Horizon 2020The first calls under the European Union’s new framework programme for research and innovation – Horizon 2020 – are expected towards the end of this year. The main differences with previous funding programmes will be

  • a single programme, coupling research to innovation
  • an emphasis on societal challenges, e.g. health, clean energy
  • simplified access

One of the aspects to be simplified is the time to grant (TTG), meaning the period from the deadline for applications to the date of signing a grant agreement with the successful consortia. In future, the Commission will be obliged to

  • inform applicants of the outcome of the call less than 6 months from the closing date for applications,
  • sign an agreement with the successful applicants less than 3 months later.

This of course means squeezing quite a lot of administrative work into a shorter period. The Commission has a number of solutions in reserve,  such as asking for more administrative information up-front as part of the bidding process or depending more on declarations of honour, for example. Another approach open to them is to implement a 2-stage submission procedure for certain calls. In such cases, the stopwatch would start running from the closing date of the second submission stage.

The 2-stage submission procedure has its supporters and detractors. Those not in support are generally industry representatives for whom time to market is essential to reap the commercial success of their innovations. Those in favour of a 2-stage approach are generally from the university side for whom a reduction in the administrative burden (20 page application at stage 1) and an increase in funding chances (if the application goes through to stage 2) are important considerations. An essential corollary here is that the feedback from evaluators in stage 1 can contribute effectively to shaping a full proposal with a good chance of success.

Another simplification planned (but not to be ready for the calls to be published at the end of 2013) is a more intergrated approach to the structure of the research proposal, moving away from the Parts A and B to a format containing possibly 4 different sections. Also in the pipeline is more web-based guidance on filling out an application and advice on the number of deliverables and milestones, underscoring the need for more quality and less quantity.

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  1. I do think many of the proposed changes are beneficial to improved small business engagement, which is the explicit aim of Horizon 2020. Having already presented at two Horizon 2020 awareness raising events in Scotland, the reponse has been over all positive and from small businesses, particularly strong on the proposed SME Instrument.

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