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The new Horizon Europe program

Which topics in cluster Health are expected to receive funding?

Horizon Europe (Horizon EU) is the EU’s research and innovation subsidy program running from 2021 up to 2027. With a total budget of EUR 85.5 billion, it is the successor of Horizon 2020. In this article, we will outline which specific topics are expected to be funded in the cluster “Health” and why you should consider participating in this program.

What is Horizon Europe?

Grants and incentives are available at regional, national and European level. European funding schemes are known for their high budgets (EUR millions) compared to regional and national project budgets and aim to provide European added value by boosting economic growth and competitiveness.

Horizon EU is the next European Framework Program on research and innovation and will start this year. With a total budget of EUR 85.5 billion, Horizon EU is the most ambitious publicly funded international research and innovation program in the world. Horizon Europe aims to strengthen the scientific and technological base in Europe, it will foster excellent science and competitiveness, and aims to tackle specific global challenges. This will be achieved by a compelling program that is built on three main pillars: 

  • Pillar 1 – Excellent Science: mainly focused on individual researchers;
  • Pillar 2 – Global Challenges and Industrial Competitiveness: tackling specific challenges by providing funding for specific topics;
  • Pillar 3 – Innovative Europe: supports entrepreneurs in launching breakthrough innovation, by attracting scalable companies and encouraging co-investment between public and private investors.

In addition, a horizontal activity will be implemented next to these pillars. This activity is focused on the widening participation and strengthening the European Research Area. This will address countries that are lagging in their R&I efforts and infrastructures. Its overall ambition is to share knowledge with those countries and to improve their research and innovation landscape.  

Pillar 2 Global Challenges and Industrial Competitiveness

This pillar will support the uptake of innovative solutions in industry and society to address global challenges. As such, funding available in these calls is applicable for all types of organizations: from public institutions to (small and large) private companies. To maximize impact, the activities will be organized in five clusters:

  1. Health (€7.7 billion);
  2. Inclusive and Secure Society (€2.8 billion);
  3. Digital and Industry (€15 billion);
  4. Climate, Energy and Mobility (€15 billion);
  5. Food and Natural Resources (€10 billion).

For each cluster, a dedicated strategy plan, the so-called “Work Program”, has been developed, which specifies the topics (i.e. subsidy calls) for 2021 and 2022. In this article, we will discuss the expected topics and calls for cluster “Health”. 

Cluster “Health” in Horizon EU

How will the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic be ensured in the new program?

The world is challenged by the first pandemic since a century and its impact is paramount. While it has uncovered vulnerabilities in our social and economic systems, it has also provided recognition of the critical role that health care systems play in our society. It also underlines the need for developing new knowledge and technologies to respond rapidly and effectively to public health emergencies. International collaboration of the best research teams and involvement of the private sector and users is inevitable in order to enable this.

Last year, the European Commission launched several special actions in 2020 in order to support research and innovation on COVID. These actions addressed epidemiology, preparedness and response to outbreaks, the development of diagnostics, treatments and vaccines, as well as the infrastructures and resources that enabled research. To help repair the economic and social damage caused by the COVID pandemic, the EU leaders have agreed on a Recovery Plan for Europe that will lead the way out of the crisis and to lay its foundation for a strong EU that is prepared for future health emergencies. The Health cluster will put the focus of this work program mainly to this endeavor, which will benefit from financial resources from the next Multiannual Financial Framework and from NextGenerationEU (EUs financing instrument to boost the recovery). Ten priority actions for coordinated research and innovation actions has been designed by the EC and specific calls are published by the EC on this. Recently, the EC has announced to invest an additional EUR 150 million for research to counter coronavirus variants under the program “HERA Incubator”. More information on this will be announced on short notice. 

Will the EC only focus on the COVID pandemic or which other topics are expected to receive funding?

The designed work program 2021-2022 of cluster ‘Health’ is however not only focused on COVID. The program is directed towards two Key Strategic Orientations (KSOs) to creating a more resilient, inclusive and democratic European society (KSO-D) and promoting an open strategic autonomy by leading the development of key digital and enabling technologies, sectors and value chains (KSO-A). The program covers a broad range of other important
health-related themes that need attention for further research and development. These are structured into six main topics, so-called “Destinations” of which each Destination will be realized through several calls for proposals in 2021 and 2022, either with single (one full proposal submission), or two stage
procedures (i.e. submission of a preproposal followed by a full proposal submission upon invitation):  

