What is Horizon 2020, and how to get a EUR 50,000 grant for development of your project?

Ihor Arkhypenko, Head of Projects and Programs at Kyiv IT Cluster and application evaluation expert for Horizon 2020, speaks about what Horizon 2020 is, what the program’s benefits are and how to file a grant application the right way. In 2018, applications are accepted until 7 November, so if you’re looking for an investment, you should check out this grant option.

What is Horizon 2020?

Horizon 2020 is the European Union’s largest framework program of financing science and innovations with the total budget of almost EUR 80 billion available in 2014-2020.

How to apply?

To apply, you have to register your company in the system and submit your application from the company profile section. On the 10-page application form, you have to answer the following general questions:

  • Problem
  • Solution
  • Economic and social effect of your solution
  • Business model
  • Market launch plan
  • Project’s financing (acceptable even if zero or by founders only so far)
  • Intellectual property and legal aspects
  • Implementation, what has been done and what is going to be done
  • Work plan: where and how the funding will be spent, expected phases and results if funding is approved
  • The team and partners. The team’s achievements, memorandums or letters from potential clients

Answer every question thoroughly, because experts evaluate not the project in general but your answers to every particular question. Therefore, if you simply take a ready text on 10 pages and submit it, it won’t work even if your project is good – it still can fail to pass. At the same time, it is not a problem if a certain aspect of your project hasn’t been worked out yet; what’s important is to explain in every point what you plan to implement and at what stage.

What if my text is short of 10 pages but still contains full and adequate description of my product?

There is no such requirement to make your description on exactly 10 pages; it could be 6 or 8, but should not be more than 10.

But that’s where a problem occurs, and there are several reasons for that:

  1. People themselves don’t know what they do, and therefore, have no idea what they can write on 10 pages. Still, if you know what your project is, do not make things up and just answer the questions as thoroughly as you can.
  2. Everything must be written in English. To me, it’s not a problem, as you can write your presentation in Ukrainian and order professional translation from an agency. This way, you’d solve several problems at once: you’d describe your project and have an English translation of it, which you could submit for any other programs. It would cost you some 2000 hryvnias.
  3. Legal aspect. You need a company to apply for a grant.
  4. When visiting Horizon 2020 website, people get lost in the diversity of programs and open contests, each having its own requirements and descriptions, so it might not be clear where exactly to apply. Moreover, one of the preconditions for eligibility was the availability of at least two partners from European countries (EU member states or Horizon 2020 associate member states). However, the new SME Instrument 2018-2020 does not have this requirement, so your startup may apply independently using SME Instrument’s general application form. The program suitable for almost any project for validation of its idea or product is SME instrument phase 1.



There is a belief that the project’s description must be as academic as possible, but in fact, it is not true. As a project evaluation expert for Horizon 2020, I can assure you that 60% of applications aren’t compliant with all requirements and contain a simple description. However, if you want your application approved, you should devote sufficient time to make it right.

This is a grant program, and you won’t be required to part with any corporate rights. Moreover, after receiving 50,000 euros in financing at the first stage and successfully presenting your report, you may be eligible for the next stage and financing of over 1 million euros. The second stage is somewhat more difficult, requiring verification of hypothesis presented at the first stage, a full-fledged business plan, market analysis, detailed description of your action plan, budget estimates and terms of engaging third parties to implement your project. At this stage, you might need services of a specialist to write an application, but you can easily go through the first stage yourself.

This summer, I attended a meeting of project evaluation experts for Horizon 2020, and I have some interesting statistics regarding this program:

  • 47,000 applications submitted over four years;
  • 3200 financed projects;
  • 57% of financed projects are companies with less than 10 employees;
  • 51% of financed projects are startups younger than 6 years. Every year, the number of startups is steadily growing, which proves the growth of small and medium-sized businesses;
  • Among the top 10 financed sectors are MedTech, CleanTech, Energy, Analytics, Transportation, Semiconductors, Robotics, Security, IoT, Agritech.

As follows from this photo, Ukraine is not among the leaders in the number of financed projects, and the actual problem here is not because our projects aren’t interesting but because the number of projects submitted from Ukraine is 10 times lower than that coming from Italy or Spain. A detailed report is available here.

In order to increase the number of financed projects from Ukraine, we at Kyiv IT Cluster are working on an online project of supporting startups applying for grants. If you have any ideas or proposals, please email them to us at igor@itcluster.kiev.ua. Also, h2020.com.ua website contains a list of national contact points for particular areas of EU’s Horizon 2020 framework program, which can provide consultative help.

In 2018, applications are accepted until 7 November.

By Ihor Arkhypenko, Head of Projects and Programs at Kyiv IT Cluster and application evaluation expert for Horizon 2020

The article was originally published on AIN.ua