Horizon 2020 is the 8th and biggest European Union (EU) Research and Innovation framework programme with more than 70 billion € of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020). Approximately 9 billion € are reserved for SMEs.

For largest part of the program, the Horizon 2020 beneficiaries are selected on the basis of annual calls for proposals. Most of the Horizon 2020 funded projects are collaborative projects with at least 3 organisations from different EU Member States or Associated countries. Though, some instruments can support individual actors. For example, a high-potential SME can submit alone a proposal under SME Instrument. Such SME must develop ground-breaking innovative ideas for products, services or processes and be ready to face global market competition. The SME instruments grants can reach 2.5 million € per project.

The selected projects are co-financed by the EU and the participants. The share of the EU contribution is important and can cover up to 100% of the total direct costs, for research and innovation actions, and 70% of the direct costs for innovation actions (for closer to market activities), with the exception of non-profit legal entities which can receive up to 100 % for all actions. Indirect costs are always covered by a flat rate of 25% of the direct costs.

The Horizon 2020 framework programme follows a well-defined methodology. A work programme is voted and published annually. This work programme is the key element for all companies wishing to submit proposals. It contains a list of topics where each topic is described in 3 sections entitled: “specific challenge”, “scope” and “expected impact”. Participants have to select and respond to the specifications of a particular topic. It is important to understand the Commision expectations of projects to be financed in order to address them convincingly in the project proposal. The other aspect in building the proposal consists in forming a consortium or in looking for an established consortium. The proposal partners agree on the engineering of the project indicating the coordinator, the work package leaders, the schedule, the deliverables, the budget, the intellectual property, etc. Remember your National Contact Point (NCP) is available to advise you further on all these points and help you increasing the chances of success of your proposal.

It is always necessary to keep in mind that the funding process in Horizon 2020 is very competitive because Horizon 2020 is very attractive for companies. At first, the Horizon 2020 funding rate remains an important incentive. It allows the access to a heavier and more expensive research with very good subsidy rates. But, a Horizon 2020 project is also rewarding on other aspects. It is a European partnership that brings together actors and complementary skills to create synergies between partners and to pool technical and financial risks. A Horizon 2020 project allows also the connection with new partners, and the access to new technologies, new markets and business opportunities.


Horizon 2020 focuses its funding on three priorities: excellent science, industrial leadership, and societal challenges that drive research and innovation towards the major society problems.

To respond to the societal and economic challenges, Horizon 2020 funds interdisciplinary projects that cover the entire chain of innovation from the idea up to the deployment. The Secure Societies challenge, often referred to as the ‘Security’ challenge, is a major societal challenge in Horizon 2020, endowed with € 1.7 billion over the seven years of the programme.

In the Security challenge, attention is placed on the development of new systems that can provide solutions to various threats the EU is facing. These systems have to meet the specific needs of end-users such as police, gendarmerie, customs, civil protection and public and private operators of networks and critical infrastructures. Interdisciplinary projects are encouraged. Also, it is often required to build ambitious demonstrators. The calls for proposals encourage any innovation to: 1) fight against crime, illicit trafficking and terrorism, including the fight against the radicalization phenomena; 2) improve the protection and resilience of critical infrastructure, supply chains and transport; 3) strengthen security through border management; 4) improve cybersecurity; 5) increase Europe’s resilience to crises and disasters; 6) ensure privacy and individual freedoms, including on the Internet; 7) ensure the standardization and systems’ interoperability.

The Security challenge will includes more than one hundred topics that will form a coherent set of actions, ranging from research to innovation.


The 2016-2017 edition of the Security challenge work programme was published in October 2015. It comprises 30 topics with a budget of €380 million. The topics require the involvement of end-users in the projects in order to guarantee a strong matching between needs and supplies. Actually, the new programme aims to use research, development, and innovation in security to leverage the « Europeanisation » of practitioners’ demand for innovative solutions and the industrial offers of innovations. This entails four new strategic initiatives, with a total budget of €100 million:

First, Horizon 2020 will provide financial support that frees security practitioners from operational work to focus on forward-looking problem-solving by: exchanging views across borders, analysing the gaps in the tools they need to operate and prioritising future R&D efforts. This approach will consolidate the needs and will encourage public and private investments to focus on the consensual R&D priorities.

Second, the programme will promote a structuring of Europe’s industrial fabric in the CBRN (chemical-biological-radiological-nuclear) domain by helping companies, particularly SMEs, expanding both the range of their products and their international business. The goal is to enhance the position of European industrial players on the global market with efficient and cost-effective solutions for practitioners.

