Gathering 8 European Universities and 3 Social Rights Institutions, his project, Working and Yet Poor (WorkYP), focuses on the increasing social trend of working people at risk or below the poverty line. The University of Luxembourg will lead the project.
Luca Ratti’s participation in a Horizon 2020 call is inspiring: he succeeded at the first attempt. This success is the result of valuable support, comprehensive information and advice received from the University of Luxembourg and from Luxinnovation European R&D and Innovation team.
Could you retrace your Horizon 2020 journey?
My Horizon 2020 journey started approximately two years ago.
I remember organising the inaugural conference of my FNR Lecture Series on European Labour Law. It was December 2017 when, after the conference, I had three junior colleagues from the University of Bologna visiting me in Luxembourg. We started discussing on potential themes that may have a multi-disciplinary attitude. We identified a real-life problem, and started thinking about the way we, as lawyers, could deepen the research in the field thus contributing to come up with some solutions in terms of law and policy. Then we realised we needed at least two macro dimensions: a EU law perspective, and a domestic/comparative perspective, and that each local unit needed to have a multi-layered expertise, comprising of lawyers, economists, sociologists, industrial relations experts, and more.
In November 2018, I was granted a university grant that allowed me to further work on a Horizon 2020 application. With this funding I was able to make individual research, some trips to have additional partners involved, and I spent some on external consultancy.
In January-February 2019, we finalised the consortium – most of which derived from a previous Erasmus+ Project I was leading – and started working on the substance of the application (Excellence, Impact, WorkPlan). Early February 2019 we organised a pre-submission meeting with almost all the partners, and with the support of the external consultant.
On 14 March, we filed the application, and on 16 July we got the result!
What motivated you to participate in a Horizon 2020 call?
My previous Erasmus+ project was about to end, and I had so much satisfaction and good academic feedback from the project (especially in terms of working together with the same people). Also, I knew it was a lot of money, which may be focused directly on research and on the hiring of staff to create my own labour law research group at UL.
Finally, I wanted to measure myself on a large-scale project. I wanted to compete, to fail (or not!), and to learn while doing so. I wanted to (and I did) keep my hands on the whole application process. I preferred to be consistent and convincing, rather than complete or scientifically impeccable.
Could you come back on the support provided by Luxinnovation NCP team?
Well, I first met the Luxinnovation team while I was already working on the idea behind this project. I attended the 2018 Horizon 2020 Day, with a thematic conference about the Grant Agreement preparation phase, and I vividly remember Benjamin Questier, who said clearly that once you receive the excellent news that you have been awarded the grant, it is there that your real job starts!
Then I asked for a specific meeting, to get first some feedback from Luxinnovation NCP Team, and then to see whether they could be part of or support to the project. In that meeting I met Sanna Alaranta, who seemed so excited about the project that… I was myself encouraged not to give up.
We then had a second meeting, while I was about to file the application, for a general update on the way the application was going and what still needed to be done. We exchanged further impressions and feedback, and then I filed the application.
You recently learned that your project was selected. What does this project bring to you, now that it is about to start?
It brings first of all responsibility on my shoulders. I know I have had, and hopefully will have, support from my institution and from the outside, anyway I feel I must do it myself.
Secondly, the project allows me to get in touch with social rights institutions that I did not know before. In particular, I involved OSE and EAPN from Brussels, and I am really looking forward to work with them.
Thirdly, this project, as well as any large-scale research, forces me to reflect upon the very meaning of my own field of study. In particular, this project is ultimately pointing to the (in)ability of labour law to respond throughout the years to the real needs of working people. If, in a given country, we have that 15% of workers live below the poverty line, it is a failure for labour law as well as for social partners.
Would you recommend participating in a Horizon 2020 call?
I would definitely recommend it, at the paradoxical condition that an applicant should not be alone in preparing the application, while not counting too much on substantive inputs from the prospective partners. Again, I recommend consistency and groundbreaking ideas, instead of complexity. While preparing the application, we were two people working from Luxembourg and two from Bologna. That was the writing team. Before this application, we had been working for almost a decade; we know what it does mean to have a frank exchange of views. It is a lot of work, but it is worth doing it.
Any tips for future applicants?
- First: one should be able to recognise an object of study as a real problem.
I clearly remember the first meetings with both Luxinnovation and the external consultants: they said “you must focus on the problem, not on a given field of study”. It is true, real life requires questions that quite often cannot be solved by a single-dimension expert. There must be a combined effort by different expertise if you want to come up with a thorough analysis of the problem and, if you are lucky, also with some sort of solution.
- Second: do not pose yourself limits to innovation and creativity. Starting with acronyms, then project outcomes, new methodologies, and so on.
- Third: listen to as much advice and support as possible, especially from project experts, who may also know nothing about the substance of your discipline, but may “translate” your curiosity into the project language.