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What is Horizon Europe?

Horizon Europe is the EU’s key funding program for research and innovation, running from 2021 to 2027 with a budget of €95.5 billion.

Horizon Europe is structured around three main pillars, each focusing on different aspects of research and innovation:

Pillar I: Excellent Science

  • Objective: To reinforce and extend the excellence of the EU’s science base.
  • Components:
    • European Research Council (ERC): Funding for groundbreaking, high-risk research conducted by individual researchers.
    • Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA): Support for researchers’ mobility, training, and career development.
    • Research Infrastructures: Development and integration of world-class research infrastructures.

Pillar II: Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness

  • Objective: To tackle global challenges and enhance industrial competitiveness through collaborative research and innovation.
  • Components:
    • Clusters: Focused on six thematic areas:
      1. Health
      2. Culture, Creativity, and Inclusive Society
      3. Civil Security for Society
      4. Digital, Industry, and Space
      5. Climate, Energy, and Mobility
      6. Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment
    • Joint Research Centre (JRC): Provides scientific evidence and technical support to EU policies.

Pillar III: Innovative Europe

  • Objective: To stimulate market-creating innovations and support the deployment of innovative solutions.
  • Components:
    • European Innovation Council (EIC): Supports breakthrough innovations with scale-up potential.
    • European Innovation Ecosystems: Enhances the overall European innovation landscape.
    • European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT): Strengthens Europe’s innovation capacity through Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs).

Widening Participation and Strengthening the European Research Area (ERA)

  • Objective: To optimize the impact of the investment in research and innovation and foster synergies between different funding programs.
  • Components:
    • Widening Participation: Enhances participation of low R&I performing countries.
    • Strengthening the ERA: Improves access to excellence and promotes reforms for a more effective European Research Area.

This structure is designed to support a wide range of research and innovation activities, ensuring that Europe remains at the forefront of scientific and technological advancements.

Who can apply for Horizon Europe grants?

Eligibility varies depending on the specific call for proposals but typically includes universities, research organizations, companies (including SMEs), individual researchers, and public bodies.

Beneficiaries of Horizon Europe must adhere to a set of eligibility conditions to participate in the program. These conditions vary depending on the type of action and specific call for proposals but generally include the following:

General Eligibility Conditions

  1. Type of Participants:
    • Typically includes universities, research organizations, companies (including small and medium-sized enterprises), individual researchers, public bodies, and other legal entities.
  2. Consortium Requirements:
    • Collaborative Projects: Usually require a consortium of at least three independent legal entities from three different EU Member States or Associated Countries.
    • Individual Projects: Such as those funded by the European Research Council (ERC) or Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA), typically do not require a consortium and can be applied for by individual researchers or single entities.
  3. Geographical Eligibility:
    • Entities must be established in an EU Member State or an Associated Country. Entities from other countries can participate but may not always be eligible for funding unless specified in the call.
  4. Financial Capacity:
    • Applicants must have stable and sufficient sources of funding to maintain their activity throughout the period during which the action is being carried out.
  5. Operational Capacity:
    • Applicants must have the necessary operational resources, including technical and management competence, to implement the project effectively.

Specific Eligibility Conditions for Different Actions

  1. Research and Innovation Actions (RIA) and Innovation Actions (IA):
    • Typically require a consortium of at least three entities from three different eligible countries.
  2. Coordination and Support Actions (CSA):
    • May be implemented by a single entity or a consortium depending on the call specifics.
  3. Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA):
    • Open to researchers of any nationality, and different actions have specific requirements regarding mobility and the type of participating organizations.
  4. European Research Council (ERC) Grants:
    • Open to researchers of any nationality who intend to conduct their research in an EU Member State or Associated Country. Proposals are submitted by the Principal Investigator in conjunction with a host institution.
  5. European Innovation Council (EIC) Funding:
    • Primarily targets startups and SMEs, including individual innovators and small consortia.

Compliance with Specific Call Conditions

  • Each call for proposals under Horizon Europe will specify additional conditions such as thematic focus, specific objectives, and particular requirements related to the project duration, budget limits, and deliverables.

Ethical and Legal Requirements

  • Projects must comply with ethical principles and relevant national, EU, and international laws. This includes areas such as data protection, human rights, environmental protection, and public health.

