Implementing Horizon Europe: What to expect in 2021


Category: All Public funding

Keywords: 2021 grant calls, 2021 Horizon Europe, EU Funding, EU grants, EU missions, European funding, Horizon Europe, Horizon Europe funding, Public funding, Research & innovation framework, SME grants


Implementing Horizon Europe: What to expect in 2021

The highly anticipated Horizon Europe framework is officially inaugurated, marking the start of a new era of supporting research and innovation in the EU and its partner countries. Innovative companies with novel products and business models will find plenty of options in public funding to support their innovative projects. 95.5 billion euros is in total going to be allocated to this framework over the next 7-year period (2021-2027). This article gives a broad presentation of the framework, the research and innovation objectives, and available funding information for 2021. This is the first piece in our series of articles about European funding.

Horizon Europe is the successor of the Horizon 2020 Research & Innovation framework with a similar structure, but comes with new priorities, a 30% budget increase, and improvements to the included work programs. This will lead to more innovative companies being funded over the next seven years. The purpose is to strengthen the resilience of the European Union and its member states and to keep the EU at the forefront of global research and innovation. The framework is again divided into three pillars with different focus areas and at least 35% of Horizon Europe spending will contribute to the climate objectives.

The Framework Pillars and what to expect in 2021

After some delay, the first Horizon Europe funding calls will be available in April 2021 with additional calls rolling out over the course of the year. The total budget of the framework is 95.5 BEUR. 24.9 BEUR will go to Pillar 1, 53.8 BEUR to Pillar 2, and 13.6 BEUR to Pillar 3. Official documents containing important funding information have recently been distributed online. Further is what to expect in 2021:

Horizon Europe, public funding, eu grants, Excedea

Horizon Europe overview (European Commission)

Pillar 1: Excellent Science

Activities in this pillar are aimed towards researchers to strengthen the EU’s global scientific competitiveness. It supports frontier research projects defined and carried out by top researchers through the European Research Council, funds research networks and doctoral training through the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions and invests in world-class research infrastructures.

  • Three grant calls will open in 2021: Starting grants for early-career researchers (deadline March 24), Consolidator grants for mid-career researchers (deadline April 20), and Advanced grants for researchers with strong track record (deadline August 31).

Pillar 2: Global challenges & European industrial competitiveness

Activities in Pillar 2 target research and innovation projects by, for example, SMEs and large enterprises related to reinforcing technological and industrial capacities. The objectives of this pillar are to increase European competitiveness and conquer societal challenges. The pillar work is divided into clusters that each focus on specific societal challenges. Activities and grant calls are jointly carried out and organized by specialized inter-organization partnerships and the European Commission.

  • The Clusters are (1) Health, (2) Culture Creativity and Inclusive Society, (3) Civil Security for Society, (4) Digital Industry & Space, Climate, (5) Energy & Mobility, and (6) Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture & Environment.
  • First calls for businesses will open in April 2021 and continue to roll out over the course of the year. 
  • Detailed work programs for each cluster can be found on the European Commission’s Funding & Tender portal once officially adopted.

Pillar 3: Innovative Europe – entrepreneurial funding

The Innovative Europe pillar targets entrepreneurs and aims to make Europe a frontrunner in market-creating innovation and produce unicorns through the European Innovation Council (EIC). It also helps to develop the overall European innovation landscape, by developing European Innovation ecosystems and through the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). Pillar 3 has undergone some changes from Horizon 2020, including the funding programs, the application process, and top-down calls focusing on specific EU challenges. The first calls open in April and are highly relevant for SMEs. Read our breakdown of the opportunities, timelines, and important application information here.

The European Union’s Strategic Mission Areas

Five strategic missions will guide the Horizon Europe framework. They will impact initiatives and efforts within the Horizon framework, especially in Pillar 2, where grant calls directed toward the missions will be published. A breakdown of the EU missions is as follows:

  • Conquering cancer: More than 3 million lives saved by 2030.
  • Climate Resilient Europe: Preparing Europe for climate disruptions and accelerating the transformation to a climate resilient and just Europe by 2030.
  • 100 Climate-Neutral Cities by 2030.
  • At least 75% of all soils in the EU are healthy for food, people, nature, and climate.
  • Cleaning marine and fresh waters, restoring degraded ecosystems and habitats, and decarbonizing the blue economy


Horizon Europe, Excedea, HorizonEU

EU Missions (European Commission)

Brexit – UK Participation

As a part of the Brexit negotiations, it was announced that UK entities will be able to apply for Horizon Europe funding. The UK will become an associated partner country to Horizon Europe (similar to Norway and Switzerland). The UK-EU trade deal will give researchers and businesses from the UK access to funding on equivalent terms as their EU counterparts, including eligibility to lead projects. However, the UK will be excluded from calls that cover sensitive security research and equity investments from the new EIC Accelerator fund. Actors from the UK will only be able to participate in programs once the EU has finalized its program regulations, which is likely to happen in April 2021.

How can Excedea facilitate your business growth with funding from the Horizon Europe?

Excedea is an expert in public funding and producing strong applications. We have for more than 15 years offered full cycle support in securing funding and investments, nationally and internationally, with 500+ successful funding applications. Our experience comprises several industries such as life science, IT, manufacturing, and food. We help companies to:

  • Find the right public funding: We transform your knowledge from a broad understanding of grants to concrete national and EU funding opportunities for your business development plan.
  • Write a competitive application: We develop the project idea with you, support consortium management, craft convincing texts tailored to your project and ensure the opportunity is optimized to get you the most funds available.
  • Report: We ensure that progress and financial reports are delivered and reduce your administrative burden.


Do you have an innovative project in the pipeline and are interested in attaining public funding? Do not hesitate to contact us to learn more about available opportunities. R&D performing companies often have several projects eligible for public funding.

For exploring public funding opportunities in your area, contact our regional experts:


Jaakko Ojanen, tel: +358 (0)40 557 6602



Henrik Dagmalm, tel: +46 7 0988 6667



Kai Krashevski, tel: +372 5647 7546


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