainings were designed for companies and universities who have already worked on EU projects or who would like to start doing so.

Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum (SEZ)

Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum (SEZ) was founded in 1990 as the operational unit of the Commissioner for Europe of Baden- Wurttemberg's Minister of Economics. SEZ's core activity is to promote European RTD programmes and to support cross-border technology transfer. Target groups are small and medium sized enterprises, universities of applied sciences and research facilities.

With offices in Stuttgart and Karlsruhe, SEZ offers support with a variety of activities relating to international projects, particularly the identification of project partners, project management, technology transfer, and the development of innovation strategies for enterprises, public authorities and regions. Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum is the first contact point for SMEs in Baden-Wurttemberg, acting under the auspices of the Commissioner for Europe. SEZ also acts as an EU contact point for universities of applied science in Baden-Wurttemberg on behalf of the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts. It also acts as a regional INTERREG contact point for the Ministry of Finance and Economics.

SEZ is a partner in the European Commission’s Enterprise Europe Network and a partner in the Consortium of Baden-Wurttemberg in cooperation with Baden-Wurttemberg skilled crafts organisation, Handwerk International, as well as the Ministry of Finance and Economics and seven chambers of industry and commerce.


Professor Dr.-Ing. Norbert Höptner
Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum (Stuttgart)

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