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European funding

This page provides an overview of the European research funding available for a range of activities. It is focused on Horizon 2020, the primary funding programme for research in the EU with a projected budget of €70 billion available for the period between 2014-2020. For those completely new to the scheme start with What is Horizon 2020?

For those who know what they are looking for the finalised 2016-17 Work Programmes are now available:

The Participant Portal is the single point of information and application for H2020 calls. The H2020 Online Manual will help with navigation of the website and in particular this explanation of some H2020 terminology may be helpful.

Calls are typically annual. The UK remains a full and equal member of the European Union with the same rights to European funding as other Member States. It is business as usual for research funding applications.

  • Individual research projects

    There are a number of opportunities for individuals to apply for funding for their own research projects.

    For researchers at Essex

    The European Research Council (ERC) provides grants for researchers to pursue ground‐breaking, high‐risk/high‐gain research. Candidates are expected to undertake research at the frontiers of knowledge in any discipline and free of any thematic constraints.

    The sole criterion for receiving research funding is scientific quality aiming at excellence of both the project and the principal investigator. Funding is available to researchers of any nationality at three career stages:

    • Starting Grants are designed to help early career researchers gain independence in their careers and become research leaders. They are available to researchers with between 2 and 7 years of post-PhD research experience. The maximum grants is €1.5 million over 5 years.
    • Consolidator Grants are aimed at leading independent researchers who want to establish their research teams and continue development of a successful career in Europe. Researchers must have 7 to 12 years of post-PhD experience and may request up to €2 million over 5 years.
    • Advanced Grants are for established leading principle investigators with a history of outstanding research leadership. Applicants must be leaders in their own field and be able to demonstrate significant achievement in the last 10 years. Grants of up to €2.5 million over 5 years are available.

    ERC grant holders are eligible to apply for a Proof of Concept Grant to verify the innovation potential of ideas arising from their ERC research. The ERC Work Programme for 2017 (.pdf) is now available.

    For a researcher to visit Essex

    The Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action Individual Fellowships (MCSA-IF) fund researcher mobility between countries and optionally to the non-academic sector. Candidates must have a PhD and a minimum of four years of FTE equivalent research experience. The topic of the research is open and includes a substantial training element focused on advancing the career of the candidate. The funding pays the salary and training costs for the researcher. There are two types of Fellowship:

    • European Fellowships are open to researchers coming to Essex from any part of the world for a period of up to 24 months. Four paths are available: standard; career restart, following a career break of at least 12 months; reintegration, following a period residing in a Third Country), and; society & enterprise, for researchers seeking to work on research and innovation projects in the non-academic sector.
    • Global Fellowships comprise a mobility period in a Third Country of 12-24 months followed by a 12 month return period to Essex.

    The MCSA Work Programme for 2017 (.pdf) is now available.

    For an Essex researcher to visit another institution

    The MCSA-IF would allow a qualifying researcher to work at another qualifying institution for the grant period. The process would be managed by the institution to wish a researcher wished to move.

  • Collaborative research projects

    The majority of funding through H2020 is offered for collaborative research projects, typically requiring a minimum of three Member State or Associate Country partners to be involved in one consortium. Calls are organised around a series of thematic sections which produce annual Work Programmes. Despite the thematic organisation many calls allow for, or even mandate, an interdisciplinary approach (see the section on Social Science and Humanities, below, for more information).

    The calls for research projects are structured as follows (the links are direct to the Work Programme document):

    Excellent science

    Industrial Leadership

    Societal Challenges

    Spreading Excellence & Widening Participation

    Science with and for Society

    The full set of calls can also be browsed, filtered and searched on the Participant Portal.

    Each of the annual Work Programmes comprises a set of individual topics which describe a specific call for proposals. Apart from scale and scope, there are two other unique aspects of H2020 collaborative calls. Firstly they are tied to EU policy priorities so successful applicants need to make sure they reflect the needs of the policy agenda in their research plan. Secondly the evaluation of calls typically gives equal weight to three elements: scientific excellence, impact and implementation.

    Three different types of action are funded:

    • RIA - Research & Innovation Action: basic and applied research
    • CSA - Coordination & Support Action: supporting measures such as standardisation, dissemination, awareness-raising and communication, networking, coordination or support services, policy dialogues and mutual learning exercises and studies.
    • IA – Innovation Action: aimed at market/commercialisation effort to produce plans and arrangements or designs for new, altered or improved products, processes or services (greater weight is given to impact in the evaluation of responses).

