How to start a Horizon 2020 project

You’ll find a wide variety of funding opportunities in the Horizon 2020 work programmes for research & innovation activities in the calls for proposals. This article gives you the basic information about H2020 calls, as well as outlines the 5 key functionalities of the H2020 Funding and Tenders portal.

Horizon 2020 project

The first step in any funding application is finding your call. Regardless if you’re an expert in Horizon 2020 and EU research funding or new to the process, the first step is to go to the "Search funding & tenders" page in order to find topics for open or forthcoming calls. A call is the summary of the most common topics the research field, innovation, or societal challenge entail; including information about all the topics that belong to that particular call. Topics are the subdivisions of calls; and your proposal must be relevant to at least one topic. The scope and expected impact of each topic along with related proposals is detailed on the topic page.

On the call page of Funding & Tenders Portal you’ll see all the topics belonging to each Horizon 2020 call (note, a small number of calls don’t have topics). To get to the topic page, simply click on the topic link under the call. The Search topics page will give you a list of topics for open calls; and you can click on the topic title to be redirected to the topic page. Topic page is the key documents and information you need to prepare your proposal are found on the topic page. You’ll find the submission deadline and a link to the electronic submission system and the pages to submit your proposal here.

Tip: Use the quick finder to filter your results. You can search for topics related to H2020 cross-cutting priorities, such as international cooperation, SME instrument, social sciences and humanities, and so on.

If you’re having trouble knowing what to search for you can use previous (closed) topics as a guide.

You’ll find a great deal of information available for your proposal on the call and topics pages.

The call pages include:

  • the latest updates and information about the call.
  • a summary of the call detailing the common scientific field, innovation, or societal challenge that are involved with the topics of this call.

The topic pages include:

  • the updates and information of the call topic.
  • detailed explanations of the topic scope, the project(s) expected impact, and its type of action.
  • the conditions and documents of the topic, including its eligibility and evaluation criteria. It also includes pdf-templates of the forms that you’ll need to use in the electronic submission system.
  • access to the submission system.
  • support services that can assist you with preparing your proposal for the selected topic.

Who can apply?

Anyone meeting the requirements of being a natural or legal person(s) regardless of their place of establishment or residence. This includes companies (big or small), research organisations, universities, non-governmental organisations, and so on. To qualify, these natural or legal person(s) need to have the operational and financial means of carrying out all the research tasks they propose.

Topic Deadlines

You’ll find the deadline in the topic header. Topics are considered open until this deadline. Each topic will state its deadlines and cut-off dates. Please note that topics can have various stages.

1-stage topics

Most topics are 1-stage topics, which require you submit a full proposal before the specified deadline.

2-stage topics

Topics with a 2-stage submission procedure require you to submit both an outline and full proposal.

To meet the requirements of stage 1, you must submit an outline proposal with a maximum standard of 10 pages (unless otherwise specified in the submission system) prior to the specified deadline. This outline proposal will then be evaluated to see if it meets the specified criteria detailed in the topic conditions.

Once your outline proposal has been accepted, you’ll need to move onto stage 2, which requires you to submit your full proposal prior to the submission deadline. If the relevant work programme requires it, you’ll also receive the stage-1 Evaluation summary report (ESR) with your outline proposal acceptance.

If your stage 1 outline proposal is rejected, you’ll receive a notification in writing with an evaluation summary report.

Why are there cut-off dates for continuously open topics?

Topics that are continuously open, such as SME instrument topics, allow you to submit a proposal at any time. The cut-off dates allow you to have some guidance as to when your proposal will be evaluated. All proposals received by a given cut-off date will be evaluated after that deadline.

5 key functionalities of the H2020 Funding and Tenders portal

The Funding and Tenders Portal is the entry point for participants and experts in funding programmes and tenders managed by the European Commission and other EU bodies. All steps of Horizon 2020 projects are managed via this portal, starting with information on calls for proposals, proposal submission and the signature of the Grant Agreement, project reporting and amendments of the Grant Agreement, as well as all legal documents, Work Programmes, and guidelines.

Pro tip: You can always use the H2020 Online manual found on the Portal which contains all the detailed information about the portal and the IT How To which has detailed videos and screenshots which will help you navigate on the portal.

How to register your organization

Starting at number one, the Portal displays a number of services available to the general public, but if you want to dive in deeper, participants need an ECAS account (European Commission’s Authentication Service) in order to access the Funding & Tender Opportunities Portal. How can you do that?

