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Research infrastructure services for rapid research responses to COVID-19 and other infectious disease epidemics

General information Programme

Horizon Europe Framework Programme (HORIZON)

Call: Research infrastructure services for rapid research responses to COVID-19 and other infectious disease epidemics (HORIZON-INFRA-2021-EMERGENCY-02)

Type of action: HORIZON-RIA HORIZON Research and Innovation Actions

Type of MGA: HORIZON Action Grant Budget-Based [HORIZON-AG]

Deadline model: single-stage

Planned opening date: 13 April 2021

Deadline date: 06 May 2021 17:00:00 Brussels time

Topic description


Project results are expected to contribute to all the following expected outcomes:

  • comprehensive catalogue of research infrastructure services relevant to tackle infectious diseases epidemics is available, including services supporting pertinent social sciences research;
  • fast assembly and provision of innovative, customised and efficient research infrastructure services to support research linked to detecting, assessing and combatting newly emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants;
  • challenge driven integration of research infrastructures to better support research addressing infectious diseases and face epidemics, including for use by epidemics risk assessment and risk management bodies (such as the European Centre for Disease prevention and Control (ECDC), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) and national epidemics management bodies);
  • rapid response to epidemics outbreaks through research infrastructure services underpinning and supporting research aiming to understand causes and development of the epidemic;
  • development of novel/adapted epidemics intervention tools and measures enabled by relevant research infrastructure (RI) services;
  • availability of research data emerging from access provision activities for re-use on common data platforms and registries, according to FAIR principles and compliant with legal provisions under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).


Proposals under this action, will integrate research infrastructure services to form a comprehensive and inclusive portfolio to support research in response to infectious disease epidemics or underpinning respective forefront research in the field. As a first immediate challenge, the delivered services should support research targeting newly emerging SARS-Cov-2 variants and addressing the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

Proposals will support the provision of trans-national and/or virtual access to researchers as well as training for using the infrastructures, and activities to improve, customise and integrate the services the infrastructures provide, so as to facilitate and integrate the access procedures and to further develop the remote or virtual provision of services.

Access to research infrastructure services will be provided to users to support their research projects targeting the development of new or adapted prevention and/or intervention tools and measures, such as new or adapted diagnostic procedures and therapies, drugs, vaccines, clinical disease management or disease vector control, or evidence-based public health, socio-behavioural and socio-economic measures. Priority should be given to supporting research projects targeting newly emerging virus variants, focusing on their detection, characterisation, surveillance and assessment (changes in transmissibility and disease manifestation) and on the adaptation of intervention and prevention measures (medication, vaccines, public health measures) which likely also requires additional regulatory and clinical trials support.

Following the One-Health concept, services supporting research on transmission of pathogens from animals to humans (or vice versa animals as host reservoir), including vector-borne transmission, should be covered. Research infrastructures dealing with social science should be involved to enable data acquisition enhancing understanding of individual and population perceptions and behaviours in an epidemic setting, including public response to intervention measures such as social distancing, vaccine campaigns, etc., over the course of an epidemic. Flexibility in the provision of services should be properly demonstrated to ensure fast re-orientation and expansion of the portfolio in response to unexpected epidemics situations, including emerging threats posed by new SARS-CoV-2 variants. Effective operational links to epidemics risk assessment and management bodies like ECDC, WHO, OIE, a possible future EU Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority (EU-HERA) and national authorities are essential. Global standards, relevant data platforms and registries should be used to make user project results openly available and usable, thus enabling further research on pathogens, disease manifestation, behavioural research and other epidemics related social science research.

Appropriate links should be ensured with the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), the European COVID-19 Data Platform and the newly established Population Health Information Research Infrastructure for COVID-19 (PHIRI). Data management (and related ethics issues) and interoperability should be addressed.

To identify and better exploit related synergies, share results and avoid overlaps, grants awarded under this action should cooperate with those awarded under the Other action “FAIR and open data sharing in support of European preparedness for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases”. To this extent, proposals should provide for dedicated activities and earmark appropriate resources.

