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Horizon 2020 has a number of new features that make it fit for purpose to promote growth and tackle societal challenges. These include:

  • Major simplification through a simpler programme architecture, a single set of rules, an easier-to-use cost reimbursement model, a single point of access for participants, less paperwork in preparing proposals, fewer controls and audits, with the overall aim to reduce the average time to grant;
  • An inclusive approach open to new participants, including those with ideas outside of the mainstream, ensuring that excellent researchers and innovators from across Europe and beyond can and do participate;
  • The integration of research and innovation by providing seamless and coherent funding from idea to market;
  • More support for innovation and activities close to the market, leading to a direct economic stimulus;
  • A strong focus on creating business opportunities out of the EU's response to the major concerns common to people in Europe and beyond, i.e. ‘societal challenges’;
  • More possibilities for new entrants and young, promising scientists to put forward their ideas and obtain funding.
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The intellectual property rules for Horizon 2020 programme have been included in the Rules for Participation, as was the case in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)

The rules on intellectual property rights in Horizon 2020 are based on the FP7 rules, with some further improvements and clarifications. There are, however, a few differences, such as:

  • Open access to research publications has more emphasis than in FP7 as it is now a general requirement, the specificities of which will, however, be further defined in each grant agreement. In order to help potential participants, the European Commission has published a fact sheet dedicated to open access in Horizon 2020. This fact sheet can be downloaded here
  • In parallel, a pilot action in Horizon 2020 has been launched regarding Open Research Data aimed at improving and maximising access and re-use of research data generated by certain specific projects. For more information as to the core areas of Horizon 2020 participating in the Open Research Data Pilot as well as to the types of data which the pilot will be applied to, you can read the European Commission Guidelines on Open Access to Scientific Publications and Research Data in Horizon 2020 available here
  • The model grant agreement for Horizon 2020 now makes provision for access rights to project results for the European Union, and in the field of security research also for Member States. Such access rights are limited to certain uses and provided for specific purposes only.
  • Some definitions (e.g. definition of background or affiliated entities) have been slightly changed.
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The European Commission has created an online manual for Horizon 2020, which will feature an intellectual property guide.

The H2020 online manual is currently being updated and can be accessed from the following URL:

The H2020 Annotated Model Grant Agreement is a guide published by the European Commission with the aim to help users to understand and interpret the Grant Agreement clauses, including those related to intellectual property. 

Additionally it provides useful examples and practices. This document is still being completed.

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The general rules concerning intellectual property rights can be found in the Rules for Participation, which apply to all funding programmes carried out under Horizon 2020, as well as in the grant agreement signed between the beneficiaries and the European funding body. A company participating in Horizon 2020 and concluding an agreement with a funding organisation or the Commission, for example signing a grant agreement with the Commission, will have to comply with these rules.

The general IPR rules and requirements applying to Horizon 2020 participants are in many ways similar to those applying under FP7:

  • In terms of ownership of project results, the general principle is that such results are owned by the beneficiary which generates them.
  • In the case where results have been generated by two or several partners jointly, and if it is not possible to establish the joint contribution of each beneficiary or to separate the results for the purposes of applying for, obtaining or maintaining their protection, the model grant agreement establishes a default joint ownership regime.
  • Similarly to FP7, the model grant agreement for Horizon 2020 provides for a general obligation for beneficiaries to exploit and disseminate the project results that they own.
  • The new model grant agreement also provides the obligation for project partners to grant access rights to their background and foreground, for implementation and exploitation purposes.

Specific additional rules concerning intellectual property rights may also be laid down in the grant agreement and work programme applicable to particular projects, for example in areas related to security, infrastructures, European Research Council (ERC), training and mobility, coordination and support, SMEs and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)


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In Horizon 2020 no specific requirements to identify background within the project proposals exist.

The Horizon 2020 Rules for Participation and the General model GA oblige the parties “to identify in any manner and agree in writing” upon the background for the project.  Although not mandatory, it is advised to agree on background before the Grant Agreement is signed, to ensure that beneficiaries have access rights to what is needed to implement the action or exploit the project results.

According to the needs of the project participants, the agreement on background may be a separate agreement (e.g. if it concerns only certain beneficiaries) or may be part of the Consortium Agreement (e.g. attachment 1 of the DESCA 2020 model CA).

