The EU’s new framework programme for research and innovation, Horizon Europe, offers attractive funding opportunities for innovators, companies, researchers, non-governmental organisations and associations to address scientific and economic issues, work with top-level international organisations and gain visibility on the national and European level.
Horizon Europe funding rates are attractive and can be up to 100% of eligible project costs plus 25% of overhead costs, so it is hardly surprising that calls for proposals are highly competitive. Starting small and calling on the National Contact Point at Luxinnovation to find the right opportunities is often the best way to proceed. The following steps might help you start off in the right direction.
1. Get the big picture – before you start
Horizon Europe calls for proposals should never be seen in isolation as they are part of long-term, strategic research and innovation programmes addressing topics that are crucial for the EU. In many cases, they are also part of a chain spanning from blue-sky to applied research, leading on to innovation and market launch.
Understanding the background of each call and how it fits into a wider programme is therefore important. In order to be successful, you should be able to show that your project results will have substantial impact and contribute to reaching the objectives that policy makers want the projects to achieve.
2. Find inspiration in past and on-going projects
So what type of projects are policy makers and evaluators looking for? Past and on-going projects are a great source of inspiration for answering this question. Horizon Europe has just started, but it builds on the previous framework programme, Horizon 2020. So, before starting to write, take some time to look into previous projects funded within Horizon 2020.
A fundamental principle of EU programmes is not to fund the same activity twice, and to make sure that the funding has maximum impact. It is therefore important to avoid putting forward project ideas that are very similar to ones that have already received support. Instead, try to highlight how your project will build upon the results of previously funded projects and take their results to the next level.
3. Don’t be afraid to start small
Most Horizon Europe projects are carried out by consortia involving a number of partners from different countries. They have different roles: overall project coordinator, work package leaders coordinating parts of the project tasks, and simple partners.
Being the project coordinator has many interesting dimensions, including the recognition of successfully leading the project idea preparation and being the project “ambassador” towards its audiences, but it also requires a high level of resources and commitment to oversee the project and manage all administrative duties. A good way to start can therefore be to join first as a project partner. Once you have gained some experience, you can consider taking on the role of work package leader, or even as project coordinator.
4. Finding partners: Start with contacts and friends
Being part of a credible and skilled consortium is an important prerequisite, both for receiving a Horizon Europe grant and for reaching the project objectives. So how do you find the right project partners?
The best way is generally to use your existing network. Speak to your professional contacts to hear if they are interested in cooperating with you in this adventure, or if they can introduce you to other relevant organisations. Collaborating with friends is often what works the best.
But what if you do not have a very extensive international network, or if your contacts are not interested in European projects? Then contact your National Contact Point (NCP) team for Horizon Europe at Luxinnovation. Through our networks and colleagues in other countries, we can help you find relevant partners.
5. Present your idea and highlight your added value
Once you have identified potential partners, you need to make them interested in including you in their consortium – or in joining yours. Project evaluators will take a close look at the consortium and the contribution of each member, so you need to show your partners that they will stand stronger if you are part of their team.
Prepare a good presentation of your experience, skills and fields of expertise, as well as your ideas and motivation for wanting to join the project. Indicate that you are willing to take on responsibilities and contribute to making the project a success for everyone involved. This is important if you want to be a project partner, and obviously even more so if you want to be a coordinator.
6. Time is short, so start early and plan ahead
In most cases, the time between the publication of a call and the deadline for submitting project proposals is around 5 months. This is actually a quite challenging timeframe for finding the call that best corresponds to what you want to do, setting up a good consortium, planning the project and writing a convincing proposal. If you want to compete successfully for funds, starting to lay out your plans well in advance is crucial.
Studying the Horizon Europe work programmes will give you valuable knowledge about funding objectives and forthcoming calls. The NCP team is also very well informed about the latest developments regarding funding opportunities and can point you in the right direction.
7. Competition is fierce, so benefit from advice and support
The NCP team is there to help you to increase your chances of succeeding. We can offer you information, advice, training and support all the way from project idea to project completion. As we work closely with the European Commission and with our colleagues from other countries, we have a good insight into the background of various calls and work programmes, and into what policy makers want to achieve. We can help you match your idea with the most suitable call, facilitate contacts with potential partners, advise you on aspects such as partnership agreements and the management of intellectual property rights linked to your project results. Our services are available to all Luxembourg-based organisations, free of charge.