Pandemics are global challenges and collaboration with relevant international partners should be envisaged.

Proposals should adhere to the guidelines and principles of the European Charter for Access to Research Infrastructures[1].

Proposals should make available to researchers the widest and most comprehensive portfolio of research infrastructures services which are relevant for the scope. To this extent, they should involve, as beneficiaries or as third parties, the necessary interdisciplinary set of research infrastructures of European interest[2] that provide such services. The inclusiveness of the proposal will be taken into account in the Excellence score.

Research infrastructures from third countries[3] may be involved when appropriate, in particular when they offer complementary or more advanced services, including data, than those available in Europe.

Proposals could consider, for their inclusion in the service portfolio, relevant services and expertise offered by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) , and in particular by its Nanobiotechnology laboratories[4], on high-end characterisation of therapeutics against pandemics, including antibodies, viral antigens, vaccine nanocarriers, and, more in general, on characterisation of nanomaterials, nanomedicines and advanced materials.

Grants awarded under this action are expected to duly contribute to any future Partnership for Pandemic Preparedness that might be established under Horizon Europe.

Proposals should include an outreach plan to actively advertise its services to targeted research communities and, if applicable, to relevant industries, including SMEs.

Proposals are expected to exploit synergies and to ensure complementarity and coherence with other EU grants supporting access provision.

Proposals will include the list of services/installations[5] opened by research infrastructures for trans-national or virtual access and the amounts of units of access made available for users.

Further conditions and requirements relating to access provisions that applicants should fulfil when drafting a proposal are given in the “Specific features for Research Infrastructures” section of this Work Programme. Compliance with these provisions will be taken into account during evaluation.Expected Impact:

Proposals should set out a credible pathway to contributing to several of the following impacts

  • enhancement of EU capacity to identify, characterise and mitigate the effects of COVID-19 virus variants of concern, and future emerging pathogens of public health concern;
  • reinforced research infrastructures capacity to provide at scale and across the EU services to support excellent research to address societal challenges, and Horizon Europe objectives;
  • enhanced and increased society’s long-term and consistent problem-solving capacity and evidence-based policy making in areas linked to health, including a better understanding of socio-economic implications, through the provision of innovative, customised and efficient RI services;
  • new discoveries and knowledge breakthroughs enabled by access provision to the best and in some cases unique state-of-the-art RIs;
  • a new generation of researchers trained to optimally exploit all the essential and advanced tools for their research.


[2]A research infrastructure is of European interest when is able to attract users from EU or associated countries other than the country where the infrastructure is located. This includes ESFRI and ERIC infrastructures.

[3]See the Eligibility conditions for this action.

[4]For the participation of the JRC see General Annex B.

[5]‘Installation’ means a part or a service of a research infrastructure that can be used independently from the rest. A research infrastructure consists of one or more installations.

Topic conditions and documents

 1. Admissibility conditions: described in General Annex A of the Work Programme.

Applicants are not required to submit a plan for the exploitation and dissemination of the results, as the main objective of these actions is the service provision.

As proposals need to give information on the research infrastructures providing access, the page limit of the application is 100 pages.

 Proposal page limits and layout: The layout of the proposal is described in General Annex E of the Work Programme. Please refer to the Application Form available in the Submission System.

 2. Eligible countries: described in General Annex B of the Work Programme.

 3. Other eligibility conditions: described in General Annex B of the Work Programme.

The following additional eligibility criteria apply: Given the specific nature of this action, access provision activities must be included in the proposal. Please read carefully the provisions under the section “Specific features for Research Infrastructures” at the end of this work programme part before preparing your application.

Due to the urgency and geographical relevance of this action and considering the Union’s interest to retain, in principle, relations with the countries associated to Horizon 2020 and other third countries in the process of association to Horizon Europe, legal entities established in Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Faroe Islands, Georgia, Iceland, Israel, Kosovo[[This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.]], Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine and United Kingdom are eligible for funding from the Union even if the Horizon Europe association agreement with the third country concerned does not apply at the time of signature of the grant agreement.