Gender Equality Plan

  • Public bodies, research organizations, and higher education establishments from EU Member States and Associated Countries must have a gender equality plan in place.

Open Science Requirements

  • Beneficiaries are required to adhere to open science practices, including open access to publications and, where applicable, research data management.
What are the main types of projects funded by Horizon Europe?

Horizon Europe funds a variety of project types depending on the program part:

Horizon Europe foresees several types of actions, each designed to support different kinds of research and innovation activities. The main types of actions include:

Research and Innovation Actions (RIA): To establish new knowledge and explore the feasibility of new or improved technologies, products, processes, services, or solutions. Funding: Typically 100% of eligible costs.

Innovation Actions (IA): to produce plans and arrangements or designs for new, altered, or improved products, processes, or services. These projects often include prototyping, testing, demonstrating, piloting, large-scale product validation, and market replication. Funding: Typically 70% of eligible costs for profit-making entities (100% for non-profit entities).

Coordination and Support Actions (CSA): to support coordination and networking activities, dissemination and exploitation of project results, policy dialogues, and mutual learning exercises among various stakeholders.  Funding: Typically 100% of eligible costs.

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA): to support the mobility, training, and career development of researchers through various programs like

  • Doctoral Networks,
  • Postdoctoral Fellowships,
  • Staff Exchanges, and
  • COFUND.

Funding: Varies by specific action, usually includes allowances for living, mobility, and family costs.

European Research Council (ERC) Grants: To support individual researchers and their teams in conducting frontier research. Includes:

  • Starting Grants,
  • Consolidator Grants,
  • Advanced Grants,
  • Synergy Grants, and
  • Proof of Concept Grants.

Funding: Typically covers up to 100% of eligible costs, with varying maximum grant amounts depending on the grant type.

European Innovation Council (EIC) Funding: To support high-risk, high-impact innovation through the:

  • EIC Pathfinder (advanced research),
  • EIC Transition (validation and demonstration), and
  • EIC Accelerator (scaling up innovations).

Funding: Varies by specific action, with a mix of grants and equity funding for the Accelerator.

Public Procurement of Innovative Solutions (PPI) To facilitate the public sector in procuring innovative solutions that are not yet available on a large-scale commercial basis. Funding: Covers a percentage of the procurement costs.

Pre-Commercial Procurement (PCP): to support the public sector in procuring research and development services to develop innovative solutions that are not yet commercially available. Funding:  Typically covers a percentage of the costs related to R&D services.

Innovation and Market Deployment Actions: To support activities that bring innovations closer to the market, including deployment, market uptake, and scaling up. Funding: Varies by specific call.

How do I find suitable calls for proposals?

Calls for proposals are published on the Funding & Tenders Portal of the European Commission. They can be searched by keywords, program parts, and topics.

The call’s search engine is available at this link.

However, when the call is published in the Participant Portal it could be too late to launch your proposal development, therefore it is strongly recommended to analyze the Work Programmes published in the section “Reference Documents” and get information concerning the calls planned for the following 2-3 years.

What are the main components of a Horizon Europe proposal?

Proposals typically include sections on scientific and technical quality, impact, implementation, consortium, and budget. In particular:

The application form for a Research and Innovation Action (RIA) in Horizon Europe typically follows a structured template that includes several key sections. Here is a short description of the typical template structure:

Part A: Administrative Information

  1. General Information:
    • Proposal title, acronym, duration, and summary.
  2. Participant Information:
    • Details of all participating organizations, including legal name, contact information, and role in the project.
  3. Budget:
    • Detailed budget breakdown for each participant, including personnel costs, travel, equipment, and other direct costs.

Part B: Technical Description

  1. Excellence:
    • Objectives: Clear, measurable, and achievable objectives of the project.
    • Relation to the work program: How the proposal addresses specific challenges and objectives of the call.
    • Concept and methodology: Innovative approach, research methodology, and interdisciplinary aspects.
    • Ambition: Advances beyond the state of the art.
  2. Impact:
    • Expected impacts: Contribution to the expected impacts listed in the work program.
    • Measures to maximize impact: Dissemination, exploitation, and communication strategies.
    • Barriers: Potential barriers and risks, and mitigation strategies.
  3. Implementation:
    • Work plan: Work packages, deliverables, and milestones.
    • Management structure: Organizational structure, management procedures, and coordination.
    • Consortium: Roles, expertise, and complementary skills of consortium members.
    • Resources: Allocation and justification of resources for each work package and partner.