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In the context of Horizon 2020 the term beneficiary (i.e. a "participant") is used to describe a legal entity which has signed the Grant Agreement and therefore is bound by its terms and conditions with regards to the European Union (represented by the European Commission or another funding body). The beneficiary must carry out an action or a part of an action funded under Horizon 2020. Furthermore, the term beneficiary also refers to participants that do not receive EU funding but must carry out  tasks under an action and comply with most of the obligations under the Grant Agreement. Beneficiaries not receiving EU funding are usually third country participants - that are neither from an EU Member State nor from an associated country.

On the contrary, other legal entities which participate in Horizon 2020 by carrying out some tasks in an action, but which do not sign the Grant Agreement (including entities linked to the beneficiaries) are considered as "third parties involved in an action" (Article 8 of the General Model GA - multi-beneficiary). They are not bound by the terms and conditions of the Grant Agreement and consequently, the European Union (represented by the Commission or another funding body) has no obligation vis-à-vis third parties. If necessary to implement the action, beneficiaries may use contracts and sub-contracting for the purchase of goods, works or services, in-kind contributions provided by third parties and also linked third parties carrying out tasks under an action.

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The Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme is open to participation for applicants from the following countries:

  • The Member States of the European Union and the Overseas Countries and Territories, linked to the Member States
  • Non-EU Countries. They can be divided into two groups:
    • Non-EU Countries automatically eligible for funding:
      • Countries Associated to Horizon 2020: third countries which are parties to an international agreement with the European Union with regards to this specific framework programme;
      • Third countries: which do not belong to the associated countries but are automatically eligible for funding, except where explicitly excluded in the call for proposal text; an exhaustive list of these countries is published on the Horizon 2020 Participant Portal
    • Non-EU Countries not automatically eligible for funding - applicants from these countries are eligible for funding in cases where the call for proposal explicitly specifies this option, or funding for these applicants is provided in a bilateral scientific and technological agreement, or when the European Commission estimates that participation of such an entity is essential for carrying out an action under Horizon 2020
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In principle any legal entity, regardless of its place of establishment, can participate in Horizon 2020. Depending on the procedure for participation, applicants from third countries are divided into two groups:

  • Automatically eligible for funding - the associated countries and the countries explicitly listed as being automatically eligible
  • Not automatically eligible for funding - though they may still be funded in exceptional cases.

The conditions of particular work programmes may restrict the participation in Horizon 2020, or parts thereof, of legal entities established in third countries where conditions for the participation of legal entities from Member States, or of their affiliated entities established in a third country, in the third country's research and innovation programmes are considered to be prejudicial to the European Union's interests (Article 7.2 of the Horizon 2020 Rules for Participation).

Furthermore, some calls for proposals could require participation of legal entities established in third countries in order to be eligible.

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Yes. In fact, wherever their location (EU and countries associated to Horizon 2020, or third countries), beneficiaries which become involved in a Horizon 2020 project will have to sign the grant agreement with the European Commission. Consequently, these beneficiaries will have the rights and obligations set forth in the grant agreement, in particular with regard to background and project results.

Furthermore, neither the Horizon 2020 Rules for Participation nor the model grant agreement make any distinction between project beneficiaries based on the country they are located in.

However, a distinction is sometimes made between beneficiaries which receive EU funding and beneficiaries which do not, regardless of their location. Indeed, a small number of obligations contained in the model grant agreement will not apply to beneficiaries which do not receive EU funding. For more information, please refer to the FAQ on this topic.

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Several obligations of the model general grant agreement will not apply to beneficiaries which do not receive EU funding. Regarding intellectual property, this concerns in particular articles 26.4, 28.1, 28.2, 30.3 and 31.5, which will not apply to these beneficiaries.

These articles are specific ones which are mostly linked to the EU’s rights over the results – however, the general principles in terms of intellectual property will remain applicable to beneficiaries which do not receive EU funding.

Consequently, the following basic IP rules (as included in the model grant agreement) will apply without any distinction to all project partners, regardless of their benefiting from EU funding or not.

  • Article 25, which foresees access rights to background for implementation and/or exploitation purposes;
  • Article 26.1, according to which the results will be the property of the beneficiary which generates them;
  • Article 26.2, which foresees a default regime applicable to situations of joint ownership;
  • Article 29, which foresees the dissemination of results and open access to scientific publications and research data; 
  • Article 31, according to which beneficiaries have to grant access rights to their results to other beneficiaries when they need such access rights to implement the project and/or to exploit their own results.