Presenting a credible path to deliver the innovation to the market and contributing to company scale-up(s) is crucial for the Horizon Europe funding programme (as well as the former Horizon 2020). Therefore, the Impact Section is maybe the most important one in a Horizon Europe proposal, even more than the innovation itself or its implementation. The Impact Section is usually split into three sub-categories: exploitation of the results (including dissemination and exploitation plan, as well as communication tasks), market penetration strategy (including the business plan, pricing scheme, supply chain) and the intellectual property and regulatory assessment. In the current article, we will focus and give insight on the first segment.
Why is the promotion of project’s results so important?
Before start talking about promotion, marketing, and the awareness, it might be helpful to give the official definition of the project results of an EU project. According to the official glossary of the EC, the results of an EU project are any tangible or intangible output of the action, such as data, knowledge and information whatever their form or nature, whether or not they can be protected. They are the outputs generated during the project, which can create impact during and/or after the EU funding procedure.
The promotion of these results of a proposal is the key for its commercialisation. As mentioned above, no matter how technologically innovative a project is, if there is not a comprehensive plan to spread the word in the national, European, and potentially global market, its commercial success is at stake. Commercialisation (e.g. stakeholder engagement) is the step to follow and lead to the market penetration.
Common barriers on the way to effective Communication, Dissemination and Exploitation activities
However, applicants quite often underestimate the importance of demonstrating a clear, even preliminary, plan for the above concepts when they submit an EU proposal. The main reasons are:
- Not clear perception of the difference between communication, dissemination, and exploitation.
- Focusing on implementing and validating technical objectives, as they often wrongly consider that working on these concepts (especially exploitation) is still too early (this is a common practise for programmes with lower starting Technological Readiness Level (TRL).
- Limited considerations of what can be valuable key results of the project and/or lack of interest from the partners to consider the value and potential unique selling points (USPs) of the key results outside their own (commercial, academic) communities.
- Lack of reflection and joint discussions within the consortia in collaborative projects.
Below, we will define and clarify the three main concepts (communication, dissemination, exploitation) and break down the goals of each one the evaluators expect to see in an EU proposal.
Communication activities for a Horizon Europe project
The communication plan shall be based on taking strategic and targeted measures for promoting the project itself and its results to multiple audiences, including both the media and the public.
Same as the other two concepts, the communication plan highly depends on the nature of the final output(s) of the EU project. Nevertheless, it is crucial to have a strategically plan, holistic approach, on top of any necessary ad-hoc efforts and define clear communicative objectives (e.g. raise awareness with online/offline tools and try to define these tools, establish synergies with external bodies such as national/international associations, achieve high visibility through the scientific community, via strong messages). Key goals that can apply to every proposal are:
- Reach out to society as a whole and in particular to specific audiences.
- Demonstrate how EU funding contributes to tackling societal challenges (also from a socio-economical point of view), highlighting the environmental approach where applicable.
- In our current Covid-19 era, any (in)direct relevance of the project with the pandemic can be highly valued.
Common tools that can serve this purpose are: (i) Visual identity and brand (e.g. work on a preliminary project logo); (ii) project website and blog; (iii) informative material (both printable – banners, posters, flyers - and multimedia – videos, digital flyers); (iv) newsletters and extensive use of the social media, especially Twitter (create campaigns for targeted audience); (v) participation in industry events (it will add value to make a first research of potential events that the applicant may be interested in attending/participating and mention the list in the proposal. Tip: Target events in the primary geographical target markets); and (vi) achieve commercial publications in online/offline magazines and blogs.
Practical tip: Relating each potential tool with a target date within the project timeline (e.g. website to be launched by month 3) and with a target value (e.g. attend at least four conferences during the project’s duration) will show to the evaluators that you have at least conduct a preliminary communication plan for your project.