European Funding

The European Union allocates considerable financial resources to projects and actions that are related to EU policies and their implementation. This money is used for investments in a broad spectrum of areas, such as sustainable economic development, research & innovation, education, culture, health and environmental protection. Within research and innovation, significant sums have been earmarked for aerospace, yet navigating all of the various funding programmes and streams can be a daunting prospect.

The following webpages serve as a starting point for identifying the funding opportunities available that focus on aerospace – opportunities that are available for both large and small companies, as well as academia. Four areas are covered – aerospace funding opportunities within the Horizon 2020 Work Programme, opportunities within Clean Sky 2, opportunities through SESAR, funding through the Factories of the Future programme.

We want to equip potential applicants with the basic information that is necessary before studying thoroughly the Work Programmes of each programme that is of interest to them and identifying the Open Calls for Proposals, which they deem most suitable.

Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 is the European Commission’s largest ever research and innovation funding programme, with a total budget of over €70bn running from 2014 to 2020. It is structured around three pillars: Excellent Science, Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges. Aerospace is situated within the Societal Challenges pillar and falls within the ‘Smart, Green and Integrated Transport’ area.

The Smart, Green and Integrated Transport Challenge has been allocated a budget of €6.3bn for the period 2014-2020.

There are four key objectives associated with the Challenge:

Resource efficient transport that respects the environment

Better mobility, less congestion, more safety and security

Global leadership for the European transport industry

Socio-economic and behavioural research and forward looking activities for policy making

These are addressed through three main calls:

  • Mobility for Growth – focusing on mode-specific challenges (i.e. aviation, waterborne); cross-modal and/or transport integration specific challenges (i.e. logistics, ITS); and cross-cutting issues
  • European Green Vehicles Initiative – includes both advanced power-train technologies and new vehicle architectures; weight reduction; improved aerodynamics; and rolling resistance and component development for alternative fuel vehicles
  • Automated Road Transport – is the new call area and focuses on supporting the introduction of passenger cars automated to driving level 3 in real traffic conditions from 2020 onwards.
    These calls are outlined in the biannual Work Programme for Smart, Green and Integrated
    Transport which outlines the large majority of support available. The Work Programme can be found by clicking here.

Horizon 2020 – How to participate

For all European funding opportunities, the first place to start is the Participant Portal. It contains a number of useful resources including the H2020 online manual, step-by-step online guide through the Portal processes, reference documents, a search facility for already registered organisations as well as specific details for SME participation with a dedicated H2020 guidance page for SME.

Broadly, there are major types of project (or types of actions, as called by the European Commission) and the most common projects found within the Smart, Green and Integrated Transport Work Programme can be found below:

1. Research and Innovation Actions/Innovation Actions

Carried out in consortia, the aim of Research and Innovation Actions / Innovation Actions is the development of new knowledge, new technologies, products and demonstration activities. Innovation Actions are designed for for technical risk projects and shorter time-to-market projects with TRL between 5 and 8. Research and Innovation Actions are for higher advancement of state of the art technologies between TRL 1 and 6. These projects require the participation of no less than 3 legal entities from 3 different member states, most usually between 4 and 8 countries. For both Research and Innovation Actions / Innovation Actions, project duration is normally 2 to 5 years. Funding is 70% for an Innovation Action and 100% for Research and Innovation Actions.

2. CSAs – Coordination and Support Actions

These are actions that cover not the research itself, but the coordination and networking of projects, programmes and policies. CSA do not finance research and development, but they provide funding for activities coordinating or supporting research actions and strategies, such as networking and exchange actions, cross-border access to research infrastructure, studies, conferences, preparation of studies etc. Funding is 100%, with budgets of €0.5 – €3 million, lasting anywhere between 12-36 months.

