Step 1: "Anticipate and prepare" for Horizon Europe
This particular period, punctuated by numerous communications on the 2021-2027 programmes, the wait for the first publications of calls for Horizon Europe proposals, is ultimately an important period for project leaders. It is precisely at this time that it is necessary and possible to anticipate your financing needs for future projects, to prepare with your teams the work to be done to apply for funds, to organize yourself, to plan and secure all aspects of the process.
Here we give you a couple of tips to optimize this period and get ready for the new opportunities.
Learn about the new EU guidelines for Horizon Europe programme and monitor the adoption of the texts
New information is communicated almost every day by the different Managing Agencies! We encourage you to set up a regular watch on the launch of the 2021-2027 programme. Remember to subscribe to social network pages (Facebook, LinkedIn), to newsletters, to the representative offices of the Regions in Brussels and call the National Contact Points of your Countries and do a little Googling to look for published draft Work Programmes.
Anticipate by defining your project in line with European priorities
The analysis of European texts and new strategies (SDG, …) will allow you to learn about the priorities for the use of funds and verify that an adequacy exists with your project. Indeed, each program supports different types of actions, structures, and objectives.
To facilitate this analytical work, it is essential to define the scope of your Horizon Europe project and to give a synthetic description: objectives, actions, schedule, target audience, territory, budget are key. This working-tool will then allow you to contact the funders to clearly present your project and the existing suitability for the fund.
On this basis, it will also be easier to look for matching calls and topics and start contacting potential partners.
2021 is a crucial year: new programs, new opportunities… take advantage of the few months before the opening of the calls to prepare!
Step 2: Start setting-up a competitive consortium
The time required to create a consortium varies greatly depending on the number and range of partners involved. However, it is worth planning for a period of between six months and a year to set up the Horizon Europe project’s general architecture and refine its position with regard to different calls for proposals. The creation of a well-structured consortium is the first key to a promising project.
Tip 1: Take into account the objectives of the project, the expected impacts of the call and the program’s criteria. Identify the tasks that you will be able to carry on your own, and those where you will need help. Partners should have a specific role and bring a real added value.
Tip 2: You need to ensure that your consortium is composed of organizations that already have experience in European or international projects. They will be driving forces. Having a consortium with different profiles, both novice and experienced, ensures a balance.
Tip 3: Consortium diversity is increasingly expected to represent the whole value chain. Think intersectorality and interdisciplinarity!
Tip 4: The balance must also be geographical. The consortium must best represent the diversity of the Union. All Member States, as well as the candidate countries or partner countries, should not be neglected. Don’t forget to check the adjusted eligibility rules of Horizon Europe for international collaborations which is extended to strengthen the international cooperation and open science policy.
Tip 5: Finally, tools for collaborative work and clear rules for decision-making between the different members must be defined upstream. The question, for example, of intellectual property must be clarified upstream in order to avoid any dispute during and after the project, and the appropriate agreements must be signed (NDA...).
Whilst the best way of creating a consortium is to surround yourself with your own network, there are various ways of finding partners:
- Professional networks, and project networks (COST, EEN, EIT…)
- Representative offices in Brussels
- Online partner searching services on the funding and tender portal
- And National Contact Points Brokerage Events!
Step 3: Start getting ready for Horizon Europe now!
Developing a Horizon Europe project includes a schematic work plan that clarifies the project structure. We advise you to use the tool called the "GANTT chart" for the application, with key milestones: it enables a breakdown of tasks to be specified and vital deadlines to be set. It takes particular account of the drafting and editing time required for completing the different sections of the application form, administrative procedures before submission, identifying signatories, and uploading the application. The relevant deadlines vary by institution: for example, you may need to call on financial or legal services to validate a specific aspect of the file. Coordinators may make use of various traditional office tools (Excel) or project management software to manage the planning process.
The first step of project engineering consists in drafting a project sheet. This sheet sets out the project outline and link it with the topics proposed by the European Commission. This ‘flagship’ document facilitates contact with programme officers and national contact points in order to position the project.
At the same time, it is worth getting the consortium members together to split up the different operational tasks and budget elements, upon signature of a non-disclosure agreement. The first version of the application should be drafted in around seven weeks. Being organised in such a way provides the time to amend it if required, but also to shape it in accordance with the European Commission’s instructions. This schedule also allows editing time to be factored in, ideally by a third party who was not involved in drafting. The aim is to gain an external opinion before that given by the selection experts: an uninvolved editor will spot unexplained acronyms or methodological errors more quickly.
Learn more on how to anticipate your needs in training, tools, work on the planning of your Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe projects and the organization necessary to ensure the management of the funds by following our webinars.
This article is written in a cooperation with our valued partner Welcomeurope.