Horizon 2020 (H2020) was the biggest research and innovation programme of the EU, running from 2014 to 2020 with nearly €80 billion available for funding. The Innovation and Networks Executive Agency was running parts of 2020 in the areas of energy. Following the conclusion of the respective H2020 Work Programmes, a last one-off Horizon 2020 Green Deal call, was published on 18 September 2020 (with submission of proposals deadline on 26 January 2021). With approximately 1 billion euros available, this call aims at selecting projects to be implemented within the next 5 years and aligns its scope with the new political priorities of the European Commission for a systemic transformation towards a climate-neutral continent by 2050. The Horizon 2020 Green Deal Call focuses on rapid scalability, dissemination and uptake to bring real benefits to Europeans in their daily life. Many of its areas and topics will be managed by the Agency, in principle the ones related to energy, transport and climate challenges.
The Green Deal call makes the bridge between the Horizon 2020 and the even more ambitious 9th Framework Programme, named "Horizon Europe" that will replace H2020 and will run until 2027. Subject to its formal adoption expected by April 2021, this new programme is expected to provide €100 billion in funding.
As in H2020, Horizon Europe’s respective Work Programmes will cover the whole 7 year period. The first Work Programme will cover the first 2 years of the new programme and will detail the direct actions. The structure of the new Horizon Europe consists of 3 basic pillars (similar to the ones of H2020). Within its second (II) pillar, 6 distinctive clusters aim to address "Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness". Cluster five focuses on "Climate, Energy and Mobility" actions (that will be further specified within the respective work programmes once adopted). The Agency is expected to manage the respective parts of this cluster, focusing on energy, mobility and climate change challenges and more specifically to:
- Contribute to boosting cost performance and reliability of renewable energy solutions and to making the energy grid more flexible and secure;
- Create inclusive growth and employment in Europe, bringing down costs for consumers and reducing EU’s energy import dependency by developing energy efficient demand side solutions;
- Deliver technological and socio-economic breakthroughs necessary to achieve climate neutrality and zero pollution of the building stock by 2050 and support the recovery, upgrade and/or conversion of industrial excess (waste) heat, as well as electrification of heat generation in industry;
- Achieve new cross-sectoral energy solutions enabling the clean energy transition and more secure and competitive energy supply.
Fighting climate change can only be achieved by drastically reducing the emissions produced by crucial sectors of the European economy such as energy, while its equally important to improve the competitiveness of the respective industries as well as the quality of the services that these sectors bring to society. The new Horizon Europe programme will aim to establish a better understanding of the causes, evolution, risks, impacts and opportunities of climate change and address global challenges in line with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals for a sustainable future for all by 2030 while supporting the European Green Deal action plan for achieving climate neutrality by 2050.
Its targeted R&I actions will focus on the goal to make the EU energy systems more climate and environmentally friendly, but also smarter, safer, resilient, inclusive, competitive and efficient. Overall, technological, economic and societal transformations are required to achieve climate neutrality and to ensure a socially fair transition. More focused and efficient research and innovation actions can bring this revolution faster and more efficiently.
However, no matter how important it is to generously invest in research and innovation, it is of equal importance to combine and complement all the different actions that focus on fighting climate change, by establishing synergies among the respective EU programs. The Agency, managing all programmes (Innovation Fund, CEF Energy & Mobility and LIFE for environmental and climate actions) that are focusing on climate, energy and mobility sectors, is ideally placed to reinforce the dialogue among them and ensure their optimal use, achieving the highest impact for a greener Europe.