Simplification first: it is much easier for people to access Horizon 2020 funding, red tape has been cut and the programme is governed by a single set of rules. That means it is much easier to apply and participate in projects. Projects will be up and running in eight months – four months more quickly than under the previous Framework - and during the projects there will be less paperwork and fewer audits.
However, one of the biggest changes is Horizon 2020's challenge-based approach. These challenges facing all of us in Europe - whether food and energy security, clean transport or public health for example – cannot be solved by a single field of science or technology or, indeed, a single country. These complex challenges will require solutions that draw upon many different areas of research and innovation. That’s why interdisciplinarity is such a crucial aspect of Horizon 2020.
Horizon 2020 is also less prescriptive about what projects must do. This means that the programme is more open to innovative proposals from applicants. However, project impact will move up the agenda and this will be one of the key criteria for selecting which proposals get funding.
Horizon 2020 will also be very good for business as it attempts to get more companies participating in European research and innovation projects. Simplification will certainly help, as will the guiding ethos of support from “lab to market”: private companies will have greater scope to get involved in close-to-market actions.
More money will be available for testing, prototyping, demonstration and pilot type activities, for business-driven R&D, for promoting entrepreneurship and risk-taking, and for shaping demand for innovative products and services.
In short, Horizon 2020 can help the business sector to reap the full commercial rewards from innovation. While all sizes and types of business can benefit from Horizon 2020, the spotlight is being placed upon innovative SMEs that want to both develop nationally and spread their wings internationally
Research and innovation for SMEs are promoted across Horizon 2020 as a whole, but there is also a new instrument that is adapted to their specific needs. This will allow single SMEs to receive small, simple grants for highly innovative projects.
The new dedicated SME instrument will fill gaps in funding for early-stage, high-risk research and innovation by SMEs and help stimulate breakthrough innovations.