Part C: Additional Information (if applicable)

  1. Security sensitive calls
  2. FInancial Support to third parties
  3. Clinical Studies
What criteria are used to evaluate proposals?

Proposals are evaluated based on excellence, impact, and quality and efficiency of the implementation.

The evaluation criteria for Research and Innovation Actions (RIA), Innovation Actions (IA), and Coordination and Support Actions (CSA) under Horizon Europe are designed to assess the quality, impact, and implementation of the proposed projects. While the criteria are similar across these types of actions, there are specific aspects evaluated for each. Here are the main evaluation criteria:

Evaluation Criteria for RIA and IA:

  1. Excellence:
    • Clarity and pertinence of the objectives: The objectives should be clear, measurable, and relevant to the specific challenges addressed by the call.
    • Soundness of the concept, and credibility of the proposed methodology: The proposal should present a well-founded concept and a credible methodology, including interdisciplinary approaches if relevant.
    • Extent to which the proposed work is ambitious, and goes beyond the state of the art: The project should demonstrate innovation and advance the current knowledge or technology.
    • Quality of the proposed coordination and/or support measures: (for IA) The quality of the innovation process and the involvement of end-users.
  2. Impact:
    • Credibility of the pathways to achieve the expected outcomes and impacts specified in the work program: The proposal should clearly outline how the project will achieve the desired impact.
    • Suitability and quality of the measures to maximize expected outcomes and impacts: This includes dissemination, exploitation, and communication strategies.
    • Extent to which the project contributes to the expected impacts specified in the work program: The project’s impact should align with the broader objectives of the call.
  3. Quality and Efficiency of the Implementation:
    • Quality and effectiveness of the work plan, including extent to which the resources assigned to work packages are in line with their objectives and deliverables: The work plan should be realistic and well-structured.
    • Appropriateness of the management structures and procedures, including risk and innovation management: The project should have a clear and effective management plan.
    • Complementarity of the participants and extent to which the consortium as a whole brings together the necessary expertise: The consortium should have a well-balanced and complementary set of skills and expertise.
    • Appropriate allocation of tasks, ensuring that all participants have a valid role and adequate resources: Tasks should be clearly allocated and resources adequately justified.
How do I build a strong consortium?

Building the perfect consortium is challenging and time-consuming. A strong consortium includes partners with complementary expertise and skills, a clear division of tasks, and established relationships.

When designing the structure of the applicant consortium you should consider several elements.

Building a strong consortium for a Research and Innovation Action (RIA), Innovation Action (IA), or Coordination and Support Action (CSA) under Horizon Europe involves careful consideration of several key elements. A well-structured consortium can significantly enhance the proposal’s chances of success. Here are the main elements to consider:

1. Complementarity of Skills and Expertise:
  • Diverse Expertise: Ensure the consortium includes partners with a broad range of expertise and skills relevant to the project’s objectives. This includes technical, scientific, and managerial competencies.
  • Interdisciplinary Approach: For RIA and IA, including partners from different disciplines can enhance the innovation potential and robustness of the project.
  • Support and Coordination Skills: For CSA, partners should have strong capabilities in coordination, networking, dissemination, and support activities.
2. Exploitation and Dissemination Capabilities:
  • Outreach and Impact: Include partners with strong capabilities in dissemination and exploitation to maximize the project’s impact.
  • Market Access: For IA, partners with access to markets and end-users can facilitate the deployment and uptake of innovations.
3. Role and Contribution of Each Partner:
  • Clear Roles: Define the roles and responsibilities of each partner clearly. Each partner should have a specific, justified role in the project.
  • Balanced Workload: Ensure that the workload is distributed appropriately among partners, avoiding over-reliance on a few partners.
4. Previous Collaboration and Networking:
  • Established Relationships: Having partners with a history of successful collaboration can enhance trust and efficiency in project execution.
  • New Partnerships: While established relationships are valuable, including new partners can bring fresh ideas and additional strengths.
5. Commitment and Engagement:
  • Active Participation: Choose partners who are committed and can actively participate in the project’s activities and meetings.
  • Resource Allocation: Ensure that each partner has allocated sufficient resources, including personnel and financial commitment, to fulfill their roles.
6. Management and Coordination:
  • Experienced Coordinator: The coordinator should have proven experience in managing large collaborative projects and be capable of leading the consortium effectively.
  • Management Structures: Establish clear management structures and procedures to facilitate decision-making, conflict resolution, and communication within the consortium.
7. Alignment with Project Objectives:
  • Shared Vision: Ensure all partners share a common understanding of the project’s objectives and are aligned with the overall goals.
  • Complementary Goals: Each partner’s individual objectives should complement the project’s aims, creating a synergistic effect.
8. Legal and Financial Stability:
  • Legal Entities: All partners should be legally established entities capable of entering into contractual agreements.
  • Financial Stability: Partners should demonstrate financial stability and the capacity to manage project funds responsibly.
9. Ethical and Compliance Considerations:
  • Ethical Standards: Ensure all partners adhere to high ethical standards and comply with relevant regulations and guidelines.
  • Data Protection: Partners should be capable of handling data protection requirements, especially if the project involves sensitive data.
10. Geographic and Sectoral Representation:
  • Geographic Coverage: Aim for a balanced representation of partners from different EU Member States and Associated Countries to enhance the project’s impact and relevance across Europe.
  • Sector Diversity: Include partners from various sectors such as academia, industry, SMEs, public bodies, and NGOs to bring different perspectives and strengths to the project.
What are some common mistakes to avoid in grant writing?

