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The Commission's proposal for Horizon Europe is an ambitious 100 billion eur research and innovation programme to succeed Horizon 2020: EU research and innovation programme (2021-2027). On January 2020 and following the political agreement, the Commission has begun a strategic planning process.

The result of the process will be set out in a multiannual Strategic Plan to prepare the content in the work programmes and calls for proposal for the first 4 years of Horizon Europe.

Preliminary structure of Horizon Europe. Source: European Commission.
Preliminary structure of Horizon Europe. Source: European Commission.
The European Parliament and the Council of the EU reached in March and April 2019 a provisional agreement on Horizon Europe. The European Parliament endorsed the provisional agreement on 17 April 2019.


The strategic planning process should focus in particular on the Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness pillar of Horizon Europe. It will also cover the Widening Participation and Strengthening the European Research Area part of the programme as well as relevant activities in other pillars.

The process will identify:

- Key areas for research and innovation support and their targeted impact;
- European partnerships;
- Missions;
- Areas of international cooperation.

The strategic planning process includes a co-design process that took place over the summer and autumn 2019 in view of preparing the first Strategic Plan for Horizon Europe. The views and ideas of more than 7,000 respondents were collected through web-based surveys and close to 4,000 participants engaged in in-depth debates at the 'European Research and Innovation Day's (Brussels, 24 - 26 September 2019).

The results of the co-design process are summarised in the document Orientations towards the first Strategic Plan for Horizon Europe.


Horizon Europe should incorporate research and innovation missions to increase the effectiveness of funding by pursuing clearly defined targets.

The Commission has engaged policy experts to develop studies, case studies and reports on how a mission-oriented policy approach will work effectively. (1)

5 mission areas have been identified, each with a dedicated Mission Board and Assembly. They will help specify, design and implement specific missions in Horizon Europe.

1. Mission area: Adaptation to climate change including societal transformation.

-Climate adaptation is the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects.
-The mission area will support this process by connecting citizens with Science and Public Policy.

2. Mission area: Cancer.

-Cancer affects everyone regardless of age, gender or social status and represents a tremendous burden for patients, families, and societies at large.
-If no further action is taken, the number of people newly diagnosed with cancer every year in Europe will increase from the current 3.5 million to more than 4.3 million by 2035.

3. Mission area: Climate-neutral and smart cities.

-More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. This is expected to reach 80% by 2050. Cities and metropolitan areas are centres of economic activity, knowledge generation, innovation and new technologies.
-They impact upon the quality of life of citizens who live and/or work in them and they are major contributors to global challenges.

4. Mission area: Healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters.

-Healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters are vital for our societies and the future of our planet. They are the lungs of our planet, producing half of the oxygen we breathe. They are a source of healthy food, contributing 16% of the animal protein we eat.
-They are the planet’s largest carbon sink and have absorbed 26% of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. They are home to the richest biodiversity on our planet.
-Also, they are the source of all life on Earth and our planet’s life-support system. They supply freshwater, renewable energy and provide benefits associated with our well-being, cultural values, tourism, trade, and transport.

5. Mission area: Soil health and food.

-Land and soils are essential for all life-sustaining processes on our planet. They are the basis for the food we grow as well as for many other products such as feed, textiles, or wood.
-Soils also provide a range of ecosystem services which are important for clean water, supporting biodiversity or for cycling nutrients and regulating climate. Indeed, soils are highly dynamic and fragile systems - and they are a finite resource. It can take up to 1,000 years to produce 1cm of soil.
-Soils are facing pressures from an increasing population with demands on land for production, settlement and industries.
-Moreover, soils are heavily affected by climate change, erosion and sea level rises. Approximately 33% of our global soils are degraded and in the EU, erosion is affecting 25% of agricultural land.


Horizon Europe will support European partnerships with EU countries, the private sector, foundations and other stakeholders. The main objective is to deliver on global challenges and industrial modernisation through concerted research and innovation efforts.

The Horizon Europe proposal lays down the conditions and principles for establishing European Partnerships.

Kindly find below the 3 types proposed:

Co-programmed European Partnerships.
Between the Commission and private and/or public partners. Based on memoranda of understanding and/or contractual arrangements

Co-funded European Partnerships using a programme co-fund action.
Partnerships involving EU countries, with research funders and other public authorities at the core of the consortium.