    The specific requirements and conditions vary so do check the topic conditions and documents. The Expected Impact and the Cross-Cutting Themes should also be carefully reviewed.

  • Developing networks

    COST funds four-year networking actions, to draw together European researchers, engineers and scholars to jointly develop their own ideas and new initiatives across all fields of science and technology through trans-European networking. The funding supports a range of networking tools, such as meetings, workshops, conferences, training schools, short-term scientific missions and dissemination activities.

    The university’s participation in ERASMUS+ allows staff access to mobility grants for training placements in an Erasmus Zone country. Activities can include shadowing, practical training, short secondments and study visits.

    Many funders offer grants for one-off events or visits, including RCUK. A search of ResearchProfessional may help you locate opportunities offered by funders in other countries.

  • Capacity building

    Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MCSA) provide funding for capacity building of doctoral students through Innovative Training Networks (ITNs). ITNs are focused on the training a new generation of creative, entrepreneurial and innovative early-stage researchers, able to face current and future challenges and to convert knowledge and ideas into products and services for economic and social benefit.

    There are three forms of ITN:

    • European Training Network (ETN): this is the primary form of ITN and requires a minimum of 3 partners in a Member State/Associate Country and the inclusion of the non-academic sector. Individual researchers spend up to 30% of their time seconded to other partners.
    • European Industrial Doctorates (EID): requires at least 1 academic and 1 non-academic (ideally enterprise) partner located in a Member State/Associate Country. Researchers must spend at least 50% of their time at non-academic sector partner(s) located in a different country to their host institution.
    • European Joint Doctorates (EJD): requires a minimum of 3 partners in a Member State/Associate Country entitled to award doctoral degrees. Researchers enrol in a joint doctoral programme with the final degree awarded by institutions from at least two different countries.

    The MCSA Work Programme for 2017 (.pdf) is now available.

  • Social sciences and humanities

    The H2020 programme has no specific strand of Social Sciences and Humanities calls. Instead these disciplines are integrated as cross-cutting issues in calls addressing complex societal issues.

    A substantial number of topics are “flagged” for SSH contribution and must, as a requirement of the call, embed an SSH perspective in the research. Approximately 40% of H2020 topics are flagged for mandatory SSH participation but the inclusion of these scientific disciplines will is encouraged across all topics.

    These calls can be identified in two ways:

    • Within a specific topic: check the “Cross-cutting priorities” noted at the bottom of the Topic Description
    • In the list of all calls with an SSH flag

  • Working with industry

    Horizon 2020 has a strong emphasis on the role of innovation, particularly in moving research and innovative ideas closer to market. This priority is informed by the Innovation Union strategy and the recent introduction of the Open Innovation concept, which promotes the development of a culture of entrepreneurship and an Open Innovation ecosystem.

    Horizon 2020

    The main Horizon 2020 programme has a number of initiatives aimed at the inclusion of innovators and entrepreneurs:

    Businesses can typically participate in any H2020 collaborative project providing there is clear relevance to and integration in the research plan. H2020 in particular encourages the participation of SMEs: their involvement is strongly encouraged in Research and Innovation Actions and considered crucial for Innovation Actions.


    Funding for SMEs to undertake their own innovative research is available through the SME Instrument.


    Commercial tenders are available through TED (Tenders Electronic Daily). Browse by “Business sector (CPV)” and then filter by “Research and Development”.

    Innovation support initiatives

    These three flagship initiatives offer a mix of funding, research/industrial strategies and routes to collaborate with business and other stakeholders in a range of industries.

    The European Institute of Technology (EIT) works to promote innovation and entrepreneurship to develop world-class solutions to create growth and jobs. They are funding the development of Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs), unique partnerships which bring together business, research and universities to act along the whole innovation chain. As well as offering potential for direct collaboration some KICs are also funding their own activities. There are currently five KICs:

    • Climate-KIC addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation
    • EIT Digital addressing Information and Communication Technologies
    • KIC InnoEnergy addressing sustainable energy
    • EIT Health addressing healthy living and active ageing
    • EIT Raw Materials addressing sustainable exploration, extraction, processing, recycling and substitution

    European Innovation Partnerships provide a platform to bring together actors from across the research and innovation chain to address specific societal challenges. They do not offer any funding but work to modernise the sectors and in which they operate to speed up time to market for innovations. There are current EIPs in:

    European Technology Platforms (ETPs) are industry-led stakeholder forums which develop research and innovation roadmaps. There are a range of ETPs for various industries in:

    • Bio-based economy
    • Energy
    • Environment
    • ICT
    • Production and processes
    • Transport

    The European Commission opened a call for ideas for a European Innovation Council, to support Europe’s most promising innovators. The format and focus of an EIC is still under discussion, but it is currently expected to be operational before 2020 and to focus on closing funding gaps for innovators.

