Does the Digital Europe Program = Horizon Europe?

The answer is ­čĹë No!

Although both are funded by the EU, they are completely different grant programmes.

Digital Europe is the newest grant program that first started in 2021. It will continue until 2027. Afterwards, his second term will begin.

Horizon Europe is a long-standing grant financing program that lasts for 7 years and evolves into a different program at the end of each 7-year period. Before Horizon Europe, there was Horizon 2020. In 2021, it was replaced by a new 7-year program, Horizon Europe. Horizon Europe provides support through grants to projects in many areas from health, food, agriculture, climate change, cultural heritage, creating common data areas, digital, space and industry to energy and mobility.

The main purpose of the Digital Europe is to ensure a healthy digital transformation of the European Union and its economy and to prepare society/institutions/companies/individuals for this in every aspect. There are calls that have been opened/will be opened in line with the main targets determined for this purpose. You can follow the calls via the Funding&Tenders Portal.

T├╝rkiye joined the DIGITAL Europe programme on September 1, 2023.

DIGITAL Europe is not a subtitle of Horizon Europe. It is a completely different program. These two programs are often confused. Following the questions I received, I decided to examine the DIGITAL Europe program in more detail and prepare a series of articles. In this article series, I will talk about the 3 main documents you should refer to most when writing your project proposal.  

If you are going to apply for an EU grant (such as DIGITAL Europe or Horizon Europe), be sure to have the Work Programme, Call for Proposals for the grant that you want to apply and Application Form with you when writing your project. Read and examine in detail.

In this context, let’s examine the following 3 main documents for the DIGITAL Europe program.

  • DIGITAL Work Programme 2024,
  • DIGITAL Call for Proposals (Advanced Digital Skills)
  • DIGITAL Application Form.

First, letÔÇÖs start with the DIGITAL Work Programme 2024.

DIGITAL Work Programme 2024

DIGITAL Europe Programme aims to strengthen the digital capacity of the EU by focusing on the following key critical areas:

  • artificial intelligence,
  • cyber security,
  • advanced computing,
  • data infrastructures,
  • governance and processing,
  • dissemination of these technologies, and
  • making the best use of these technologies in critical sectors such as energy, climate change and environment, manufacturing, agriculture and healthcare.

The DIGITAL Program also aims to upskill and reskill in the digital field to provide a workforce for these advanced digital technologies. It has started to support the digital transformation of industry, SMEs and public administration with the European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIH) that has been established/will be established to serve this purpose.

With the actions and grant calls in the DIGITAL Europe Work Programme, it is planned to support technologies that are strategically important for the future of Europe and thus achieve the following sub-goals in order to achieve the main goals.

  • Overcoming climate and environmental protection challenges and ensuring the transition to a circular economy by creating a green deal data space and Digital Product Passport,
  • Ensuring the dissemination of sectoral common data areas based on secure and energy-efficient unified cloud-to-edge infrastructure that can be accessed by businesses and the public sector across the EU,
  • Supporting new high-impact activities, such as the establishment of an Exploitation Office to maximize the broad dissemination of results from Cloud IPCEI (European Major Project of Common Interest for Next Generation Cloud and Edge Infrastructure and Services),
  • Development of a cloud-based collaborative platform for the management of industrial programs in the aviation and security sector,
  • Continuing the studies of the sectoral Test and Experiment Facilities financed within the scope of DIGITAL Work Programme 2021-2022 in order to develop a strong ecosystem that will ensure faster adoption of Artificial Intelligence technologies in Europe and widespread use, especially by companies and SMEs; and creation of smart communities data infrastructure,
  • Increasing the capabilities of native digital twins by developing both a platform for advanced virtual human twin (VHT) models and different layers of VR/AR worlds useful for communities,
  • Strengthening the preparedness and response actions of key sectors against cyber threats across the EU,
  • Developing the capacity to educate and attract digital talent through specialized training programmes in the fields of advanced digital technologies for example in cybersecurity and semiconductors; and for this purpose further supporting the excellence of EU education and training institutions in digital fields,
  • Directing and supporting young students, especially girls, to digital fields in the early stages of education, with a longer-term goal of encouraging them to pursue digital studies and careers,
  • Further investment in blockchain adoption in Europe, in creating efficient and interoperable digital public services, as well as building trust in digital transformation and developing the reference framework for urgent needs in energy consumption.

Another of the most important goals served by the DIGITAL Europe program is Green Digital Europe. The projects to be supported are expected to serve and accelerate the Green Digital Europe transition. As a matter of fact, within the scope of the ‘Impact’ evaluation criterion of the application form, it is evaluated how well the projects match the environmental sustainability and European Green Deal targets.

The digital transformation targeted by the DIGITAL program is expected to contribute to the ecological transition, the European Green Deal to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030. With digital solutions, it is expected that citizens will, for example, reach basic needs by providing digital access instead of reaching them physically, and reduce the carbon footprint by promoting paperless communication or integrating artificial intelligence, which enables more efficient energy consumption, for example, through smart devices. Therefore, activities that do not contribute to climate goals must have a neutral impact on the climate.

Ecological transformation will accelerate with the projects supported by the DIGITAL Europe program. For example, projects deemed successful in the Tourism Data Domain are expected to contribute to reducing overtourism by improving crowd management capabilities. This is also the case for Cultural Heritage Data Space projects, which allow the digitalization of cultural heritage to enable non-destructive analysis of assets in 3D, visualization of damages and visualization of restoration and conservation information.

In this context, it is planned to support the high-impact projects in the following five areas with grant calls opened/to be opened within the scope of the DIGITAL Program. The estimated budget allocated to the projects to be granted in 2024 is at the level of 517.5 million EUR.

  • ensuring the widespread use of digital technologies throughout the economy and society,
  • supercomputing,
  • artificial intelligence,
  • cyber security, and
  • acquisition of advanced digital skills.

In this article, I talked about the DIGITAL Europe program and especially the DIGITAL Work Program 2024 details. In my next article, I will go into more detail and talk about the 2024 calls and the Call for Proposals details including eligibility conditions of these calls.