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Succeeding Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe is the 9th EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, running from 2021 to 2027. With a total budget of €95.5 billion, Horizon Europe is based on ‘new’ policy priorities: the twin green and digital transition, underpinning a climate-driven agenda, and the digitisation of our economy.

Horizon Europe is currently under full implementation. The first biannual work programme (2021-2022) is making way to its newly adopted successor for 2023-2024. This new work programme will make around €13.5 billion available for European research and innovation to tackle the most pressing challenges in Europe and beyond.

The approval of the 2023-2024 work programme encompassed some novelties concerning some specific aspects, ranging from the requirements to the evaluation, application and management of Horizon Europe projects. Among the most relevant aspects are the lump sum grant model, the blind evaluations and the increased importance of gender equality.

Lump sum grant model

Aimed at simplifying the management process, especially for newcomers and inexperienced participants, lump sum grants remove the financial and administrative burden associated to standard Horizon Europe projects. The use of lump sum means that participants are paid upon the completion of the activities as planned in work plan. A good number of topics on the thematic work programmes for 2023-2024 will take shape in lump sum grants.

Blind evaluations

The incorporation of blind evaluations in the assessment process of Horizon Europe projects was conceived to avoid any real or perceived effect of reputational bias that could be subverting the awarding decision. Blind evaluations, where expert evaluators do not know the identity of the project participants, will therefore ensure that project proposals will be evaluated solely based on their excellence. During the thematic work programmes for 2023-2024, blind evaluations will be used at the first stage of all two-stage proposals. Second stage proposals will be evaluated as before.

Gender equality

Aiming at making gender equality a crosscutting principle in Horizon Europe, the 2023-2024 work programmes further upgrades the importance of this aspect in funding decision. Establishing a Gender Equality Plan was already an eligibility criterion (mandatory for public bodies, higher education establishments and research organisations, and recommended for private entities) during the 2021-2022 period, and the integration of a gender dimension in research and innovation was also a relevant evaluation factor. However, in the 2023-2024 work programmes, gender balance among personnel named in proposals is one of the top 3 ranking criteria for tie-breaking ex-aequo proposals.

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