Research & Innovation - Participant Portal


TOPIC : The Human Exposome Project: a toolbox for assessing and addressing the impact of environment on health

Topic identifier: SC1-BHC-28-2019
Publication date: 27 October 2017

Types of action: RIA Research and Innovation action
Opening date:
26 July 2018
Deadline: 16 April 2019 17:00:00

Time Zone : (Brussels time)
  Horizon 2020 H2020 website
Pillar: Societal Challenges
Work Programme Year: H2020-2018-2020
Topic Description
Specific Challenge:

Despite the general acknowledgement by the scientific community that 'Genetics load the gun but environment pulls the trigger'[1] when it comes to the causation of major non-communicable diseases (NCDs)[2], there is persistent uncertainty as to the global burden of disease attributable to environmental (including life-style and climatic) factors, including healthcare costs and negative economic impact. Deciphering the human exposome[3] is a novel way of addressing the challenge to improve health and reduce the overall burden of disease. This will require improved knowledge of health risks, including combinations of several risk factors, and the mechanisms by which they affect health at different stages throughout the life course, including exposures in foetal life. Effective preventive action will need to be designed, building on knowledge of various risk factors, including exposure to pollutants in daily life, individual behaviour and the social context, taking into account gender issues.

Developing a Human Exposome Project would present a fundamental shift in looking at health, by moving research away from ‘one exposure, one disease’ understanding to a more complex picture upon which to build solid, cost-effective preventive actions and policies in the future. It would respond to the need for more complete and accurate individual-level exposure data in order to estimate the largely unknown environmental component of NCDs.


Applicants should take advantage of the last decade's rapid technological advances which have opened up new opportunities to collect, combine and analyse large data sets offering new possibilities to understand the contribution of environmental factors to the global health burden of common chronic diseases. Proposals should use innovative approaches to the systematic and agnostic identification of the most important environmental risk factors for the development of major NCDs across the life course (including in utero), leading to preventive interventions at the individual, group or population level and contribute to sustainable healthcare. Well-designed retrospective epidemiological studies may be included and proposals may envisage the creation of a prospective Europe-wide exposomics cohort and biobank, integrating behavioural, socio-economic factors and clinical records.

The following components should be considered: agnostic evaluation of the role of multiple and unknown exposures; assessment of individual exposure to multiple stressors; sensors that combine external exposure and health data measurements; integration of external exposome data with cross-omics responses and (epi)genetic data; systematic evaluation and simulations of the health impacts; socio-economic modelling and econometric analysis including ethical and sex/gender aspects where relevant; better data mining tools, including advanced statistical analysis of complex data and high-performance/high throughput computing and storage; a long-term host and a single shared data infrastructure, taking into account existing structures and ensuring open access to data generated.

Innovation and connections with industry are expected in the areas of sensor development (external exposome), omics technology and novel biomarker development (internal exposome), bioinformatics, and data processing and management. Proposals are expected to respond to a persistent or long-standing policy/regulatory need where the exposome approach would be useful to solve a scientific issue to underpin better regulation now or in the future (examples: indoor and outdoor air quality, waste, occupational health, noise).

In order to establish an overarching Human Exposome Project, an overall coordination mechanism between the projects funded will be required and will be added at the grant preparation stage to all selected proposals as a common work package. Grants awarded under this topic will be complementary. The respective options of Article 2, Article 31.6 and Article 41.4 of the Model Grant Agreement will be applied.

The Commission considers that a proposal requesting an EU contribution between EUR 8 to 12 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact:
  • Innovation in environmental health sciences, in particular for external and internal exposure assessments and data management.
  • Enabling researchers and policy makers to continuously include new knowledge in the policy making processes by using the toolbox to generate data and information.
  • Better prediction of disease risk by acquisition of new knowledge on the influence of external exposures on biological pathways at different life-stages and identification of early signs of health damage caused by environmental factors.
Cross-cutting Priorities:

Socio-economic science and humanities

[1]Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)


[3]The concept of the exposome refers to the totality of environmental exposures (diet, lifestyle, occupational and environmental factors) from conception onwards, including its external and internal components.