The consortium must include at least one independent legal entity established in a Member State and at least two other independent legal entities each established in different Member States or countries listed above.

Considering the Union’s interest to make accessible to its researchers the most advanced research infrastructures, wherever they are in the world, legal entities established in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, Singapore and USA, which provide, under the grant, access to their research infrastructures to researchers from Member States and Associated Countries, are exceptionally eligible for funding from the Union under this topic.

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) may participate as member of the consortium selected for funding.

 4. Financial and operational capacity and exclusion: described in General Annex C of the Work Programme.

 5. Evaluation and award:

  •  Award criteria, scoring and thresholds: described in General Annex D of the Work Programme.

The following additions to the general award criteria apply:

For the ‘Excellence‘ criterion, in addition to its standard sub-criteria, the following aspects will also be taken into account:

  • The extent to which the access activities (trans-national and/or virtual access) will offer access to the state-of-the-art infrastructures of European interest in the field, high quality services, and will enable users to conduct excellent research.
  • The extent to which the project will contribute to facilitating and integrating the access procedures, to improve the services the infrastructures provide and to further develop their on-line services.
  •  Submission and evaluation processes: described in General Annexes E and F of the Work Programme and in the Online Manual.

The granting authority can fund a maximum of one project.

  •  Indicative timeline for evaluation and grant agreement: Information on the outcome of evaluation: at the earliest at the beginning of July 2021.
    Indicative timing for the signing of grant agreements: 3 months after the sending of the information on the outcome of evaluation.

 6. Legal and financial set-up of the grants: described in General Annex G of the Work Programme.

Eligible costs may take form of unit costs for trans-national and virtual access to research infrastructures as defined in the Decision authorising the use of unit costs for the actions involving trans-national and virtual access (see Annex 2 of the Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement).

Call document and annexes:

HE Standard Application Form – specific form is available in the Submission System
HE MGA – Multi and Mono V1.0
These documents are for reference only; for submission of proposals, the documents provided in the submission system should be used.

Additional documents:
General Introduction to the HE Work Programme 2021-2022
Research Infrastructures Work Programme 2021-2022
General Annexes to the HE Work Programme 2021-2022

EU Financial Regulation 2018/1046
Rules for Legal Entity Validation, LEAR Appointment and Financial Capacity Assessment
EU Grants AGA — Annotated Model Grant Agreement
Funding & Tenders Portal Online Manual
Funding & Tenders Portal Terms & Conditions
Funding & Tenders Portal Privacy Statement

Start submission

The submission system is planned to be opened on the date stated on the topic header. You are invited to start building your consortium and start preparing your application as soon as possible, even before the opening of the Submission System. To this end, you can use the “Standard Application Form” provided in the “Topic Conditions” section. However, for the actual submission, you MUST use the specific form that is available in the Submission System, in particular for describing access provision activities.

Get support

Please read carefully all provisions below before the preparation of your application.

Online Manual is your guide on the procedures from proposal submission to managing your grant.

Horizon Europe Programme Guide contains the detailed guidance to the structure, budget and political priorities of Horizon Europe.

Funding & Tenders Portal FAQ – find the answers to most frequently asked questions on submission of proposals, evaluation and grant management.

Research Enquiry Service – ask questions about any aspect of European research in general and the EU Research Framework Programmes in particular.

Enterprise Europe Network – contact your EEN national contact for advice to businesses with special focus on SMEs. The support includes guidance on the EU research funding.

IT Helpdesk – contact the Funding & Tenders Portal IT helpdesk for questions such as forgotten passwords, access rights and roles, technical aspects of submission of proposals, etc.

European IPR Helpdesk assists you on intellectual property issues.

CEN and CENELEC, the European Standards Organisations advise you how to tackle standardisation in your project proposal. Contact CEN-CENELEC Research Helpdesk at

The European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for their recruitment – consult the general principles and requirements specifying the roles, responsibilities and entitlements of researchers, employers and funders of researchers.

Partner Search Services help you find a partner organisation for your proposal.