Participate in Horizon 2020


Step 1

key-1 (2)

Step 2

key-2 (2)

Step 3


Step 4


Step 5

key-5 (2)

This publication introduces beginners to the wide range of EU funding opportunities available. It offers basic guidance on the application procedures and tells you where to find more details. This guide contains the most recent information about the current EU programmes for the financial period 2014-20.

The guide targets six main categories of potential applicants: small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs), young people, researchers, farmers and public bodies. However, it may also be a valuable source of information for applicants from other fields.


 Main types of funding


1. Grants are awarded to implement specific projects, usually following a public announcement known as a ‘call for proposals’.

A grant serves a specific purpose which is described in the call for proposals. In many cases the EU’s contribution is conditional on the beneficiary providing co-financing.

An example

The European Commission is offering a number of grants through a call for proposals for the period 2014-17. The purpose of the call is to provide funding to organisations which supply information and/or services under the Europe for Citizens programme.

2. Public contracts are awarded through calls for tender (a procedure known as public procurement). They cover a wide range of areas including studies, technical assistance and training, consultancy, conference organisation, IT equipment and many others. The contracts' purpose is to buy services, goods or works to ensure the smooth functioning of EU institutions or programmes.

An example

The European Commission recently published a call for tender under the Cluster Excellence Programme, a component of COSME, the EU programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises. Tenderers are expected to propose professional business services to European SMEs to help develop more world-class business clusters in the EU. The tasks of the chosen contractor will include training, sharing best practice, organising study visits and carrying out impact assessment activities.

Loans, guarantees and prizes are among other possible types of funding.

Decisions to award a grant or contract follow strict rules to ensure that all potential beneficiaries are treated equally and transparently.

Grant recipients and the contractors must apply clear financial rules which enable the European Commission and any other auditing authorities to check how the EU funding is used.

The publication of information on the beneficiaries of EU funding helps to ensure a high level of accountability on the part of the EU institutions.


Who manages the money and decides on awarding grants and contracts?

The European Commission has ultimate political responsibility for ensuring that all money from the EU budget is spent correctly. However, national governments are also responsible for conducting checks and annual audits, as about 80 % of EU funding is managed at country level. In addition, non-EU countries and international organisations are responsible for managing a small part of the EU budget which is allocated to programmes implemented by the Red Cross and the United Nations, for example.

Organisations seeking EU grants or contracts therefore need to check carefully to which institutions they should send their request or proposal.


Main funding sources for Young people

1. Erasmus+

Erasmus+ is the new EU programme for education, training, youth and sport. It aims to boost young people’s skills and employability and to modernise education, training and youth work.

Certain activities are managed centrally by the Education, Audio-visual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) in Brussels while other, ‘decentralised’ activities are managed by national agencies in each country.

2. Combatting youth unemployment

The Youth Employment Initiative supports young people not in education, employment or training in regions with a youth unemployment rate above 25 %. The initiative complements other projects undertaken at national level, including those under the European Social Fund (ESF).

Youth Guarantee is a new approach to dealing with youth unemployment. Unemployed people under 25 — whether registered with job-search services or not — get a good-quality, specific offer of work within four months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed.

The EU will top up national spending on these schemes through the European Social Fund and the Youth Employment Initiative.

3. Young researchers and entrepreneurs

‘Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions are open to researchers in all disciplines, from life-saving healthcare to ‘blue-sky’ science. The activities are implemented by the Research Executive Agency (REA).

COSME — Erasmus for Young Entrepreneuris a cross-border exchange programme which enables aspiring young entrepreneurs to learn from entrepreneurs with experience. It is managed by the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME).


Materials from