Common mistakes include lack of clarity, weak impact description, poor consortium composition, non-compliance with guidelines, and underestimating the time needed for preparation.

When writing a grant proposal, especially for complex programs like Horizon Europe, it’s crucial to avoid common mistakes that can undermine your application. Here are some key mistakes to watch out for (not ranked in a specific order):

1. Lack of Clarity in the structure of the project’s objectives (General and Specific)

Too often, the logic of intervention (LoI – Logical Framework Matrix) is not coherent and complete.  The General (or Overall) Objective should be stated in a way that allows understanding of what you will have achieved at the end of the project.  Specific Objectives are sub-objectives that you need to succeed (all of them) to claim you achieved the General Objective. Ensure your objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). Avoid using excessive jargon or technical terms that all evaluators may not understand.

2. Weak Impact Description

Since 2020, the project’s expected Impact is by far one of the most important aspects of EU proposals.   The EU donor is mostly interested in the “change” your project will contribute to in the long run.  To contribute to an Impact, you need first to be able to generate immediate effects (outcomes) by using your project’s results. Clearly articulating the expected impact of your project, both immediate and long-term is a key to success.  Outcomes and Impacts are triggered and maximized by your strategic plans for exploiting and spreading your project’s results. Outline robust plans for how the project’s results will be shared and used.

3. Poor Consortium Composition

EU projects are normally collaborative actions.  You need partners, and this consortium needs to be complete, balanced and fit for the achievement of the project’s results. In many cases, it is recommended to include in the partnership the so-called “adopters” of your Key Exploitable Results (KERs).  They may be fundamental both for validating the quality of your results in terms of future introduction on the market, and they may be the first ones (early adopters) to take over the solution developed during the project, to bring them forward in the pathway towards the market.  Ensure your consortium has a well-rounded mix of skills and expertise relevant to the project.  Demonstrate strong, existing partnerships and the ability to work together effectively.

4. Non-Compliance with Guidelines

Ignoring Call Specifications. this is one of the most recurrent errors, affecting the entire proposal development and leading to proposals not matching with the donor’s needs. Carefully read and adhere to the specific requirements and objectives of the call for proposals.  Indeed you need to avoid trivial formatting errors: follow the prescribed format, page limits, and submission procedures.

5. Insufficient Justification of Resources

We know. One of the main drivers of applying for funding is… getting money.  However, we need to bear in mind that the estimated budget is only a consequence of the activities you have planned in the work packages, and the other costs you need to bear to complete the action. Therefore, the budget not only must be eligible according to the financial rules of the GA, but it must be mostly realistic. provide a realistic and detailed budget, justifying the costs with clear links to project activities  Ensure all tasks are adequately resourced and personnel are appropriately assigned.

