Horizon Europe, Global challenges – clusters & missions

Last changed: 23 April 2024

The largest part of the Horizon Europe Programme is dedicated to turning the results of excellent research into innovative solutions that will improve citizens’ daily lives by tackling global challenges.

Known as ‘Pillar II: Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness’, it encourages cross-disciplinary, cross-sectoral, cross-policy and cross-border collaboration in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals by following the principles of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and the competitiveness of the EU’s industries.

Open and upcoming calls are divided into six thematic clusters, each with its own bi-annual work programme, and a series of ‘EU Missions’, which are collected in another bi-annual work programme. The SLU Grants Office usually receives drafts of upcoming work programmes (only accessible to SLU staff), and there may be opportunities for you to provide comments. If you would be interested in doing so, please contact the Grants Office (grantsoffice@slu.se).

The thematic clusters and EU Missions are:

  • Cluster 1 - Health
    Focus: to promote knowledge, build capacity, design, develop and demonstrate innovative solutions to improve human health and wellbeing, as well as develop health care systems.
  • Cluster 4 - Digital, industry and space
    Focus: a climate-neutral, resource-efficient circular industry, advanced materials, digital technology, artificial intelligence, next-generation internet, and space research.
  • Cluster 5 - Climate, energy and mobility
    Focus: to combat climate change by better understanding its causes, evolution, risks, impacts and opportunities, and by making the energy and transport sectors more climate and environment-friendly, more efficient and competitive, smarter, safer and more resilient.

Types of funding

Each thematic cluster is divided into a series of ‘destinations’, further divided into individual topics or calls for proposals. You can read about the motivation, priorities and expected impacts for each destination in the work programmes. All projects funded under each destination should be inspired by these priorities and contribute to achieving one or more of the expected impacts

The calls are ‘top-down’, meaning that the challenge you must address has already been defined, and you should devise the best solution. Each call will indicate the maximum budget and the ‘type of action’, which means the form of the grant. There are three types of grant, all requiring collaboration between at least three partners (organisations) from three different countries – although there are usually more.

  • Research & Innovation Actions (RIA)
    Activities to establish new knowledge or explore the feasibility of new or improved technologies, products, processes, services or solutions. This can include basic and applied research, technology development and integration, and testing, demonstration and validation of small-scale prototypes in a lab or simulated environment. RIA projects are usually expected to achieve Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 3-6.
  • Innovation Actions (IA)
    Activities to produce plans and arrangements or designs for new, altered, or improved products, processes or services. This can include prototyping, testing, demonstrating, piloting, large-scale validation and market replication. IA projects are usually expected to achieve TRL 6-8.
  • Coordination & Support Actions (CSA)
    Activities that contribute to the overall objectives of the Horizon Europe Programme. This can include promoting cooperation between countries to strengthen the European Research Area. CSAs exclude research and innovation activities unless an exception is made within the call.


SLU is always entitled to 100% of our direct costs plus an additional 25% towards indirect costs. However, there are slightly different rules for other kinds of partners, depending on the type of grant:

  • Research & Innovation Actions (RIA)
    All partner organisations, regardless of sector, are entitled to 100% funding of direct costs plus an additional 25% towards indirect costs.
  • Innovation Actions (IA)
    Non-profit organisations (including universities) are entitled to 100% funding of direct costs plus an additional 25% towards indirect costs. All other partner organisations are entitled to 70% funding of direct costs plus an additional 25% towards indirect costs.
  • Coordination & Support Actions (CSA)
    All partner organisations, regardless of sector, are entitled to 100% funding of direct costs plus an additional 25% towards indirect costs.

For SLU, there will almost certainly be a gap between the indirect costs funded by the grant and our actual indirect costs - therefore, you must arrange co-funding.

SLU leadership currently prioritises RIAs, so you can apply for central co-funding when SLU is the project coordinator. For IAs and CSAs, or when SLU is a partner in an RIA, you may be eligible for three-part co-funding (department + faculty + central). Co-funding priorities are reviewed annually, so please make sure to check the latest list of prioritised grants, eligibility criteria, and application process in SLU’s co-funding guidelines.

How to Apply

All calls are announced on the European Commission’s Funding & Tenders Portal, and this is also where you create and submit your application if you are the coordinator. You will always be asked to provide SLU’s Participant Identification Code (PIC) - our PIC is 999887350. If you are a partner in another organisation’s proposal, they will create the application, and you should provide them with SLU’s PIC.

Via the F&T Portal, you can download many reference documents, including a comprehensive Horizon Europe Programme Guide, copies of the latest work programmes, and standard templates. Once you register a draft application in the F&T Portal, you will be able to download an editable version of the proposal template, which may include amendments specific to the call – make sure always to base your proposal on this version.

