Participation in the environmental area of H2020

The beginning of 2017 can be considered as a proper time to look back at Horizon 2020 participation, as  the programme  is in the middle of its duration. In this article, we concentrate on the basic characteristics of participation in Societal Challenge 5: Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials (SC5).  Analysed data is taken from the E-CORDA  database (version  6, 30/09/2016).

Similarly as in other H2020 priorities, in SC5 calls for proposal raise a strong response from the research community: altogether 3 277 eligible project proposals prepared by 14 294 participants have been submitted since the beginning of the H2020 programme in SC5. 326 projects with 2 335 participants were selected for funding. Total project success rate accordingly responds to almost 10 % (the highest – 27 % – in the case of Coordination and support actions, the lowest – 7 % in the case of SME Instrument).

A comparison of EU member states involvement in SC5 is given in Fig. 1. Columns show number of participations in funded projects calculated per 1 million of inhabitants for EU-15 (blue columns) and EU-13 (grey columns). High values of this parameter can be observed in case of Slovenia, Denmark, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands and Portugal.  Absolute numbers of participations illustrated by points are the highest in Spain, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, followed by the Netherlands and France. Small countries, like Cyprus, Malta or Estonia, are characterised by the small number of participations, but belong to the most successful as for the above mentioned relative characteristic.

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The benefits of participating in JPIs

At the fifth anniversary of the launch of the second wave of Joint Programming Initiatives (JPI), the ten initiatives have presented a new brochure and factsheets on all JPIs. The new folder explains the benefits of participating in a Joint Programming Initiative, provides an overview of the governance model and highlights the implementation actions for transnational cooperation. In addition to the general introduction to Joint Programming, all JPIs developed a factsheet with an overview of member countries, objectives and key achievements.

Joint Programming Initiatives (JPIs) were launched in the major research fields focused on tackling the Grand Societal Challenges via European Council conclusions in 2009. JPIs are Member State-led, bringing together national research funding organisations, ministries and research councils both in Europe and further afield. This ambition, of aligning national programmes, strategies and policies, extends beyond the matching of RD&I funds. The alignment process covers various phases, from setting joint objectives and forging a common vision and a SRIA[i] between countries to developing appropriate framework conditions and selecting appropriate instruments. JPIs are long-term processes that contribute to EU and global policy objectives including EU2020 smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, UN Sustainable Development Goals and WHO goals. A portfolio of implementation measures and instruments, based on the developed strategies was, and continues to be, developed for supporting and strengthening joint transnational actions.

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Social sciences and humanities – an added value for your project

For decades, European research was primarily based on the expertise of researchers specialised in life and physical sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Now, the new Horizon 2020 policy looks further – it is based on a premise that integration of social sciences and humanities (SSH) aspects into European research projects is indispensible to generate new knowledge and innovation.

SSH encompasses various disciplines – from sociology, psychology, communication and political science to economics, history , culture, law and ethics. It is evident that the knowledge for solving different societal challenges, including those related to the environment field, is spread across STEM and SSH disciplines. SSH integration in Horizon 2020 projects can yield innovative solutions and products that are socially acceptable, directly applicable, marketable and cost-effective. In addition, SSH integration can substantially enhance the impact of the project and support effective dissemination of results and communication with the target group and the wider public.

What does SSH integration mean in practice?

SSH experts contribute to framing Horizon 2020 topics and, consequently, the SSH aspects determined by them must be adequately addressed in Horizon 2020 proposals. In addition, evaluation panels include SSH expertise and the evaluators are trained on how to identify and evaluate SSH aspects. Given the above, inclusion of SSH expertise in project proposals can substantially increase evaluation scores and consequently raise a chance for a grant.

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Participation of SMEs in the environmental areas of FP7 and H2020

Increase of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) participation in research projects has been one of the priorities of EU research programmes. We focus on this issue within environmental priorities of 7th Framework Programme (FP7) and Horizon 2020 programme (H2020). In FP7, environmental research was mainly included in Environment (including Climate change) topic, in H2020 we find it in so-called Societal Challenge 5: Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials.

Our source of data, the H2020 E-CORDA  database (version  5, 31/05/2016),  allows  for  a  rough  categorization  of  research  teams  according  to  their predominant  activities: universities, research organizations, private and public sector, SMEs and others. In FP7, SMEs constituted 15.62 % and 14.44 % of all participants in proposals and grants, respectively. With a shift of H2020 orientation towards innovation and requirement of specific solutions the increase of SMEs entering the projects as end-users or demanders could be expected. Indeed, the share of SMEs in H2020 increased to 35.54 % in proposals and 21.66 % in grants. But we have to take into account the new H2020 type of action, so-called SME instrument designed for SMEs only. After exclusion of this instrument we are coming to 19.49 % of SMEs in proposals and 15.8 % in grants. The increase of SMEs share in “classical” project types is still visible, but especially in case of grants much less significant. Above mentioned data comprise participants from all countries whereas Figures 1 and 2 describe the situation in EU countries only.

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Bio-Based Industries Joint Technology Initiative – BBI JTI

The Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) is a public-private partnership between the European Commission and Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC). The objective of BBI JU is to develop new bio refining technologies and to sustainably transform renewable natural resources into bio-based products, materials and fuels.

