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Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 (the successor to FP7) is the European Union’s largest ever research and innovation programme with nearly €80 billion of funding available over seven years (2014 to 2020).


The Horizon 2020 programme consists of three core themes or 'pillars'. Each pillar comprises a number of different research funding programmes.

Research funding opportunities for the UK biomedical research community can be found across the breadth of Horizon 2020.

The choice of pillar and underlying programme depends on the nature of the research project for which funding is sought.

The schemes within the Excellent Science pillar are dedicated to funding the best new ideas, helping develop researcher careers, attracting talent from outside Europe, and providing improved access to European research infrastructures. 

The Industrial Leadership pillar focuses on making Europe's industries more competitive. Funding is available for the academic community to collaborate with industry in order to further develop Key Enabling Technologies such as advanced materials and nanotechnology.

The aim of the Societal Challenges pillar is to find solutions to identified societal challenges through research and innovation. Research projects will address problems identified by the Commission in call topics. Funding is predominantly for collaborative projects that bring together research teams from different EU Member States and Associated Countries. The Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing challenge call topics for 2019-2020 can be found in the updated work programme.

Several activities not included in the work programme will also be part of the Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing challenge, notably the Innovative Medicines Initiative, the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), and the Active and Assisted Living Programme.

MRC's role in Horizon 2020

The MRC provides the National Contact Point for the Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing Challenge for UK academic (contact Jo Frost). The wide ranging scope of Horizon 2020 can make navigating and understanding the programme challenging for new applicants. Help and support is therefore made available for those who would like guidance on the programme’s structure, activities and themes through the UK National Contact Points.

The MRC also leads the UK delegation on the Horizon 2020 programme committee for the Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing Challenge. One of the committee’s roles is to input into and approve the final content of the calls published under the Health Challenge.

If you are interested in inputting into the content of future health calls, please fill in the following form and email to Jo Frost: joanna.frost@mrc.ukri.org

MRC input to Horizon 2020 form

UK participation in Horizon 2020

For an overview of the UK’s relationship with Horizon 2020 and an FAQ which clarifies the UK’s eligibility to participate in Horizon 2020 please visit the UK participation in Horizon 2020: UK government overview.

The UK and EU’s intention is that the eligibility of UK researchers and businesses to participate in Horizon 2020 will remain unchanged for the remaining duration of the programme. This is set out in the financial provisions of the draft Withdrawal Agreement, which has been agreed by both UK and Commission negotiators and welcomed by the other 27 EU countries at the March 2018 European Council.

However, the UK government states that as a responsible government it needs to plan for every eventuality to ensure that cross-border collaboration in science and innovation can continue after EU exit.

Therefore in 2016 the government announced that it would underwrite UK funds for all EU-funded projects successfully bid for while the UK is a still a member of the EU.

In July 2018 an extension to that guarantee was announced which said that funding for UK participants successfully bid for from exit day until the end of 2020 would also be guaranteed by the UK government, in a no deal scenario.

The UK government’s guidance on ‘Horizon 2020 funding if there’s no Brexit deal’ and accompanying government’s FAQ provide more detail on the Horizon 2020 underwrite guarantee, the extension to the guarantee and how the government plans to continue to support research and innovation in the UK. These documents are aimed at UK organisations, such as universities and businesses, who are in receipt of Horizon 2020 funding or who are bidding for such funding. It will also be of interest to partner organisations who work with UK participants on Horizon 2020 projects.

If the underwrite needs to come into effect, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has been chosen to manage the underwrite delivery. To ensure UKRI is ready for that eventuality, specialist teams have developed a bespoke UK portal designed to ensure that UKRI has initial information about projects and participants in order to keep researchers and businesses informed of the next steps regarding the implementation of underwrite payments, should they be required. The UK portal has been launched and contains contact details of who to go to in the event of an enquiry. UKRI has prepared also prepared an FAQ about the UK portal. Grant recipients need to sign up to the portal to allow UKRI to keep them informed of the next steps if the government needs to underwrite Horizon 2020 payments. Holders of multiple grants can submit their data in bulk via a spreadsheet. The portal will remain open after the UK leaves the EU so that UK applicants can continue to register as and when they are informed that their bid has been successful.

The government’s Horizon 2020 documents are part of a broader set of guidance documents covering how to prepare if the UK leaves the EU with no deal which include information on applying to other EU-funded programmes, regulating medicines and medical equipment, studying, travelling and workplace rights.