In this guide, I try to give some advice on the European calls available (i.e. direct funds), explaining the tools I deal with.

European funding programmes are varied and cover different sectors, so it is quite difficult to manage all of them as a European designer.

In this guide, I will focus only on those programmes that I generally use for my customers, which are mainly related to research and development projects, as well as product innovation, processes or services, environmental sustainability, and circular economy. 

Horizon Europe

The Horizon Europe Programme

HORIZON EUROPE is the New European Research and Innovation Programme (almost 90 billion euros from 2021 to 2027).

Horizon Europe is the programme for research and innovation, through the digital, ecological and social transition. It aims to strengthen the scientific and technological basis of the EU, improve the innovative capacity and competitiveness of the industrial system and generate employment in Europe. 

Horizon Europe is structured in 3 Pillars: 

PILLAR 1: Scientific Excellence

 – PILLAR 2: Global challenges and European industrial competitiveness

– PILLAR 3: Innovative Europe

Pillar 2 is divided into 6 thematic clusters: it supports research on social challenges, aims to strengthen technological and industrial capacities in Europe. It establishes a list of ‘missions’ which aim to solve some of the biggest problems of society. Furthermore, it promotes cooperation between scientific and industrial partners, in order to improve the entire ecosystem of Research and Innovation. The approach is based on a greater impact and the increase of open science for a better dissemination of R&I results and free access to research data.

Pillars Horizon Europe

My experience as an External Expert of the European Commission

Since 2015, I have been collaborating with the European Commission as an external expert for the Horizon 2020 Programme, in particular the EIC – Sme Instrument and Fast Track to Innovation programmes.

This activity, linked to the evaluation and monitoring of projects, has allowed me to acquire skills regarding the feasibility of projects, their technological and scientific excellence, and the implementation of innovative business projects. 


The Erasmus+ Programme

Erasmus+ is the European programme dedicated to mobility through funding, which allows participants to study, train, gain experience, and volunteer abroad.

The new Erasmus + Programme offers opportunities of studying abroad, internships, staff exchanges in all areas of education, training, youth and sport. It is open to school students of higher education and vocational education and training, adult learners, young people participating in an exchange, youth workers and sports coaches. 

70% of the budget will finance learning mobility projects in Europe and beyond, while 30% will be allocated to transnational cooperation projects. 

Erasmus + 2021 – 2027 aims to be even more inclusive and to support green and digital transitions, investing in environmental awareness projects and in the development of high-quality digital skills, through platforms such as eTwinning, School Education Gateway and the Portal European for young people. 

DiscoverEU now becomes an integral part of Erasmus + and offers 18-year-olds the chance to get a train ticket to travel across Europe, learn from other cultures and meet other young Europeans.

Personally, I follow Erasmus+ projects where companies are involved, in relation to the design of actions KA1 – “Individual mobility for learning” and KA 2 Strategic Partnerships. 


The Life+ Programme

The Life+ Programme is dedicated to protection of the environment and nature. The general objective of Life+ is to contribute to the development, implementation and updating of EU policy and legislation on climate and the environment, always keeping in line with the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy, including:

  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 20% compared to 1990.
  • Achievement of at least 20% of the energy requirement from renewable sources.
  • A 20% increase in energy efficiency.

The specific objectives of the Life+ Programme are listed below:

  • Shift to a resource-efficient economy, reducing emissions and tackling climate change. Among the key objectives are the protection of the environment and biodiversity, including support for the Natura 2000 network, as well as combating the degradation of ecosystems.
  • Development, implementation and application of the Union’s environmental and climate policy and legislation, through the promotion and dissemination of environmental and climate objectives in the Union policies.
  • Promotion of environmental and climate governance at all levels, including increased participation of civil society, NGOs, and local actors.
  • Implementation of the Seventh Environmental Action Programme.

To achieve these objectives, two sub-programmes have been established:

– ENVIRONMENT, with the following priority sectors:

  • Nature and biodiversity.
  • Environment and resource efficiency.
  • Environmental governance and information.

– CLIMATE, with the following priority sectors:

  • Climate change mitigation.
  • Climate change adaptation.
  • Climate governance and information.

The types of projects that can be financed are different:

– Traditional projects including:

  • Good practice projects that apply already-consolidated best practices in their own territory, adapting them to their reference context.
  • Demonstration projects to experiment new methodologies and techniques, which are tested elsewhere in their own context, disseminating the results to promote their use.
  • Pilot projects applying new methods and techniques that have not yet been tested.
  • Public information and awareness projects on the environment and climate.

– Integrated projects: These are projects developed by the Member States to implement plans and strategies of wide territorial scopes that are required by the EU in the nature, water, waste, and air sectors.

– Technical assistance projects: These are projects to help applicants prepare integrated projects, in coordination with other funds.

– Preparatory projects: These projects are identified by the Commission, in collaboration with Member States, to support specific needs for the implementation and development of EU environmental and climate policy and legislation.

Personally, I follow traditional projects, in particular pilot projects, where you can apply new prototype technologies that have already been tested in the laboratory on real pilot plants (full scale), in order to solve certain environmental problems.

Do you want to delve deeper into the theme of European calls?


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