6. Inadequate Risk Management

All project’s come with risks.  If you did not identify several risks you are not aware of your project’s characteristics and methodology.  Risks refer to specific project-related events, with a likelihood to happen, that may prevent the consortium from completing the project’s activities and achieving the expected results (a partner leaving suddenly the consortium, or an earthquake that may occur, are not project’s risks).  Ignoring risks is a common error. Identify potential risks and provide a comprehensive risk management plan.  FOr each risk, don’t forget to add the Mitigation Measures and the Contingency Plan.  Outline contingency measures to address identified risks.

7. Weak Methodology

A vague and not sound methodological approach are significant risk, sinking the Excellence of your excellent idea.  Very often the “Methodology” section is contaminated by the description of the “Activities” (that should be in the work packages, instead).  Therefore, the methodology and the activities are two sides of the same coin. The methodology describes “how” you will conduct the activities, the scientific/technological aspects required to achieve certain project results. Activities are the list of tasks the consortium has to implement to run the Methodology and ultimately generate the results. Confusing these two different pieces of information can make the evaluator’s mind on the fact you are very confused about the project in general.   Provide a clear and detailed methodology, explaining how you will achieve your objectives.

In addition, you need to ensure your project is innovative and advances beyond the current state of the art.  For a project resulting in outputs to lower TRLs, that means ensuring that your research is moving knowledge a step forward and will strengthen the research community knowledge in a certain field.  The more you progress in TRLs, towards technological development and innovation areas, the more this section relates to how you better solve a specific technological problem, or respond to a market need better than current alternative solutions available.

8.  Ignoring Evaluation Criteria

The award criteria should be one of the first pieces of information you collect when planning a grant writing process.  There’s no proposal approved without the highest scores in the evaluation.  Your proposal may be fit for the Nobel Prize, but if you neglect what the evaluators are asked to assess your efforts are wasted.  Address all evaluation criteria explicitly, ensuring your proposal meets the funder’s expectations if needed using the same keywords in the proposal (to show you covered all the topics) and “feeding the beast” as much as you can, irrespective of what would be your personal touch.  Ah… evaluating proposals is boring and not very well paid, so at least make the evaluator’s job easy! Do not assume evaluators will infer information; explicitly state how your proposal meets each criterion.

9.  Last-Minute Preparation

This is one of the most recurrent errors, often underestimated.  It takes between 4 and 6 months to prepare a (winning) proposal.  Calls remain (open for submission) for 2-3 months only.  When the call opens, it means that you can start “submitting” your proposal, it does not mean that you can start “preparing” the application.  In conclusion, you should work based on the information available in the annual or multiannual work programs.  Rushed submissions are evident to the evaluators, reflecting a possible ATM consortium approach.  Start early to allow sufficient time for writing, reviewing, and refining your proposal.  Have colleagues or external experts review your proposal before submission.

10. Ethical and Legal Oversights

Address any ethical considerations and provide necessary documentation. Avoid non-compliance with legal requirements: Ensure compliance with all relevant laws and regulations.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can enhance the quality of your grant proposal and improve your chances of securing funding.

How important is the dissemination and exploitation plan?

A robust dissemination and exploitation plan is crucial as it demonstrates how the project’s results will be shared with stakeholders and how they will be used to achieve broader impacts.

The dissemination and exploitation plan plays a central role in the success of grant proposals, particularly within the context of Horizon Europe. Its importance cannot be overstated, as it is integral to maximizing the impact of a project, meeting funding requirements, ensuring sustainability, engaging stakeholders, facilitating knowledge transfer, and driving economic and societal benefits.

A well-crafted dissemination plan ensures that the results of a project reach a broad and relevant audience, in particular those who are expected to be the future adopters of your solution).   This includes not only academic researchers but also industry stakeholders, policymakers, and the general public. By effectively disseminating the outputs, a project can significantly enhance its visibility and relevance. This wide-reaching approach helps in achieving the project’s goals by ensuring that the findings are utilized and appreciated by those who can benefit most from them.

Equally important is the exploitation plan, which focuses on how the project’s results will be applied practically. This could mean commercializing new products or services, integrating new processes into existing systems, or using findings to inform policy and practice. Exploitation ensures that the benefits of the project extend beyond its immediate scope and duration, providing long-term value and sustainability. This aspect of the plan is crucial for demonstrating to funders that the project has lasting significance and the potential to contribute to broader economic and societal goals.

