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Horizon Europe’s Cluster 4: Digital, Industry and Space

Horizon Europe is looking for digital, industry and space innovations as part of their fourth cluster.

Barrie Dowsett

Chief Executive Officer


5 minute read

With the aim of tackling real-world problems and inspiring and encouraging innovation without barriers, Horizon Europe has a budget of €95.5 billion to spend until 2027 on projects which create new jobs and boost economic growth. An evolved version of Horizon 2020, the previous funding programme which had an available budget of €79 billion, Horizon Europe has five main mission areas and six clusters of calls for projects, supported by varying funding bodies.

Following on from Horizon 2020’s important work in the area, Horizon Europe has now announced its fourth cluster, named Digital, Industry and Space and the different calls for projects in the industry.

What is Cluster 4?

Previously, the UK received around €850 million in funding for projects responding to similar calls from Horizon 2020, so Horizon Europe is poised to continue supporting this critical research. This cluster is part of the foundation for the goal of a more resilient, greener Europe.

Sounds good, right? However, this cluster has gone through a journey to arrive at this point. Revised many times, Cluster 4 has struggled to get off the ground due to the European Commission (EC) wanting to restrict access to some of the topics, especially in quantum and space, to member states only. Some argued that Europe can only achieve great things when it takes advantage of all the talent and expertise available to it, which includes the UK.

Eventually, we made it to Cluster 4 in its final form, with a work programme published here.

Themes and destinations in Cluster 4

The themes of this cluster, called destinations by Horizon Europe, reflect the needs and wants of Europe as we progress in a digitally transformed direction. There are plenty of opportunities, with around 30 topics within each destination, so UK entities working in the field are likely to find something to suit them.
However, the work programme is 512 pages long, 14 of which are dedicated to a table of contents, so it’s nice to have a guide to the destinations before jumping into the work programme.

Climate-neutral, circular and digitised production

This destination supports the Key Strategic Orientations C, A, and D in the Strategic Plan, making Europe a circular, sustainable economy and a resilient, inclusive and democratic society by promoting the development of technologies. Projects submitted to this destination should contribute to Europe’s march towards global leadership in clean and climate-neutral industrial value chains, circular economy and climate-neutral digital systems and infrastructures.

These projects will mostly be in the manufacturing, construction and energy-intensive industrial sectors, or other sectors which need a more transformative change on the path to climate neutrality. €737.5 million has been set aside across 30 topics.

Increased autonomy in key strategic value chains for resilient industry

Again, looking at the KSOs C, A, and D, the projects requested under this destination should form part of the journey towards industrial leadership and increased autonomy within value chains, especially in raw materials. Modernising the industrial models around raw materials, advanced materials, circular value chains and business preparedness, as well as recycling and reuse technologies, are the main themes within this destination, with €766.4 million attributed to these modernisation challenges across 44 topics.

World-leading data and computing technologies

Projects capitalising on data technology development are also supported in Cluster 4, as cloud technology and data infrastructure becomes a higher priority globally. Decentralised intelligence and energy-efficient and trustworthy data management are examples of the 10 topics funded with €346 million.

Digital & emerging technologies for competitiveness & the green deal

The Green Deal permeates many aspects of Horizon Europe’s funding, and energy efficiency is a key part of this. Ultra-low-power processors and robotics, 6G and networking technologies, and other energy-efficient projects can apply for a share of €606.4 million across 38 topics.

Strategic autonomy for developing, deploying, and using global space-based infrastructures, services, applications, and data

The contentious space-based destination is covered by €302.6 million and 31 topics. Horizon Europe wants to ensure that the EU’s capacity to access space and its supply of critical technology and equipment is secured, to foster the space sector competitiveness, in line with the Space Strategy for Europe.

Human-centred and ethical development of digital and industrial technologies

This final destination moves away from technology to focus more on inclusiveness and the ethical consideration which go into technological progress. Through 31 topics and €327 million, projects which support and empower a two-way engagement in the development of technologies, bearing in mind end-users and workers, will find funding.

The UK and Horizon Europe

Fortunately, the UK is expected to become an associated country to Horizon Europe, joining Iceland and Norway currently and another fourteen prospective countries. This means that the UK will have the same rights and obligations as full members of the Programme.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) has applied provisionally since January 1st 2021 and will be adopted following the consent of the European Parliament. Until then, UK entities (universities, research centres, businesses…) can participate in all calls for proposals published to the EC’s website, and any calls published before the adoption of the Horizon Europe Regulation.

The UK will be fully associated with the Horizon Europe programme with one notable exception. The EIC Fund, which is the loan/equity instrument of EIC, or the European Innovation Council, is not available to UK entities, as the UK no longer participates in the financial instruments of the EU. Applicants can apply for grants under the Accelerator but are ineligible for loans or equity. The European Defence Fund is also not available to the UK, as it is not covered by the TCA.

Contributions must be made by the UK, consisting of an operational contribution (for operational and support expenditure) and a participation fee (for the administrative costs).

What should you do now?

If any of the destinations above sound applicable to your project, you can find more information on the Horizon Europe site. Applying for grants is a long and arduous process with a very low success rate, so reading through the documents provided thoroughly will ensure you don’t miss any important information.

For the best chance at accessing this financial aid, you may want to consider a grant bid writing service.

Myriad Associates has years of experience in the field and tested expertise with Horizon Europe and Horizon 2020, among other funding bodies. If you want some reassurance and guidance through the process, don’t hesitate to reach out and see if we can be of service. Get in touch using our contact page or call 0207 118 6045.