Tips to make your Horizon 2020 application a success

3391066214_30b646a488_bThe EU’s €80 billion Horizon 2020 research funding programme has lofty ambitions: to stimulate scientific innovation and research advances that will translate into economically successful products and services. Or to put it rather more bluntly: “We’re investing in R&D, but we expect to see results drive economic growth.”

The recent H2020 launch events in London and Bulgaria have sparked the enthusiasm of researchers across Europe. Whether you love LinkedIn, Twitter, face-to-face networking or occasionally dabble in the EC’s own Participants Portal, you’ll see a madness not unlike the trade floor of a stock exchange. Scientists, SMEs, NGOs, universities and other research organisations are all broadcasting their deals, their ideas and, most urgently, their need for partners to form strong consortia.

Actually, we suspect that all the noise of the trade floor is just part of the picture. Behind the scenes many more deals and partnerships are forming. These will be the strong ones; they have already worked together in FP7, built up trust and are most likely to be the ones to succeed in the competitive bidding because they know the system so much better and have a demonstrable track record of success.

Still, even if the advantage goes to the “same old, same old” consortia and institutions, competition for H2020 funding will still be fierce. The newcomers will fight hard to be heard over the established consortia from FP7.

And they are in with a chance if the old hacks are too complacent because scientific excellence itself is no longer enough to secure funding. More than ever before, every proposal must show how it intends to make an impact (i.e. drive economic growth) in the ‘real world’.

But how can you translate early stage research into economic success?

I believe that the secret lies not in the hard facts of science, but the soft skills of communications. Here is the meeting point of art and science. For science to succeed you must disseminate your findings far and wide, to stakeholders, policy makers, even the general public. Who might be interested in your research, how might it link with other work in other disciplines? How could your results change society?

Every potential H2020 participant must try to answer these questions. And don’t be happy just throwing a few obvious ideas onto paper – “Well, let’s run an end of project conference, have a website, a newsletter and a Twitter feed”- because only carefully planned, effective and targeted communication will get you through the assessment process – there’s too much money at stake for the EU to risk investing in projects that can’t show they can make a difference.



Filed under: Tips | By Deborah on February 28, 2014 at 7:25 am

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