In the realm of Horizon Europe and similar funding programs, a detailed dissemination and exploitation plan is often a mandatory component of the application process. Proposals that lack a comprehensive plan risk receiving lower evaluation scores or even disqualification. Evaluators look for clear strategies that outline how the project’s outcomes will be shared, utilized, and sustained. These plans are integral to meeting the program’s evaluation criteria, which frequently emphasize impact and sustainability alongside scientific excellence.

Sustainability is another critical dimension of the dissemination and exploitation plan. Funders are interested in projects that promise long-term benefits and continued impact beyond their initial funding period. A strong exploitation plan that outlines how results will be further developed, scaled, or integrated into broader systems can secure additional investment and support. This foresight ensures that the project’s innovations continue to evolve and contribute to the field.

Moreover, effective dissemination and exploitation plans foster stakeholder engagement. By actively involving various stakeholders through targeted dissemination activities, projects can build valuable networks and partnerships. This engagement not only supports the project’s immediate objectives but also strengthens its position within the broader research and innovation ecosystem. Raising awareness about the project’s findings and potential applications increases its visibility and can attract further interest and collaboration.

Knowledge transfer is a key outcome of successful dissemination and exploitation. Sharing results widely helps to advance the field, spreading best practices and novel insights that can stimulate further research and innovation. Additionally, exploitation ensures that these new insights lead to practical applications, driving innovation and potentially leading to new market opportunities.

What support is available for preparing a proposal?

Support can be found through different channels, and for different needs.

  • National Contact Points (NCPs) can provide general information on funding opportunities, and interpretation of general rules for application.
  • Online resources, like the Participant Portal, Cordis, and Horizon Result Platform, offer passive access to information. It is fundamental to learn how to navigate these sites and what to look for.
  • Proposal writing workshops, like the ones delivered in-house by Liviantoni Consulting, help acquire the proper mindset for proposal preparation, understanding the secrets behind successful proposals, and discovering the theory and practice of addressing a full proposal preparation/writing process.
  • Professional grant writing services, like the ones provided by Liviantoni Consulting, have different levels of insight into the proposal preparation, from specific advice to full mentorship, including the preparation of the most complicated section of the application form (e.g. the Impact section) based on the information provided by the applicant.
What is the typical timeline for proposal submission and evaluation?

Timelines vary by call, but typically, there is a submission deadline followed by a several-month evaluation period. Successful proposals usually receive funding several months after submission.

How do I manage the financial aspects of a Horizon Europe project?

Understanding the financial rules, keeping accurate records, and regular financial reporting are key aspects. It’s important to be familiar with eligible costs, budget categories, and audit requirements.

The main instrument to understand how to manage the administrative and financial aspects of an EU-funded project is the Annotated Grant Agreement (AGA), sometimes also referred to as the Annotated Model of Grant Agreement (AMGA).

Rules evolve in time.  The latest biggest step done is the one accompanying the switch to the programming period 2021-2027 when the Corporate Approach was introduced (harmonization of the rules across different directly-funded programs), resulting in the current latest version (V1.0 of 01.05.2024) available at this link. (please check here the latest version).

Despite the recurrent efforts of the EC in the simplification process, this subject matter is still rich in complexities and uncertainties.  For this reason, specialised support is available, like:

What happens after a project is funded?

After funding, the project enters the grant agreement preparation phase, followed by implementation, monitoring, and reporting phases.

Once a project is funded under Horizon Europe, several key steps and phases follow to ensure the project’s successful implementation and management. Here’s an overview of what happens after a project receives funding:

1. Grant Agreement Preparation (GAP)

After the project is selected for funding, the grant agreement preparation phase begins. This involves finalizing the details of the grant agreement between the European Commission (or the relevant funding body) and the project consortium. Key activities include:

  • Finalizing Project Details: This includes confirming the project’s objectives, work plan, budget, and timelines.
  • Legal and Financial Checks: The European Commission conducts checks to ensure that all participating entities have the necessary legal and financial standing.
  • Consortium Agreement: The project partners finalize a consortium agreement, outlining their roles, responsibilities, and the management structure.
2. Signing the Grant Agreement

Once all details are finalized and approved, the grant agreement is signed. This legally binds the consortium to the terms and conditions of the funding.