The application process can be one- or two-stage – this will be specified in the call text. The application consists of an online form and one or more proposal parts, which you upload as pdfs. Each partner must fill in part of the online form with administrative information. The coordinator must add other information to the online form, for example, an abstract, ethics declarations and budgetary data. They must also upload all proposal parts and submit the application.

Stage 1 applications are 10 pages long (plus the online form). Single- or second-stage applications are 45 pages long for RIAs and IAs, and 30 pages for CSAs (plus the online form). Occasionally a particular call may ask for extra information and extend the page limit (e.g. so-called 'lump-sum' projects) or ask for an additional annexe (e.g. projects including 'grants to third parties'). Make sure to check the call text carefully for such instructions. Please note that if the call text does not ask for letters of support/commitment, you must not include them, as the evaluators will disregard them. You must observe the page limit – any additional pages will be automatically removed upon submission and not seen by the evaluators.

There are strict deadlines for Horizon Europe applications indicated in each call. The submission system in the F&T Portal will close at the deadline (usually at 17:00 CET), and late submissions are not accepted. Make sure to submit your application in good time – the F&T Portal can become busy and slow in the hours before the deadline, so a last-minute submission is risky. You can submit and re-submit your application as many times as you want before the deadline, so it is a good idea to submit a version you are happy with a week early and then re-submit as you refine and make final edits. Only your final submission will be evaluated.

Support with your application – From the SLU Grants Office

If you are interested in applying, the Grants Office can answer your questions and, in some cases, offer one-to-one support:

  • If you are coordinating a proposal on behalf of SLU for a call under one of the Clusters or the EU Missions, you are welcome to contact Fiona Reid and Ulf Westerlund for support in developing the proposal content and Hallvard Wie for questions about the budget. The earlier you contact us, the more help we can offer.
  • If you are a partner in a proposal coordinated by an organisation other than SLU, please send any questions to grantsoffice@slu.se.

We have prepared a guide to completing the online form for RIAs, IAs and CSAs. This guidance is aimed at proposal coordinators, but you will also find helpful advice if you are participating as a partner in another organisation’s proposal and have been asked to complete part of the online form.

Please also check out our comprehensive proposal writing advice (applicable to any funder).

Support with your application – From the European Commission

The European Commission offers a lot of guidance to help you understand their funding programmes and prepare your application:

  • There are annual Information Days to present each area of Horizon Europe and describe the open/upcoming calls - these sessions are recorded and available to watch online. If you stream an Info Day session live, you will be given a chance to ask questions.
  • The Horizon Europe Programme Guide contains detailed guidance on the structure, budget and political priorities of Horizon Europe. It also includes details on how to prepare proposals, including cross-cutting issues such as dissemination/communication/exploitation, international cooperation, gender, social sciences & humanities, ethics, open science & data management, and artificial intelligence.
  • The Horizon Europe Work Programme 2023/24 General Annexes set out the general conditions applicable to calls under the Horizon Europe main work programme. They also describe the evaluation and award procedures and other criteria for Horizon Europe funding.
  • The Horizon Europe Online Manual explains how EU grants work and how to manage them electronically in the F&T Portal. It is limited to procedural aspects and explains the functionality of the IT tools behind the Portal (roles and access rights, proposal submission and evaluation, grant management, amendments, etc.).
  • The F&T IT How-To Guide contains step-by-step instructions for all of the tools and features of the F&T Portal.

All Cluster and EU Missions calls are motivated by one or more European/global strategies or policies. You must identify these from the call text and align your project with relevant priorities and targets. Here, we provide links to some of the most important for SLU:

Managing your project

Grant Agreements and Consortium Agreements

SLU's legal affairs unit is responsible for providing support in legal and contractual matters; you can contact them via juridik@slu.se.

Project reporting

You will report your project expenses and results to the European Commission via their Funding & Tenders Portal.

At SLU, it is usually the department's responsibility to provide support during the implementation and administration of projects, including handling financial issues. Each department has a dedicated person with the administrative role 'project finance', with the main task of supporting the implementation and reporting of research projects.

The university administration's support for project accounting and financial reporting to funding bodies primarily comes from the Division of Financial Administration via projektekonomi@slu.se

The Grants Office can advise you on the functionality of the Funding & Tenders Portal and appropriate templates to use (e.g. timesheets, project reporting, audits).

Data management

All Horizon Europe projects have specific data management and open access responsibilities. You can find details and guidance in the Horizon Europe Programme Guide.

If you have questions or need some help with data management in your project, please book a 'Data Date' with someone from Data Management Support, or contact them at dms@slu.se.