Horizon 2020 is the EU’s Research and Innovation Programme in line with the Europe 2020 strategy and the ‘Innovation Union‘ flagship initiative. The Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme has a budget of nearly 80 billion euro for the time period 2014 – 2020. Research is seen as a crucial investment in the EU’s future, and the available funds from Horizon 2020 are utilised to drive economic growth and create jobs in the European region through breakthroughs in science and innovation. 

Horizon 2020: Work programmes and thematic sections

Horizon 2020 works with multiannual work programmes; currently, the Work Programme 2016-2017 is in place. Each work programme is divided in various thematic programme sections. Each thematic section has its own further specified objectives and calls for research proposals. External parties can answer to these calls by submitting research proposals, after which they might qualify for funding by the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme.

Since population health is – either directly or indirectly – affected by developments in very diverse domains, many of the thematic programme sections possess some relevance from a public health perspective. However, some programme sections are more explicitly and directly linked to population health. One could argue that particularly the multiple programme sections clustered under “societal challenges” are of great relevance for public health professionals.

Horizon 2020: Societal challenges

Horizon 2020 reflects the policy priorities of the Europe 2020 strategy and adopts a challenge-based approach for this purpose. Resources and expertise from different domains, technologies and disciplines are brought together to address the challenges and concerns faced by Europe’s citizens. A substantial part of the Horizon 2020 budget is channelled into projects that address societal challenges in the following fields:

Health, demographic change and wellbeing

As indicated above, one of the thematic programme sections is on “health, demographic change and wellbeing.”  The objectives of this programme section are to keep older people active and independent as long as possible, to contribute to the sustainability of health systems and to support the development of new, safer and more effective interventions in healthcare. During the first two years of Horizon 2020 (Work Programme for 2014 – 2015), around 1200 million euro was allocated to projects in the “health, demographic change and wellbeing” programme section. For the current Work Programme 2016 – 2017, the estimated available budget for “health, demographic change and wellbeing” is approximately 934 million euro. The focus for the period 2016-2017 seems to be on advances in personalised medicine.  

Research and innovation proposals funded by this call are aimed at:

  • improving our understanding of the causes and mechanisms underlying health, healthy ageing and disease
  • improving our ability to monitor health and to prevent, detect, treat and manage disease
  • supporting older persons to remain active and healthy
  • testing and demonstrating new models and tools for health and care delivery


Research and innovation supported by this call can complement and support national and international initiatives, such as the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing or the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases.

The current Work Programme 2016 – 2017 on health, demographic change and well-being can be accessed by clicking here.