    Expert advice

    Faculty Knowledge Exchange Managers are available to discuss collaborations with industrial partners.

  • Working with international partners

    In practice H2020 is open to partners from anywhere in the world although not all of them are eligible for funding. In addition to Member States and Associated Countries, research organisations in 130 developing countries are also eligible for funding on an equal basis.

    A number of countries also have agreements to fund limited participation in H2020.

  • Cross-cutting issues and EC policy

    Many funding calls under H2020 require consideration of at least one of three issues: international cooperation, social sciences and the humanities (see the sections above) and gender. These will be clearly identified under the “Cross-cutting priorities” section in the topic descriptions.

    H2020 funding includes a commitment to both open access and open data for almost every project, although cases for exemption to open data rules may be made.

    As H2020 calls are informed by policy some consideration should be given to the policy context in the response to the call. The overarching policy is Europe 2020, the EU’s growth strategy until the end of the decade. The research strategy is informed by The Three Os – Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World. Policy relevant to other areas can be found on the relevant EC department webpages.

  • Funding available to existing grant holders

    Open access

    FP7 projects may apply for open access funding for up to three articles for up to two years after project end, through the OpenAIRE FP7 post-grant Open Access pilot project. Each project is limited to funding for three articles in total. Authors should also check the University of Essex guidance on open access.

    Innovation and exploitation

    ERC grant holders are eligible to apply for the ERC Proof of Concept Grant. to verify the innovation potential of ideas arising from their ERC research.

    FP7 and H2020 projects with products or processes rated at Technology Readiness Level 3 or above are eligible for funding through the Common Exploitation Booster (CEB). The CEB is H2020 funded to support projects to:

    • Develop, create and market a product or a process,
    • Create and provide a new service,
    • Set new standards, or
    • Set up new training courses or develop new curricula.

  • Feeding in your expertise

    A number of opportunities exist to contribute EU research policy

    Ways to shape the next Horizon 2020 Work Programme are listed on the Engagement Opportunities page of the UKRO website (registration required); these typically include requests for comments on future rounds of H2020 pillars.

    There is a continuously open call for external experts to support H2020 including in the evaluation of research proposals and providing guidance to research and innovation policy. The Register of Commission expert groups and other similar entities has details of all calls for experts currently open.

  • Other sources of funding

    Funding for research in Europe is available from a wide range of sources outside the formal H2020 programme.

    Other EU sources

    These include:

    Factsheets are available on these from UKRO (registration required). A number of other sources of funding are listed on the Participant Portal although calls are irregular.

    Research funding is also available from some of the other departments of the EC.

    Commercial tenders are available through TED (Tenders Electronic Daily). B rowse by “Business sector (CPV)” and then filter by “Research and Development”.

    European programmes

    The EU provides coordination funds for a range of joint and co-funded programmes, also called Public-Public Partnerships, which bring national funders together in multinational calls. These are typically operated under virtual common pot conditions whereby each national funder will pay only for researchers in their own country. For these calls you will technically be applying to a national funder (normally RCUK) for funding to conduct a European project. There are two main programmes operating under these conditions each of whom fund research in a range of fields:

    The ERA-Learn portal provides information about all joint programmes and many of their calls.

    There are also four programmes funded under Article 185 which operate on a real common pot basis where countries pool their money. They are:

    International research funding

    Research Councils UK also have opportunities for international collaboration. RCUK has a summary of the international opportunities at all Research Councils RCUK . Some RCUK have special sections on international calls:

    The Newton Fund brings together opportunities delivered by a range of funders for activities in Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, South Africa and wider Africa, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam.

    Many UK funders also offer funding for international activities as part of their portfolio, including:

    If you want more options please check the list of main funders and also search Research Professional.

Find out more

Contact the EU Research Development Manager for more information about EU Funding, Horizon 2020. You can also sign up to the Horizon2020 mailing list for monthly updates.

Juliet Craig

EU Research Development Manager

Room 3.602, Rab Butler Building

Telephone 01206 874975