Third, the programme will facilitate synergy between security in the “physical” and digital worlds by financing innovation for the prevention, detection, response and mitigation of physical/cyber threats to Europe’s critical infrastructures.

Finally, the EU will co-finance – with those who eventually acquire such systems – the pre-commercial procurement of R&D for the design of the next generation of certain systems essential to civil protection or law enforcement agencies. These include communication systems for first responders, a tool-kit for forensic laboratories and an information system to support EU civil external actions. This will enhance cross-border co-operation among practitioners through the provision of interoperable and standardised tools.

The remaining €280 million will fund other important security projects. The “resilience to disaster” topics include the demonstration of integrated tools for response planning and scenario building, and the development of an EU-wide approach to improve the control and validation of biological toxins measures. The “fight against crime and terrorism” topics cover the prevention of violent radicalization, the protection of crowds during mass gatherings, the investigation of cybercriminal behaviours, the prevention of high impact petty crimes and high impact domestic violence. Other topics consider the detection techniques on explosives, the detection of explosive precursors and illegal chemicals in the sewage networks, the improvement of methods for data analysis to extend the exploitation of DNA, the enhancement of knowledge of the composition of traces, the prevention of cybercrimes using crypto currencies in the darknet, the detection and neutralization of suspicious light drones, and the video analysis in the context of legal investigation. The “border protection” topics comprise the lessening of the cost of technologies in land border security applications, the technologies of data fusion for maritime security applications, the use of autonomous systems to support missions ranging from surveillance to detection of marine pollution incidents, and the acceptance of « no gate crossing point solutions”. Finally, the digital security theme covers topics like the privacy, the assurance and certification for trustworthy ICT systems, the protection of SMEs, local governments and individuals against cyberattacks, and the economics of cybersecurity.


To promote the participation of the French actors to Horizon 2020, the French Ministry of research has set up a national system of support consisting of three types of actors:

First, the French delegates at the programme committees, who are in charge of monitoring the implementation of Horizon 2020 by the Commission. They have a dual role: negotiate the work programme and then vote it. Second, the thematic national group which is a consultation structure composed of stakeholders from the public and private security research sector. Third, the National Contact Point (NCP) for security that is the structure to provide guidance, practical information and assistance on all aspects of participation in Horizon 2020. The NCP organisations can vary from one country to another from highly centralised to decentralised networks, and a number of very different actors, from ministries to universities, research centres and special agencies to private consulting companies. In France, the security NCP for security is a consortium of European experts, whose members represent public research organizations, universities, clusters, the private sector, and the end-users. The NCP basic services are: 1) guidance on choosing relevant H2020 topics and types of action, 2) advice on administrative procedures and contractual issues, 3) training and assistance on proposal writing, 4) distribution of documentation (forms, guidelines, manuals etc.), and 5) assistance in partner search. Note that since 2014, the Commission no longer communicates with potential candidates. NCP became the interlocutor of all those wishing to participate in European projects of innovation

Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) is also an important structure that supports SMEs at the regional level in innovation, internationalization and access to the EU and global market. For SMEs with big ambitions to innovate and grow, EEN can provide them with tailored support packages in order to maximise their chance of success. EEN has 600 member organisations, including chambers of commerce and industry, technology centres, and development agencies. Many Horizon 2020 regional events are jointly organized by NCP and EEN.

Besides the above-mentioned structures, in France, the committee of the industrial sector of security that is referred as CoFIS, is responsible for developing a forward-looking vision of the security needs. For example, in November 2015, CoFIS published an avant-garde study entitled “Analysis of the market and actors of the French industrial sector of security – Synthesis”. The study allowed outlining a market segmentation of 58 sub-segments distributed in 5 big categories whose 3 concentrate the core of the industry (composed of 1,100 companies) within the trade activities (composed of 10,000 companies), with a dozen of international leaders and a hundred of innovative SMEs. The CoFIS has also the responsibility of organising the different sources of R&D funding in France in order to secure the funding of the strategic projects throughout their development. Thus the CoFIS plays a major role in the implementation of national programmes of security innovation. The CoFIS also advises the French delegates at the Horizon 2020 security programme committee to ensure consistency and complementarity between the national and European instruments.

Last but not least, the ministerial delegation to the industries of security, referred as DMIS, works on the connection between the security industry supplies and the public and private actors’ needs. Under Horizon 2020, the DMIS contributes to the rapprochement between the holders of innovative projects and the end-users (both practitioners and operators of critical infrastructures). This role is crucial to demonstrate the feasibility of the innovative solutions.

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