Topic conditions and documents

1. Eligible countries: described in Annex A of the Work Programme.
A number of non-EU/non-Associated Countries that are not automatically eligible for funding have made specific provisions for making funding available for their participants in Horizon 2020 projects. See the information in the Online Manual.

2. Eligibility and admissibility conditions: described in Annex B and Annex C of the Work Programme.

Proposal page limits and layout: please refer to Part B of the proposal template in the submission system below.

3. Evaluation:

  • Evaluation criteria, scoring and thresholds are described in Annex H of the Work Programme.
  • Submission and evaluation processes are described in the Online Manual.

The thresholds for each criterion in a single stage process will be 4 (Excellence), 4 (Impact) and 3 (Implementation). The cumulative threshold will be 12.

4. Indicative time for evaluation and grant agreements:

Information on the outcome of evaluation (single-stage call): maximum 5 months from the deadline for submission.
Signature of grant agreements: maximum 8 months from the deadline for submission.

5. Proposal templates, evaluation forms and model grant agreements (MGA):

Research and Innovation Action:

Specific provisions and funding rates
Standard proposal template
Standard evaluation form
General MGA - Multi-Beneficiary
Annotated Grant Agreement

Essential information for clinical studies

6. Additional provisions:

Horizon 2020 budget flexibility
Classified information
Technology readiness levels (TRL) – where a topic description refers to TRL, these definitions apply.

Members of consortium are required to conclude a consortium agreement, in principle prior to the signature of the grant agreement.

7. Open access must be granted to all scientific publications resulting from Horizon 2020 actions.

Where relevant, proposals should also provide information on how the participants will manage the research data generated and/or collected during the project, such as details on what types of data the project will generate, whether and how this data will be exploited or made accessible for verification and re-use, and how it will be curated and preserved.

Open access to research data
The Open Research Data Pilot has been extended to cover all Horizon 2020 topics for which the submission is opened on 26 July 2016 or later. Projects funded under this topic will therefore by default provide open access to the research data they generate, except if they decide to opt-out under the conditions described in Annex L of the Work Programme. Projects can opt-out at any stage, that is both before and after the grant signature.

Note that the evaluation phase proposals will not be evaluated more favourably because they plan to open or share their data, and will not be penalised for opting out.

Open research data sharing applies to the data needed to validate the results presented in scientific publications. Additionally, projects can choose to make other data available open access and need to describe their approach in a Data Management Plan.

Projects need to create a Data Management Plan (DMP), except if they opt-out of making their research data open access. A first version of the DMP must be provided as an early deliverable within six months of the project and should be updated during the project as appropriate. The Commission already provides guidance documents, including a template for DMPs. See the Online Manual.

Eligibility of costs: costs related to data management and data sharing are eligible for reimbursement during the project duration.

The legal requirements for projects participating in this pilot are in the article 29.3 of the Model Grant Agreement.

8. Additional documents:

Introduction WP 2018-20
Health, demographic change and well-being WP 2018-20
General annexes to the Work Programme 2018-2020

Legal basis: Horizon 2020 Regulation of Establishment
Legal basis: Horizon 2020 Rules for Participation
Legal basis: Horizon 2020 Specific Programme

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Submission Service

To access the Electronic Sumission Service, please click on the submission-button next to the type of action that corresponds to your proposal. You will then be asked to confirm your choice of the type of action and topic, as these cannot be changed in the submission system. Upon confirmation, you will be linked to the correct entry point.

To access existing draft proposals for this topic, please login to the Participant Portal and select the My Proposals page of the My Area section.

Type of Action Research and Innovation action [RIA]
Topic The Human Exposome Project: a toolbox for assessing and addressing the impact of environment on health - SC1-BHC-28-2019
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