Preparing a H2020 proposal and navigating the proposal template: our tips and tricks

The prestigious H2020 programme by the European Commission includes several types of actions. One of these are the so-called Research & Innovation Actions (RIA), which are aimed to create new knowledge and/or to explore the feasibility of translating this knowledge into innovative applications, through an international collaborative effort.

About Horizon 2020 RIAs

RIAs provide funding for basic and applied research, technology development and integration, testing and validation of a small-scale prototype in a laboratory setting, as well as limited demonstration of technical feasibility in a near to operational environment. Thus, RIAs are collaborative scientifically oriented research projects encompassing all stages from Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) 1 to 5.

Our tips to prepare your H2020 proposal and successfully navigate the proposal template

With a 100% funding rate and subsidies ranging from €5 to €20 million per project, the RIAs are a showpiece of the European Commission as well as an attractive funding opportunity for ambitious researchers. However, you will not be the only one applying for a H2020 RIA grant. Therefore, we provide you with the 3 most important aspects to consider when preparing your H2020 RIA project proposal.

1. Fit of your project with the specific focus of H2020 RIA calls

The H2020 RIA calls have a large variety of different scopes regarding their topics. For the Life Sciences industry, the societal challenge ‘Health, demographic change and wellbeing’ is the most interesting (indicated by SC1). For each scope there is an additional subdivision in highly specific topics, ranging from mining big data for early detection of infectious disease threats (SC1-BHC-13-2019) to assessing and addressing the impact of environment on health (SC1-BHC-28-2019).

This shows that H2020 RIAs are both highly diverse and complex. Therefore, it is essential that you assess the fit of your proposed project with the specific challenge and scope of the various specific topics within the H2020 RIA calls. After selecting your specific H2020 RIA call, make sure to clearly address and emphasize the fit with the H2020 RIA call throughout the entire proposal, and particularly in the following sections:

  • Section 1.1: Objectives;
  • Section 1.2: Relation to the work programme;
  • Section 1.4: Ambition;
  • Section 2.1: Expected impacts.

2. Composition of the consortium

It is of utmost importance to make your project stand out from other applications, especially through a high-quality consortium and available expertise. Due to the highly specific topics of H2020 RIA calls there is only a limited number of available Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) to join your consortium. Additionally, it is also likely that several KOLs are already involved in another application for the same H2020 RIA call. Therefore, it is highly recommended to approach KOLs relevant for the specific topic of the call  in a very early stage by using your network. If a specific relevant expertise is still missing, approach additional partners to join the consortium. It is critical that all expertise required to perform the proposed project activities is available in the consortium.

Make sure that you clearly describe the added value and unique expertise of each consortium partner in Section 3.3: Consortium as a whole and Section 4.1: Participants to demonstrate the strength and competitiveness of the entire consortium. Mention your excellent consortium also already in Section 1.1: Objectives to immediately convince evaluators that the consortium has all the abilities to perform the activities and achieve the objectives and goals to make your project a success.

3. Prepare the outline of your project proposal

Essential for a high-quality proposal is that all consortium partners have a shared vision regarding the project. However, achieving consensus on the project can prove challenging due to the consortium consisting of 10 to 25+ partners, all having their own opinions and interests. Therefore, we recommend forming a ‘core consortium’ of approximately 5 partners, preferably KOLs in the field, who will design the outline of the project. First of all, the core consortium can create a concept to define the (scientific) objectives of the project (Section 1.1: Objectives and Section 1.3a: Concept). The core consortium can also set-up the work packages to make sure all required activities are included in the project (Section 3.1: Workplan and Section 1.3b: Methodology) while it also indicates which expertise is still missing and thus which additional partners are needed. Subsequently, it will be easier to convince potential partners to join the consortium if you already have a clear vision and outline of the project to share with them. Finally, the core consortium consists of partners who are both committed and dedicated to contributing to the project proposal, and who can also stimulate the other partners to contribute to the final proposal.

Support for your application

Catalyze can support you by identifying the right H2020 RIA call for your project and by finding the right partners to join your consortium. Our successful track record with H2020 applications and our large network of universities, research institutes, (academic) hospitals, SMEs and large industry partners throughout Europe, covering all fields of expertise involved in R&D in the Life Sciences and beyond, shows we know how to compose excellent consortia and prepare high quality proposals. If you want to know more about Catalyze and find out how we can help you, please feel free to contact us.


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