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Societal Challenges

The Societal Challenges in Horizon 2020 reflect European policy priorities addressing major concerns shared by citizens in Europe and elsewhere. A challenge-based multidisciplinary approach will bring together resources and knowledge across different fields, technologies and disciplines, including social sciences and the humanities.

  • 1. Health

    Health, demographic change and well-being

    Europe is facing four main healthcare challenges: (1) the rising and potentially unsustainable health and care costs, mainly due to the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, to an ageing population requiring more diversified care and to increasing societal demands; (2) the influence on health of external environmental factors including climate change; (3) the risk to lose our ability to protect the populations against the threats of infectious diseases; and (4) health inequalities and access to health and care.

    2018-2020 Work Programme

    The Work Programme aims to deliver solutions for a better health for all by: (1) moving towards the effective integration of personalised medicine approaches into healthcare services and systems to the benefit of patients and citizens; (2) fighting infectious diseases and the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance; (3) addressing the needs of the most vulnerable groups and the global increase of chronic diseases; (4) decoding the role of environment – including climate change and air quality – on health and developing mitigating measures; (5) exploring the digital potential for health innovation and healthcare, including the building of a 'European health research and innovation cloud'; and (6) stimulating innovation in the European healthcare domain and industry by exploring the application of advanced technologies, improving the health of the workforce and promoting regulatory science.

  • 2. Food and bio-economy

    Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine, maritime and inland water research, and the bio-economy

    A transition is needed towards an optimal and renewable use of biological resources and towards sustainable primary production and processing systems. These systems will need to produce more food, fibre and other bio-based products with minimised inputs, environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions, and with enhanced ecosystem services, zero waste and adequate societal value.

    2018-2020 Work Programme

    The Work Programme focuses on the sustainable management of land and waters to secure healthy food as well as on the delivery of public goods such as biodiversity and clean water. Furthermore, it supports innovative food and marine industries, the bioeconomy and dynamic rural areas. The five main priorities in the Work Programme are: (1) addressing climate change and resilience on land and sea; (2) making the transition towards a circular bioeconomy; (3) fostering functional ecosystems, sustainable food systems, healthy lifestyles; (4) boosting major innovations on land and sea – new products, value chains and markets; and (5) developing smart, connected territories and value chains in rural and coastal area.

  • 3. Energy

    Secure, clean and efficient energy

    To make the transition to a competitive energy system, we need to overcome a number of challenges, such as increasingly scarce resources, growing energy needs and climate change.

    The seven main objectives in the programme are: (1) reducing energy consumption and carbon footprint; (2) low-cost, low-carbon electricity supply; (3) alternative fuels and mobile energy sources; (4) a single, smart European electricity grid; (5) new knowledge and technologies; (6) robust decision making and public engagement; and (7) market uptake of energy and ICT innovation.

    2018-2020 Work Programme

    The Work Programme supports research, demonstration, innovation and market-uptake actions across different low-carbon energy sectors, notably in the core priorities identified in the Energy Union Strategy: renewable energy; smart energy systems; energy efficiency; and, as an additional priority, Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS).

  • 4. Transport

    Smart, green and integrated transport

    The Transport Challenge aims to boost the competitiveness of the European transport industries and achieve a European transport system that is resource-efficient, climate-and-environmentally-friendly, safe and seamless for the benefit of all citizens, the economy and society.

    2018-2020 Work Programme

    The Work Programme is structured in four broad lines of activities aiming at: (1) resource efficient transport that respects the environment; (2) better mobility, less congestion, more safety and security; (3) global leadership for the European transport industry; (4) socio-economic and behavioural research and forward looking activities for policy making.

  • 5. Climate

    Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials

    Activities in the Climate Challenge help to increase European competitiveness, raw materials security and improve wellbeing. At the same time they assure environmental integrity, resilience and sustainability with the aim of keeping average global warming below 2° C and enabling ecosystems and society to adapt to climate change and other environmental changes.

    The main objectives of the programme are: (1) to achieve a resource – and water - efficient and climate change resilient economy and society; (2) the protection and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems, and (3) a sustainable supply and use of raw materials, in order to meet the needs of a growing global population within the sustainable limits of the planet's natural resources and eco-systems.

    2018-2020 Work Programme

    The Work Programme focuses on moving to a greener, more resource efficient and climate-resilient economy in sync with the natural environment, through six priorities: (1) climate action in support of the Paris Agreement; (2) circular economy; (3) raw materials; (4) water for our environment, economy and society; (5) innovating cities for sustainability and resilience; and (6) protecting and leveraging the value of our natural and cultural assets.

  • 6. Inclusive societies

    Europe in a changing world - inclusive, innovative and reflective societies

    Reducing inequalities and social exclusion in Europe are crucial challenges for the future of Europe. At the same time, there is great potential for Europe through opportunities provided, for example, by new forms of innovation and by the engagement of citizens. Supporting inclusive, innovative and reflective societies is a prerequisite for a sustainable European integration.

    2018-2020 Work Programme

    Pressure from increased migration flows, socio-economic and cultural transformations from new forms of human-technology interaction under the fourth industrial revolution, and new developments in European, national and global governance have the potential to significantly impact Europe's future at many levels. At the same time, and linked to these developments, the citizens' trust in many public institutions and their capacities to address effectively these challenges is weakening while their concerns are increasing. The scientific and innovation priorities under the 2018-2020 Work Programme are focused around three major themes: (1) migration; (2) socio-economic and cultural transformations stemming from the fourth industrial revolution; and (3) governance for the future.

  • 7. Security

    Secure societies - protecting freedom and security of Europe and its citizens

    The primary aims of the Secure Societies Challenge are: (1) to enhance the resilience of our society against natural and man-made disasters, ranging from the development of new crisis management tools to communication interoperability, and to develop novel solutions for the protection of critical infrastructure; (2) to fight crime and terrorism ranging from new forensic tools to protection against explosives; (3) to improve border security, ranging from improved maritime border protection to supply chain security and to support the Union's external security policies including through conflict prevention and peace building; (4) to provide enhanced cyber-security, ranging from secure information sharing to new assurance models.

    2018-2020 Work Programme

    All actions under this Work Programme contribute to the Focus Area 'Boosting the effectiveness of the Security Union'. At the core of research in this area is the development of new products to meet the needs of security practitioners. Research is not just about developing new technologies or applying emerging technologies, but also requires understanding phenomena such as violent radicalisation and the development of more effective policies and interventions.