3. The SME instrument

As part of the Horizon 2020 programme, the European Commission is hand-picking potentially disruptive businesses to invest and support as part of the SME Instrument. The SME Instrument is divided into 3 phases covering different stages of the innovation cycle. Phase 1 aims to cover the assessment of technical feasibility and market potential of new ideas. The project will be supported by an investment of € 50,000 and the typical duration should be no longer than 6 months. Phase 2 aims to cover R&I activities with a particular focus on demonstration activities (testing, prototype, scale-up studies, design, piloting innovative processes, products and services, validation, performance verification etc.) and market replication encouraging the involvement of end users or potential clients. Project funding should amount to no more than € 2,500,000 and the typical duration of third phase should range from 12 to 24 months. Phase 3 concerns support measures aimed at helping SMEs move towards commercialising their innovative products and services through measures like networking, training, coaching and mentoring, facilitating access to private capital or better interaction with key stakeholders.

Clean Sky 2

Clean Sky 2 (CS2) is a Joint Technology Initiative (JTI) – a public-private partnership that brings together companies, universities, SMEs and the European Commission. Its aim is to develop (as well as demonstrate) break-through technologies for the civil aircra market to cut aircra emissions and noise and secure the future international competitiveness of the European aviation industry.

Clean Sky 2 aims to:

  • Develop innovative energy-efficient aircra that operate worldwide and meet environmental and societal targets for more efficient, safe and environmentally-friendly air transport
  • Achieve its strategic social priorities with sustainable growth, creation of wealth and stable employment in the fields of high technology
  • Win global leadership for the European aerospace sector and its supply chain.

The overall budget is €4 billion, with a €1.8 billion contribution from the European Commission, over a 10-year period from 2014-2023. It accounts for approximately 80% of the Horizon 2020 aerospace budget. 40% of the funds is earmarked for the founding members of CS2 who lead the technical programme and commit for the whole duration. 30% is to be allocated to core partners, selected through open calls at the start of the programme, which will become full Members of the Joint Undertaking. The remaining 30% of funding will be distributed in annual open calls to support the specific tasks.

The Structure of Clean Sky 2

The Clean Sky 2 Programme consists of four different elements: Three Innovative Aircra Demonstrator Platforms (IADPs), for Large Passenger Aircra , Regional Aircra and Fast Rotorcra , operating demonstra- tors at vehicle level; Three Integrated Technology Demonstrators (ITDs), looking at Airframe, Engines and Systems, using demonstrators at system level; The Technology Evaluator (TE), assessing the environmental and societal impact of the technologies developed in the IADPs and ITDs and; Two Transverse Activities (Eco-Design, Small Air Transport), integrating the knowledge of different ITDs and IADPs for specific appli- cations. These can be seen in the chart below:

There are three levels of participants in CS2, each with defined roles and responsibilities:

  • The 16 Leaders deliver the full Clean Sky 2 programme throughout its duration.
  • Core-Partners make substantial long-term commitments to the programme, bringing key competences and technical contributions.
  • Partners will be invited to participate in specific topics and projects in the context of a well-defined limited commitment.

The main types of calls being issued under Clean Sky 2 are the calls for core-partner status and call for proposals, both of which are outlined below.


Core-Partners are private and/or public organisations (SMEs, research establishments, universities or industry) who have either bid alone or jointly through clusters or consortia for Core-Partner roles. Core-partners take on a strategic commitment which is substantial both technically and financially and take on a major role in coordinating a major work-package.

Calls for Proposals (or ‘Calls for Partners’)

Partners will be invited to participate in specific topics and projects in the context of a well-defined commitment. Partners are chosen following calls for proposals issued by the Clean Sky Joint Undertaking (CSJU) – the Clean Sky administrative function. Looking ahead, the Clean Sky Joint Undertaking envisages a regular schedule of two Calls for Proposals (Partners) per year is foreseen through to 2020, with roughly €90 million available in indicative call value per year.

For full details of the Clean Sky programme, click here to access the programme overview produced by the Joint Undertaking

Clean Sky 2 – How to participate

All Clean Sky calls can be applied to through the Participant Portal of the European Commission.