The registration on the Funding and Tenders Portal is done via your email address which will also be used for login. If you already have an EU Login account, you must use that one. After logging in, you can use the personalised services and tools for submitting proposals and managing projects. Within the portal the participants have also the possibility of assuming different functions (roles) which will award them with the respective rights. On completing registration, you will receive your PIC number (Participant Identification Code) which is the unique identifier of the organisation and will be used as a reference by the Commission in any interactions. You will also need to enter LEAR (Legal Entity Appointed Representative) and Account Administrator (Grants and Innovation Office) as Contacts for the Project.

How to manage the roles in the Funding and Tenders Portal

When selecting roles and access rights, you will have the option of choosing between the main contacts or contact persons. You would typically select the top-level role (Main contact for most calls) for the Proposal Coordinator organisation during the initial proposal draft creation. If you select the Contact person role (or another role if the call uses specific roles), make sure to add the top-level role (Main contact) in the next steps before you submit your proposal.

How to find partners

    Any company, research organisation or non-governmental organisation can be a partner, regardless of where they are based, provided they are financially viable and qualified to perform the tasks specified in the project proposal.

    If you want to build your dream team and find experienced Horizon 2020 partners, who already have ongoing projects, or if you want to browse in the database of registered organisations, you can visit the Partner Search page of the Funding & Tenders Portal. You can search by keyword/geographical area/funding type, etc. Search results include complete organisation profiles with lists of funded projects and the possibility to contact representatives.

    If you have selected your area of interest via the Topic search, you may publish your offer/interest for one or more of the open/forthcoming topics of a call on the Funding & Tenders Portal. All your published offers/interests will be visible on your organisation's page too.

    Depending on the funding programme concerned (generally research and innovation programmes), national contact points (NCPs) also provide partner search services, offering detailed partner profiles and active partnership requests. A useful tip would also be looking for partners in the Project and Results tab which is a section that provides more information on the work done in past and ongoing funding projects.

    How to find results

      Whether you are a policymaker, an investor, an entrepreneur, a researcher, an innovation, legal, business development or financing expert, or any interested citizen, the Project and Results section is the place where you can discover the wealth of EU-funded research results and get in contact with their creators.

      It includes interactive data on programme proposals, success rates, funded projects, and past participants. Here you can find direct access to the Horizon Dashboard which offers public access to statistics on proposals, funded projects and project results, Horizon Project Results platform, Horizon Results Booster, Innovation Success Stories and Horizon 2020, FP7 and Research Fund for coal and Steel projects which by clicking will take you to Cordis where you can find project information and work report summaries.

      How to boost your dissemination

        Dissemination and exploitation play a key role in achieving and demonstrating impact on society, economy, environment, and policymaking. Therefore, there is an increasing need to focus the H2020 project dissemination and exploitation aspects of knowledge circulation on the demand side, making sure that the results stemming from the R&I activities are effectively creating the necessary incentives for the beneficiaries, researchers, and innovators to share their results for use and reuse.

        On the Funding and Tenders Portal, within the Project and Results section you can find the Horizon Results Booster which addresses projects that are eager to go beyond their Dissemination and Exploitation (D&E) obligations under Horizon 2020 - steering research towards strong societal impact and concretising the value of R&I activity for societal challenges. Through this platform, the European Commission offers free consulting services in order to help the beneficiaries get a step further and better implement their D&E actions.

        The Horizon Results Booster offers 3 types of services:

        1. Help and guidance for:

        • creating a results portfolio with other projects
        • creating and executing common dissemination strategy for a cluster of projects
        • improving existing exploitation plan

        2. Tailor made support services to develop a business plan

        3. Assistance, coaching and mentoring for go-to-market activities.

        How to contact the Helpdesk and NCPs

        Finally, on the last tab on the Portal you can find all the support available for the general public If you click on it, you will be able to access the helpdesk and see the support services available that are ready to answer your questions about the tools and processes of the Funding and Tenders Portal.

        An important and useful feature is contacting the National Contact Points for H2020 (NCPs). NCPs are national structures established and financed by governments of the EU member states and the states associated to the framework programme.

        They can offer personalised support on the spot and in applicants' own languages.

        The NCP systems can vary from one country to another from highly centralised to decentralised networks, and several very different actors, from ministries to universities, research centres and special agencies to private consulting companies.

        In general, the following basic services are available in accordance with the NCP Guiding Principles agreed by all countries:

        • Guidance on choosing relevant H2020 topics and types of action
        • Advice on administrative procedures and contractual issues
        • Training and assistance on proposal writing
        • Distribution of documentation (forms, guidelines, manuals etc.)
        • Assistance in partner search

        As the NCPs are national structures, the type and level of services offered may differ from country to country.

        These are my secrets hidden under the tree, for the rest, I will let you discover and navigate the Funding and Tenders Portal by yourself as it has multiple functionalities and tools which are crucial if you want to master the art of managing a project.

        This article is written in a cooperation with our valued partner Europa Media Trainings.

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