3. Project Implementation

With the grant agreement in place, the project moves into the implementation phase, which involves the following steps:

  • Kick-off Meeting: The project consortium typically holds a kick-off meeting to align all partners, discuss the detailed work plan, and address any immediate issues.
  • Execution of Work Packages: The project’s work packages (WPs) are executed according to the work plan. Each WP consists of specific tasks and deliverables.
  • Regular Meetings: Regular meetings (monthly, quarterly, etc.) are held to monitor progress, address challenges, and ensure coordination among partners.
4. Monitoring and Reporting

Throughout the project, continuous monitoring and periodic reporting are essential to ensure that the project stays on track and meets its objectives:

  • Progress Reports: Periodic reports (usually annual or semi-annual) are submitted to the European Commission, detailing progress, achievements, and any deviations from the plan.
  • Milestones and Deliverables: The consortium must achieve predefined milestones and submit deliverables as specified in the grant agreement.
  • Reviews and Audits: The European Commission may conduct reviews and audits to assess the project’s progress and compliance with the grant agreement.
5. Dissemination and Communication

Effective dissemination and communication of the project’s results are crucial:

  • Dissemination Activities: These include publishing research findings, presenting at conferences, and engaging with stakeholders through various channels.
  • Communication Plan: Implementing a communication plan to ensure that the project’s outcomes are widely shared and understood by the target audience.
6. Exploitation of Results

Maximizing the impact of the project through the exploitation of results is a critical phase:

  • Commercialization: If applicable, steps are taken to bring new products, services, or processes to market.
  • Policy Influence: Research findings may be used to influence policy or contribute to the development of new regulations and standards.
  • Further Research: The project results can lay the groundwork for future research and innovation activities.
7. Final Reporting and Project Closure

At the end of the project, a final report is submitted, summarizing the achievements, impact, and financial details:

  • Final Report: This includes a comprehensive overview of the project’s outcomes, impacts, and any lessons learned.
  • Financial Statements: Detailed financial reports are submitted, ensuring that all expenditures are accounted for and justified.
  • Project Review: The European Commission conducts a final review to evaluate the project’s overall success and compliance.
8. Post-Project Activities

Even after the official end of the project, certain activities may continue:

  • Follow-up Actions: Continued dissemination and exploitation of results, maintaining the project’s website, and responding to inquiries.
  • Impact Assessment: Long-term assessment of the project’s impact, often as part of broader program evaluations conducted by the European Commission.

By following these structured steps, funded projects can achieve their objectives, ensure compliance with funding requirements, and maximize their impact on research, innovation, and society.

Can small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) participate in Horizon Europe?

Yes, SMEs are encouraged to participate and can benefit from specific funding schemes tailored to their needs.

Yes, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can participate in Horizon Europe, and the program offers several opportunities specifically tailored to support SMEs. Here’s a detailed overview of how SMEs can engage with Horizon Europe:

  1. Dedicated SME Funding Instruments:
    • European Innovation Council (EIC): The EIC provides significant support for SMEs, especially through the EIC Accelerator program, which focuses on high-risk, high-impact innovations. It offers both grant funding and equity investments to help SMEs scale up their innovations.
    • EIC Pathfinder and EIC Transition: These programs support SMEs in the early stages of developing breakthrough technologies and preparing them for commercialization.
  2. Participation in Collaborative Projects:
    • SMEs can join consortia in Research and Innovation Actions (RIA) and Innovation Actions (IA). These collaborative projects often require diverse expertise, and SMEs can provide specialized knowledge, innovative solutions, or unique capabilities that complement larger organizations and research institutions.
  3. Access to Networks and Expertise:
    • Cluster Participation: Horizon Europe includes various thematic clusters (e.g., Health, Digital, Industry and Space, Climate, Energy and Mobility) where SMEs can participate and contribute their expertise.
    • European Partnerships: SMEs can engage in partnerships that bring together public and private stakeholders to address specific challenges, offering opportunities for collaboration and innovation.
  4. Support for Market Uptake:
    • Horizon Europe emphasizes the importance of bringing research and innovation to the market. SMEs can benefit from support for the commercialization and scaling of new products and services, helping to bridge the gap between research and market deployment.
  5. Capacity Building and Training:
    • Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA): While traditionally focused on individual researchers, MSCA also provides opportunities for SMEs to host researchers, participate in staff exchanges, and benefit from collaborative training networks.
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