Understanding Horizon Europe

The first step in applying for Horizon Europe funding as a health researcher is understanding the programme and its aims, who can apply, and where health research fits into the picture.

What is Horizon Europe?

Horizon Europe is the main EU funding programme for research and innovation (R&I), running from 2021 to 2027. It has a total budget of €95.5 billion, of which €8.246 billion is available for health research. It is designed to facilitate collaboration between researchers across Europe and beyond, with the aim of strengthening the impact of R&I to develop, support and implement EU policies while tackling global challenges. 

Who can apply?

Horizon Europe funding is available to researchers from all kinds of organisations, such as universities, research institutes, charities or civic organisations, policy makers and regulators, and industry, including small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Organisations need to meet the following criteria to be eligible for funding:

  • Be based in an eligible country: Member States of the EU, overseas countries and territories linked to Member States, countries associated to Horizon Europe and certain low- to middle-income countries
  • Apply as part of a consortium – that is, a team of at least three partner associations from three different Member State or Associated Countries, with at least one established in a Member State. All three of these legal entities must be independent of each other.
  • Be able to demonstrate the operational and financial capacity to carry out the activities proposed.

Organisations from other countries can participate in Horizon Europe but are not eligible for funding. They could receive exceptional funding, if their country is explicitly identified in the Horizon Europe Work Programme and call for proposals, or if their participation is essential for implementing the project. Under the Health Work Programme, and in recognition of the opening of the US National Institutes of Health’s programmes to European researchers, organisations in the USA are eligible to receive EU funding.
Full details on eligibility criteria are provided in the General Annexes of the Horizon Europe Work Programme which can be downloaded from the Horizon Europe section of the HRB website.   


Where does health research fit into the Horizon Europe programme? 

Horizon Europe funding is awarded under three distinct categories or ‘pillars’, with health research mainly falling under Pillar 2 – ‘Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness’. View an overview of the pillar structure of Horizon Europe here.


The Health Cluster – six destinations

Pillar 2 sets out six thematic areas – known as ‘clusters’ – related to societal challenges such as climate, security and health. 

The Health Cluster addresses six key objectives or ‘destinations’: 

  1. Staying healthy in a rapidly changing society
  2. Living and working in a health-promoting environment
  3. Tackling diseases and reducing disease burden
  4. Ensuring access to innovative, sustainable and high-quality healthcare
  5. Unlocking the full potential of new tools, technologies and digital solutions for a healthy society 
  6. Maintaining an innovative, sustainable and globally competitive health industry 

Read more about the Health Cluster aims, download the current work programme from our website, and explore the frequently asked questions submitted to the EU Funding & Tenders portal.  


Cancer Mission

Pillar 2 funding also addresses a number of EU-wide ‘missions’. Missions are intended to tackle major societal challenges by combining R&I with new forms of governance and collaboration, and engaging citizens. Of relevance for health researchers is the Cancer Mission, which aims to provide a better understanding of cancer, allow for earlier diagnosis, optimise treatment and improve cancer patients’ quality of life during and beyond their cancer treatment. 

The Cancer Mission provides the research-focused aspects for the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan – bringing together activities from multiple sources, including Horizon Europe, to tackle the challenge of cancer.

Read more about the Cancer Mission aims and view related European Commission documents. 

Download the current Missions work programme from our website here. 


EU Partnerships

Within the Health Cluster under Pillar 2, funding is also available as part of EU Partnerships – institutional, co-programmed or co-funded.  For example, Ireland-based researchers can participate in the following EU Partnerships that were established in 2021 and 2022:

Funding opportunities under other Horizon Europe pillars 

Health research can also be funded under other pillars of Horizon Europe, such as:

  • European Innovation Council (EIC) – programme to identify, develop and scale up breakthrough technologies and game-changing innovations
  • European Research Council – funding for investigator-driven excellent frontier research
  • Marie-Sklodowska-Curie Actions – funding for doctoral education and postdoctoral training of researchers
  • Widening Participation and Spreading Excellence (WIDERA) – funding to strengthen research and innovation across Europe.
Health research funding under other EU programmes and initiatives: 
  • EU4Health – the EU public health programme supporting actions on disease prevention, reducing inequalities, enabling the digital transformation of health systems, and reinforcing the health system and the healthcare workforce.

  • Digital Europe – complementing other EU programmes in key areas of supercomputing, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, advanced digital skills, and ensuring a wide use of digital technologies across the economy and society, including through Digital Innovation Hubs.


What your NCP can do for you

Your NCP is available to answer any questions you might have on Horizon Europe’s scope and aims, advise on eligibility criteria, technical issues and EU funding rules, or help you figure out which funding instrument is most suitable for your research area. The NCP organises information events on Horizon Europe Health throughout the year, both online and locally at research institutions such as universities.

Your NCP can also direct you to colleagues within the National Support Network who support other parts of Horizon Europe, or to other colleagues who support other relevant EU Programmes such as EU4 Health programme.

Want to know more? Contact your HRB Health NCP.