European Liaison Office of the German Research Organisations


Respecting ethical principles forms a key aspect of every Horizon 2020 project proposal. The Annotated Model Grant Agreement in Art. 34 lists an overall of ten main ethical principles, among others human dignity and integrity, ensuring transparency, confidentiality of personal data, promoting justice and inclusiveness, minimising harm and maximising benefit, respecting and protecting the environment and future generations as well as research integrity.

In general all European-funded research and innovation activities are limited to civil applications. In addition human cloning for reproductive purposes, research activities with the intention to modify the genetic heritage of human beings which could make changes heritable as well as research that intends to create human embryos for the purpose of research or of stem cell procurement as well as somatic cell nuclear transfer will not be funded.

Scientists need to set out all ethically relevant aspects of their research project respecting also the relevant national and international legislation. 

When preparing a Horizon 2020 proposal, ethical aspects need to be addressed first of all in an Ethics Self-Assessment”. All proposals that have been evaluated positively will then undergo an Ethics Review procedure consisting of three phases.

The Ethics Pre-screening verifies the information provided in the proposal and lists all relevant ethical issues of a project. If at least one ethical issue is found, the proposal will run through a complete Ethics Screening. In case of particularly complex ethical issues, e.g. concerning Embryonic Stem Cell research, an Ethics Assessment will be initiated. As a result of the review, projects will be granted 'ethics clearance' or 'conditional ethics clearance'. Only in very rare cases no clearance may be given and as a consequence the proposal not be funded. 

Generally there are two types of ethics requirements

  • Requirements that need to be complied with already during grant preparation, e.g. the appointment of an ethics advisor.
  • Requirements that need to be fulfilled during the ongoing project. These will be included in the grant agreement as “ethics deliverables”.

Projects may be audited even after signature of the Grant Agreement throughout their implementation phase by means of Ethics Checks or Ethics Audits.