Institutionalised European Partnerships.
These are partnerships where the EU participates in research and innovation funding programmes that are undertaken by a number of EU countries. They are based on article 185 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) which allows the EU to participate in such programmes.

These can also be public-private partnerships established under Article 187 TFEU, such as joint undertakings or EIT Knowledge and Innovation Communities.

These partnerships will only be implemented where other parts of the Horizon Europe programme would not achieve the objectives desired or expected impacts. (2)
Adoption timeline. Source: European Commission.
Adoption timeline. Source: European Commission.

(1) Read more about the Commission's mission-oriented approach and download the studies that shaped it.

(2) Impact assessments are needed to justify new legislation as part of the Commission's better regulation agenda.

-The outcomes of these impact assessments and the strategic planning process will influence the identification of possible partnerships.
-For institutionalised partnerships, the Commission has published inception impact assessments.
-An open public consultation covering institutionalised partnerships based on Articles 185 and 187 TFEU will be published in early September.

Once the new decade has recently been released, it is time to do a quick 'follow-up' to Rio+20, specifically the bridge which engages the sustainable development goals (SDGs) established by the European Commission (EC) and the role of science, technology and innovation (STI) to smartly implement the new global sustainable development agenda (2030 Agenda).

Report of the expert group 'Follow up to Rio+20, notably the SDGs'. Source: European Commission
Report of the expert group 'Follow up to Rio+20, notably the SDGs'. Source: European Commission
On January 2019 an independent expert group shared some recommendations -both in terms of general policy orientations and concrete areas of engagement- for EU STI policy to contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Europe and beyond, as well as for possible engagement in international initiatives concerning STI. It recommended the EU to capitalise on its Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, which is seeking to invest more than 60% of its budget for sustainable development and is fully open to international participation.

STI policies are fundamental to take economies and societies onto a sustainable path. Given the expected high costs of transition, policies need to be carefully designed, using available scientific evidence. The use of evidence for policy making is often taken for granted, but the practice is often far from this principle. To increase accountability of European institutions vis-à-vis stakeholders and citizens, we consider a must for the European Commission to practice such a principle, improving existing tools, also with the help of new available technologies -i.e. expanding the coverage of the newly developed 'Knowledge Centres'. Moreover, the EC should push other countries, especially developing countries, to adopt a similar approach. (1)


To ensure remaining on the right track, once the objectives on aligned policies are set, an efficient and effective evaluation framework is required. The framework should be elaborated considering indicators on both STI4SD earmarking or expenditures, as well as on non-financial/budgetary aspects. An evaluation scheme should be inclusively designed rather than top down, building on good practices that demonstrate how the evaluation process might benefit from the adjunction of the civil society to the “experts”, especially in order to select the indicators needed to evaluate progress made towards agreed goals.

Given the SDGs’ general frame and timescale, we have a fresh opportunity to elaborate in 2020 a truly ex-ante evaluation methodology that would make each stakeholder fully aware of the rules before taking any action. The process of elaborating, discussing and adopting the evaluation methodology of STI4SD policies should be, according to President Junker’s priorities, democratic,
transparent, fact-oriented, easily translated, relying on the integrity of data, fully accountable and open to improvements. Therefore, an evaluation scheme should not be limited or understood as a reporting scheme for accountability and transparency. Public policy evaluations are neither audits
nor inspections and control of a monitoring system of expenses. They are made to close the public policies feedback loop by issuing recommendations for success based on a multi-factor analysis, including qualitative aspects and management evaluation. Therefore, the evaluation process of STI4SD policies may deliver constructive outcomes under two conditions: a) elaborating on the hypothesis that a mechanism for conflict management between contradictory policies is set and efficiently implemented in due time within the EU institutions, and within the EC missions themselves as well; b) promoting the rise of a set of non-financial indicators coherent with stakeholders’ expectations (if and when expressed). (2)

As regards STI4SD policies evaluation, three main options might be considered:

Option 1: classical earmarking with a set of financial indicators for the entire duration of the programme (2020-2030);
Option 2: classical earmarking with a review on mid-term, for incremental improvements only, made by experts in budgetary matters;
Option 3: considering the evaluation methodology as an ongoing systemic assessment, dedicated to raising awareness and strengthening readiness for impact, including the mandatory earmarking of expenses, but not limited to it.

