Horizon 2020: Advice to maximise your chances to capture research funding

Applying for European funding can be hugely beneficial, but does require an understanding of the structure and a considerable commitment of time and effort. Given this, there is a range of tailored, one-to-one support available pooled from expertise within Research Services and across faculties to help applicants from all career stages navigate the multi-faceted nature of Horizon 2020. First ensure you understand the pillar structure of Horizon 2020:

Understanding EU funding page


The Importance of Collaboration

One of the key differences with EU funding to traditional RCUK funding is the emphasis on building consortiums and collaborating with partners in different countries.

Collaboration: through the Societal Challenges calls, Europe is looking for collaborations which will close the gap, in research and development terms, between itself and its global competitors. Calls expect a minimum of three partners from three different European countries. However, a critical mass of expertise can often only be achieved with more partners; but there is no expectation to have large consortia if you have the right partners.

Creating a consortium: consortia tend to be formed either by partners who have worked together previously and expand or contract their numbers based on suitability to the call, or by individuals or small research groups using partner search engines or brokerage events to join or create new partnerships. The idea of partners having worked together need not be restricted to a history of engaging in collaborative research and can take the form of academic networks or associations. Partner search engines are becoming more common and are aimed at matching interested academics under particular thematic calls. Some of the centrally run partner searches include:

A further way of accessing partnerships is via brokerage events arranged by national contact points (NCP) for each of the seven challenges. The NCPs arrange information days and brokerage events for each challenge that tend to take place once Work Programmes have been launched. Developing a relationship with the NCP for your area of research can be very helpful. You can search for information days and brokerage events using the link below.

Horizon 2020 information, workshop and brokerage events

Non-academic Engagement: When constructing your consortium, a key consideration should be involving partners from non-academic organisations such as industrial companies and SMEs, but also museums, libraries, and NGOs – depending on the particular call.


Understanding EU Policy

Policy Relevance: To be competitive it is essential to include some references as to how your proposal will satisfy various strategies of the European Commission. Although the thematically specific policy documents will vary depending on the call, there are some general documents to reference:

Europe 2020 is the European Union's 10 year growth strategy. Referencing ways in which your proposal will help achieve this growth would be a strength.

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The European Charter for Researchers is a framework document which governs codes of conduct for researchers; mentioning how the consortium will abide by this charter is advisable.

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The Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers offers guidance and best practice for the recruitment of researchers. If your proposal includes taking on PhD students, postdocs, or other research staff, you should refer to this code as governing recruitment. 

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The European Research Area policy is important to reference, as consortium which will help strengthen cross-border links are very much recommended. 

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There are, of course, more specific European policies which may have relevance for your proposal which are often published on.

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