Industry members, represented by a non-profit organisation – BIC (Bio-based Industries Consortium), cover the entire bio-based value chain and consist of large industries, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), regional clusters, European trade associations, and European Technology Platforms. The main aim of BIC is to ensure and promote the technological and economic development of the bio-based industries in Europe.

This public-private partnership runs under Horizon 2020 legal frame and follows its rules for participation. Having said that, BBI JU is responsible for the implementation of open call for proposals for research and innovation actions and innovation actions, as well as coordination and support actions. Even though being a BIC member gives you a number of advantages, joining BIC is not obligatory in order to apply for funding under BBI JU call for proposals. However, since this is  a public-private partnership, the calls are very much industry-driven.

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Links between “Societal Challenge 5” and “Space” in Horizon 2020

Horizon’s 2020 Societal Challenge 5 (Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials) is covering topics that represent one of the global and biggest challenge facing humanity. Many of Earth’s most critical natural resources (forests, fisheries, water, coal, oil) suffer from mishandling, mismanagement and unsustainable use. As a result, their long-term sustainability is at risk. New approaches to conservation, resource management and governance are needed for freshwater resources, global food production, sea levels, raw materials and human security.

The space-based solution can provide researchers and policy-makers with vital information about the Earth’s climate system, enabling the monitoring, prediction, modelling and implementation of mitigation and adaptation measures. Remote-sensing and communication satellites can be used to help develop Arctic infrastructure, to sustainably manage the Arctic environment, to aid scientific research and improve our knowledge. Space-based technologies also allow for improved observation, tracking and management of resource abundance and reduction. 

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Are you an SME and looking for funding opportunities? Take a minute to read about the H2020 SME instrument.

It is the European Council’s vision that Small-Medium sized Enterprises (SME) are the ones to lead Europe’s future economy.

Thus, the Horizon 2020 dedicated SME Instrument (“SME Instrument”) is a thematic program, focusing on funding small-medium enterprises with high growth potential and innovative-breakthrough vision. The SME Instrument’s focus is not only on transforming disruptive ideas into concrete, innovative solutions with a European and global impact, but also on empowering and lifting the company and helping them to fulfill their potential.

The instrument comprises of 3 phases, as described below. SMEs may directly apply for phase 1 or 2, depending on the progress and advancement of their proposals. However, all the innovations, regardless of the phase, are expected to demonstrate Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 or above.

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Circular economy – check why it is the hot topic for Horizon 2020

On the 2nd December 2015 the European Commission adopted the Circular Economy Package to address the growing challenge of the excessive use of resources and, in a long term, to develop a sustainable, low carbon, resource efficient and competitive economy in Europe.

If you want to know why circular economy is the ‘hot topic’ for the European Commission and how you, within the framework of Horizon 2020 and SC5, can support the transition of Europe into the circular economy, this article is for you!

Circular Economy – the concept

The idea behind the Circular Economy lies in closing the loop in a life cycle of a product. Currently, our economy is based on the following linear sequence: extraction of resources ->production of goods ->use-of those goods -> disposal of waste generated in the production and consumption process (approach known as ‘from cradle to grave’). In this approach, there is a substantial gap where valuable resources and materials get wasted and a tremendous amount of waste is generated, directly leading to environmental damage and climate change.


If we close the loop, we will arrive to the following circular sequence: production of goods -> use-of those goods -> waste management -> re-use of waste in another production circuit (approach known as ‘from cradle to cradle’). The focus of circular economy is, therefore, on the re-use of waste generated in the life cycle of a product, decrease in the extraction and use of raw materials and limitation of the amount of disposed waste.

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It is time to consider gender aspects in your Research & Innovation projects

Horizon 2020 promotes a better integration of the gender dimension in the work programmes, and requires researchers to pay attention to gender equality. This is part of the Responsible Research and Innovation approach that anticipates and assesses potential implications and societal expectations with regard to research and innovation. RRI’s ultimate aim is to foster the design of inclusive and sustainable research and innovation.

What does that mean? Is this yet another constraint… or rather an opportunity?

Gender equality concerns all parts of Horizon 2020 programme, and encompasses two facets

  • One aspect relates to human resources i.e. balance between women and men in the teams implementing your project. Gender balance should be promoted at all levels in the research teams and management structures. At proposal stage, this is checked by evaluators through the gender of the key personnel involved in the project (Administrative part – Section 4). During project execution, if your consortium cannot achieve a good gender balance, it should explain what measures were taken to promote gender equality (Technical report).
  • Another aspect concerns the content, i.e. analysing and taking into account the possible differences between men and women, boys and girls, or males and females, in the R&I content.

Not relevant to your project idea? Think twice…

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How to get the most of your participation to NCPs CaRE brokerage event?

On 14.09.2016, NCPs CaRE organizes a brokerage event to help SC5 applicants find partners and initiate consortium building.

The brokerage will be held in Brussels and is organized in the framework of EC Info Day on Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge 5 “Climate action, resource efficiency and raw materials”, Info Day organized by EASME – Executive Agency for SMEs.

Brokerage events can be a great opportunity to meet new contacts with new expertise from new countries. Even so you have already a large network of contacts, being receptive to new talents and expertise is definitely a plus to keep your network growing. Saying that, how to make the most out of a brokerage event?

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