Option 3 is the only methodology open to be built with civil society. Considering the quickly evolving STI solutions in goods, process and services for SDGs, it would be wise to adopt a systemic approach along the third option, fact-based on a robust and long lasting dedicated observatory. This option implies an adaptation of the nature and quality of governance for STI4SD policies, instead of a classic, hierarchical governance. The implications of this choice are the acceptance of a double circle of expertise including lay but concerned people, and adapting indicators to citizens’ requirements.

For this purpose, the establishment of a permanent observatory of changes and trends in new, emerging and enabling technologies for SDGs is needed to help translating the STI implications for SDGs to decision-makers and the widest possible audience, with a specific focus on technology, as science and innovation already benefit from international evaluation schemes. (3)

In addition, recognising that the current structure of Horizon 2020 cannot be changed, it could be effective to:

a) Expand the Horizon 2020 ethical framework to EU international STI4SD initiatives. While, according to the Regulation for participation in Horizon 2020 (4), the Commission systematically carries out ethics reviews for proposals raising ethical issues in order to verify the respect of ethical principles and legislation. In the case of research carried out outside the UE, such review is meant to verify that the same research would have been allowed within the EU. In addition to that, alignment of the Horizon 2020 tracking system as regards STI4SD should provide that also research proposed to support, strengthen and accelerate the positive impact on SDGs is subject to ethical reviews when EU initiatives are undertaken under the Horizon 2020 STI partnerships with non EU countries, in particular non-OECD emerging and LDC countries. Also, it was recommended to expand the mandate of the European Group of Ethics (EGE) (5) to cover STI4SD policies implementation and include the EGE in the new mechanism for independent scientific advice to the Commission;

b) Set up a grassroot surveillance framework for ongoing, systemic evaluation of STI4SD policies, implementing a reporting system based on agreed indicators and establishing a network of external watchdogs/whistle blowers for STI, to avoid missing important opportunities for Horizon 2020 and other existing tools;

c) Promote the establishment of non-financial Ratings Agencies in the field of STI4SD, similarly to what has been done in the Carbon Disclosure Project. (6) Some Agencies within the EU (known as Environmental, Social and Governance – ESG – Agencies) (7) have already implemented or proposed non-financial data and ratings, but this practice could be expanded, also using Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as entry point. The 2011 Commission Communication on CSR (8) led to some initiatives that could be reinforced in the context of the 2030 Agenda, especially as the world of businesses largely contributed to its preparation and is working already on the adjustment of business reporting to make companies more accountable vis-à-vis the SDGs. Existing frameworks represent a good starting point for further development. (9)

In this context, it was also recommended to undertake a review of European standards agencies (10) as relevant stakeholders in the STI4SD European policies;

d) Include the Common Defence and Security Policy in the evaluation scheme of STI4SD success, establishing a link with the Consultation Forum for Energy in the Defence and Security Sector, which provides a platform for energy experts to discuss and advise energy policies in defence. (11)
Opportunity now: Europe’s mission to innovate. Source: European Commission
Opportunity now: Europe’s mission to innovate. Source: European Commission

1 Report of the Expert Group “Follow-up to Rio+20, notably the SDGs”, The Role of Science, Technology and Innovation Policies to Foster the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, Brussels, 2015. Kindly check Section 4.2 General policy orientations, pages 27-28.

2 These indicators could be adapted to the four sets of SDGs chosen by the IAWG -i.e. “Global Commons”, “Sectoral”, “Cross-Cutting” and ”Overarching”.

3 Such as the OECD STI Outlook, which could be enhanced by a special chapter on STI4SDG policies, results and impacts, beyond the traditional “Patent and Publication” indicators.

4 Regulation (EU) n° 1290/2013 of 11 December 2013 laying down the rules for participation and dissemination in "Horizon 2020 - the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020)" and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1906/2006.

5 Link

6 The Carbon Disclosure Project network and reports by sector: link

7 A list of ESG Rating Agencies worldwide was released by Novethics: link

8 A renewed EU strategy 2011-14 for Corporate Social Responsibility (COM(2011) 681 final): link

9 For example, the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), the UN Global Compact’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights implementing the UN 'Protect, Respect and Remedy' Framework, the proposals of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) for integrated reporting, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the International Organisation for Standardisation's ISO 26000, the International Labour Organisation's Tripartite Declaration of principles concerning multinational enterprises and social policy.

10 For example, the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC).

11 Its aim is the provision of specific guidance for the military authorities on existing EU legislation and programs governing energy efficiency and renewables, and of proposals for improving the protection of critical energy infrastructures.

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