How to write an Impact Section for Horizon 2020

In order to train the ample attitude required for identifying main project impacts, we highlight the 3 key targets where impacts must be focused on while writing Horizon 2020 proposal.

Project impacts on users and customers

Certainly, your solution will not suit "everyone", so you need to identify and structure your audience. In this sense, project impacts must be considered not only for those taking advantage of the project results (i.e. users) but also for customers, that is, those paying for them (e.g. if you develop a novel technique to treat cancer, patients would be your users, and medical centres your customers). Having initially segmented your users/customers and defined their problems and needs, project impacts can be then directly grasped by quantifying how your H2020 project is going to solve their problems and meet their needs (note that designing a table for this purpose is always helpful).

Project impacts on the market

H2020 proposals also have to demonstrate that you know the current challenges, drivers, and potential evolution of the markets where your project impacts. This market analysis should provide an overview of both your own industry and the sectors where you intend to distribute your products, including quantitative data to support your claims. A typically successful approach to start giving some context and a brief description of the overall sector to then focus on your particular market verticals, including size, growth rate, trends, and outlook. You can find plenty of market data on the Web (e.g. Eurostat data base).

A solid market quantification should, at least, address (1) what is the Total Addressable Market (TAM) for the resulting products, (2) what is the geographical distribution of the target sectors, and (3) an identification of the main market barriers (legal, economic, language, regulations, etc.). As shown next, this market analysis must be in line with your business plan; for instance, a good practice is to consolidate in a single table both market barriers and the proposed solutions to overcome them.

Project impacts on your own business

Finally, impacts on your own company, it is usually addressed depicting its financial projections, that is, the expected growth potential of your solution in terms of turnover, direct costs, profit, employment, and return on investment. However, this information should be complemented with (1) a brief explanation on how the proposed innovation fits the company’s overall business strategy (e.g. is the company fully focused on this innovation or it complements a previous portfolio?) and with (2) a solid business plan (at least addressing the value-chain, the pricing model, and the commercialization plan for your product).


When describing your value-chain it is important to list which stakeholders are key for developing your product (i.e. technical partners) and for commercializing it (i.e. commercial partners like distributors). This list should include specific information explaining current relationships with partners already engaged in your H2020 project (referencing here any letter of support provided by them) plus the plan for acquiring potential ones.

Commercialization plan

The commercialization plan should be as much specific as possible, explaining how you plan to exploit your products (directly? indirectly through partners? etc.) and what channels will be used to reach target customers (by sales representatives? online marketing? etc.). If you have problems visualising your business plan, the Business Model Canvas might be a helpful tool to exploit. At first, as a guide to build your own plan, but also including the resulting Canvas’ visual char in the proposal.

Besides these 3 key targets, some complementary activities are convenient to convince evaluators of the feasibility of the previously described project impacts. Then, a winning proposal must also include next, let's say, supporting information within the Impact Section.

Competition analysis

The already mentioned market analysis should be complemented with a study on the closest competitors. Here it is important to note that evaluators expect to find a by-company comparison (in size, geographical approach, market position, pricing strategy, etc.; including data from your own expected situation), but not a technical comparison of your solution (that should have been addressed in the Excellence section). Again, a visual table is the best approach to present this information.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) plan

A top Impact section must address Intellectual Property from two complementary perspectives. Initially, it has to justify that the participant company has Freedom to Operate (FTO) concerning the innovation project described in the proposal. That is, describing what is currently protected by others and, if so, explaining why your innovation is not affected by that protection. Then, the proposal also has to outline the status of protection of your current know-how and the strategy for the protection of the knowledge derived from Horizon 2020 project. It should be stated (1) what are you going to protect (a complete system or just separate modules, chemicals used in the process, the process itself, etc.), and (2) how you will protect this knowledge (e.g. national or international patents? NDAs? binding licenses?).

Dissemination and communication activities

Finally, it is also key to specify how you will create awareness of the existence of your product, that is, what are your marketing strategies for reaching customers and other stakeholders (relevant industry actors, lobbying groups, potential partners/collaborators, etc.). Be creative and specific, there are lots of media that can be exploited (fairs, events, conferences and congresses, online presence, etc.).

With the highlights above as a basic guide for building your Impact section, I expect you now have a clearer outlook about how structuring a winning H2020 proposal.

Recorded Webinar: Proposal Writing in H2020 – How to maximize impact

This insightful webinar is held by Jeanne Collin, head of projects in Welcomeurope. During the Expert Session Jeanne provides us with the key information and practical tips on drafting the Impact Section of an H2020 application.

What are the expectations of the jury of EU funded projects and how to exceed them? How to master the contractual obligations and main definitions? How to come away with a strategy to achieve the highest impact during the project implementation? To answer these questions, in the webinar mentioned above, Jeanne gives an overview of the impact section structure of the Horizon 2020 proposal and highlights two main points:

  • The first point relates to the expected impact and how to contribute to each one of them mentioned in the work programme
  • The second point refers to the measures taken to maximize these impacts. It is crucial to explain how activities are implemented and how successful networking can work for both dissemination/use and communication activities

Jeanne emphasizes that the main component of a successful application is explaining the Commission how your project is in line with the Europe 2020 strategy and how it is to be quantified through KPIs. Also, she explaines how to prove this and how communication, exploitation, and dissemination activities should be addressed during the proposal writing phase to demonstrate and maximize the societal and economic impacts of EU funded projects.

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