  • Staying healthy in a rapidly changing society (STAYHLTH)
    This destination is aimed towards a better understanding of how people become ill and how to prevent this. In 2021, the topic will call for better understanding of obesity, ageing, mental health, personalized prevention, and digital health literacy on a molecular and neurobiological level. Also, a call will be focused on digital empowerment and creating a roadmap for personalized intervention. Next year, focus will be on improving the availability and use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools to predict the risk of chronic diseases. Also, projects developing personalized blueprints of chronic inflammation in the transition from health to disease are expected to receive funding next year.
  • Living and working in a health-promoting environment (ENVHLTH)
    The goal is to better understand the environmental impact on health and to explore the effects of pollution, chemicals, climate and other factors. This year, projects will receive funding that are looking at how the exposure to electromagnetic fields affects health; the relationship between health and indoor air quality; and the impact of climate change on health, including the costs and benefits of climate action and inaction. Next year, focus will be on projects that develop new methods for assessing the health-related costs of environmental stressors. 
  • Tackling diseases and reducing disease burden (DISEASE) 
    This destination is focused on cancer, antimicrobial resistance and how to overcome low vaccination rates. In 2021, projects will receive funding that focus on improving (end-of-life) care for cancer patients, repurposing of medicinal products, enhancing poverty-related disease research in sub-Saharan Africa, validating AI treatment and care tools, and understanding individual host response to viruses. Next year, focus will be on pre-clinical development of next generation immunotherapies, the development of novel vaccines, and new therapies for rare diseases. Also, focus will be on pandemic preparedness projects and reducing the risks of non-communicable diseases in young people.
  • Ensuring access to innovative, sustainable and high-quality health care (CARE) 
    This destination is focused on the modernization of healthcare systems, improving their quality, developing new tools and methods for making better informed healthcare decisions and supporting procurement. In 2021, projects will be funded that are aiming to enhance the quality of care and patient safety, develop data-driven decision-support tools for healthcare and policymaking, and creating a procurement network. Next year, focus will be on transforming health and procurement networks (pre-commercial research and innovation, but also public procurement).
  • Unlocking the full potential of new tools, technologies and digital solutions for a healthy society (TOOL)
    This destination is focused on speeding up the development of digital tools. In 2021, projects will be funded that are focused on developing smart medical devices and their surgical implantation, for use in resource-constrained settings, advanced therapies to treat highly prevalent diseases with unmet needs and innovative tools for the use and re-use of health data. Next year, focus will be on optimizing the effectiveness of prescription drugs using biomarkers and exploring new methods for effective use of data and computational models for new patient stratification strategies.
  • Maintaining an innovative, sustainable and globally competitive health industry (IND) 
    This destination is focused on making the European health industry more competitive and innovative. In 2021, this will be enabled by funding projects that address environmental pollution caused by pharmaceuticals, exploring development procurement and management of new antimicrobials, and promoting mHealth labels. Next year, this will be enabled by funding projects that enhance digital health tool cybersecurity, scaling-up computation and data anonymization, exploring new payment models for health innovation, and setting up a EU Smart Health Innovation Hub or Electronic Health Record Exchange Format.

Note that the first deadlines of 2021 are expected to open on the 22nd of April (2021) with a deadline on the 21st of September 2021 (so it is time to act and request for support now). 

Which type of projects and organizations will be supported?

Several type of projects will receive funding:

  • Research and Innovation (RIA). Collaborative projects with a strong focus on research and the earlier phases of technological development. Project duration: ~3-5 years with a 100% funding rate;
  • Innovation (IA). Collaborative projects with a strong focus on piloting, demonstrating and testing close-to-market solutions. Project duration: ~3-5 years with a 70% funding rate;
  • Coordination and Support (CSA). Single-applicant or collaborative projects with a strong focus on networking, policy evaluation, etc. Project duration: ~1-2 years with a 100% funding rate.

The amount of funding that can be requested is dependent on the type of action and the specific call for proposal. Typically, a Horizon project is EUR 5 – 10 million. In general, all types of organizations can receive funding. This means that public as well as (small up to large) private organizations can receive funding. Note that collaborative projects in Horizon Europe require collaboration between at least three independent legal entities from three different EU member states. 

Want to know more about Horizon Europe or need support?

Applyingfor Horizon EU funding is a time-consuming and costly process. Also with the fast approaching deadline of September 2021, it is therefore of utmost importance to prepare yourself and request support where needed. Would you like to know which steps you can take to maximize your use of this new Horizon EU budget (or any other European subsidy budgets) while minimizing your effort? We will be happy to help you: please contact Michelle van Wijk via  mivanwijk@deloitte.nl or Corjan Visser via corvisser@deloitte.nl or
 +31 6 31 11 26 06.

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