The Clean Sky Joint Undertaking has a helpful FAQs section in the March 2016 issue of the Clean Sky ‘Skyline’ publication which can be found by clicking here.

Clean Sky 2 for SMEs

The participation of Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is encouraged in Clean Sky. Three options are open to SMEs:

  • Membership in a cluster having the status of Associate
  • Direct partnership, as Partner, a er successful response to a CFP
  • Provision of service or supply of products, a er successful response to a Call for Tender.

The clustering option allows participation in several ITDs and over the whole duration of Clean Sky, with financial support amounting to 50% of the cost, depending on eligibility. The participation as Partner gives access to funding up to 75% of the cost for universities and research centres, and 50% for private companies.

Single European Sky Air Traffic Management research (SESAR)

Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) is a collaborative project designed to overhaul European airspace and its air traffic management (ATM). The funding programme is managed by the SESAR Joint Undertaking. European airspace and ATM procedures will be improved by modernising ATM through the definition, development, validation and deployment of new technological and operational ATM solutions and there is funding available to organisations wishing to cooperate in this endeavour.

The SESAR 2020 Programme is is split into three main research phases:

SESAR2020 – How to participate – SESAR 2020 consists of three categories:

Exploratory research; conducted through open calls.

Applied research including, pre-industrial development and validation projects (delivered only by the Members of the SESAR Joint Undertaking)

Very large scale demonstrations (VLDs) which are designed as demonstrations of particular programme concepts. These demonstrations provide the bridge between the development and deployment phases of the SESAR project and are delivered through work undertaken by SJU Members, supplemented by open calls to ensure stakeholder participation.

All research calls can be found on the European Union’s participant portal which can be found here.

Factories of the Future

The Factories of the Future Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiative is aimed at helping EU manufacturing enterprises, in particular SMEs, to adapt to competitive pressures by developing new technologies. To date approximately 130 UK companies have/are participating in the PPP, 57 of which are industrial companies (the others being Research and Technology companies, Universities etc.)

Specific R&D objectives are:

  • High-tech manufacturing processes, including 3D printing, nano- and microscale structuring.
  • Adaptive and smart manufacturing equipment and systems, including mechatronics, robotics,photonics.
  • Resource-efficient factory design, and data management for increased production performance
  • Collaborative and mobile enterprises, networked factories linking dynamically supply chains to localproduction.
  • Human-centred manufacturing: designing the workplaces of the future.
  • Customer-focused manufacturing: linking products and processes to innovative services.

Factories of the Future – How to participate

The Factories of the Future Work Programme can be found by clicking here. It contains an overview of the PP along with a number of upcoming calls.

What Support is Available

A comprehensive support system is in place for potential UK applicants.

Government Horizon 2020 web Portal

The Government has a dedicated webpage which provides advice and guidance on the opportunities associated with Horizon 2020. It contains information on eligibility, advice on what funding is available as well as the contact details on the National Contact Points.

Calls for Proposals (or ‘Calls for Partners’)

The role of the NCPs is to provide support on the application process, the administration associated with applying (forms, guidelines and manuals), advice on finding a project partner and liaising with the European Commission on the scope of projects. The National Contact Point for Transport is

Louise Mothersole

ATI Support

The ATI is also available to provide advice and guidance for potential applicants. The ATI’s advice will focus on the current state of programmes such as the collaborative calls within Horizon 2020, Clean Sky 2 and SESAR. The ATI’s contacts are

Scott Pendry
Chris Low

The Enterprise Europe Network (EEN)

In addition to the above sources of support, the European Enterprise Network is able to provide support on areas such as finding and connecting with potential business partners across Europe and account management for organisations receiving Horizon 2020 funding. The EEN support page can be found here.

SMEs are recommended to apply for funding starting with phase 1, however they are allowed to apply directly to phase 2 or even phase 3, depending on the stage of their project. Successful completion of one phase will allow an SME to move on directly to the next one.