Horizon 2020 funding is very attractive – it can go up to 100% of project costs – and the competition to obtain funds is fierce. Luxembourg players hold their own in the race: with 284 successful participations since 2014 and a proposal success rate exceeding 16%, the country ranks 5th among the EU member states. Luxembourg researchers have also received 10 highly prestigious European Research Council (ERC) grants, which again places the Grand Duchy among the top performing countries in the EU. Highlighting this positive development in his welcome address, Robert Kerger, Deputy Director at the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, emphasised that Horizon 2020 offers opportunities for all thematic fields and that Luxembourg still has “untapped potential”.

How to play in a winning team

Horizon 2020 offers much more than just funding. “Each project is an opportunity to meet new business partners and providers of innovative technologies, and to detect new business opportunities,” says Stefano Pozzi Mucelli, Senior Advisor – European Funding at Luxinnovation. “The strong competition and the demanding evaluation process for project applications also means that organisations that are part of successful project proposals get visibility and additional credibility.”

The first step is thus to be part of a proposal that is approved for funding. Luxinnovation provides personalised support with identifying the strengths of interested organisations in order to align them with relevant programme topics, scanning the programme for suitable calls for proposals and identifying key players to build strong project consortia. The agency can also review proposals and help optimise them according to the call specifications.

Preparing the project execution thoroughly and having a good project management structure in place is also crucial. During the event, Luxinnovation’s Head of European Funding, Benjamin Questier, underlined the need to define responsibilities, deliverables and milestones clearly, communicate regularly with the project coordinator as well as with the project officer at the European Commission and draft agreements for how to handle the intellectual property rights associated with the use of project results. “A Horizon 2020 project includes some paper work, but once it is running, it’s a real pleasure,” he assured the participants.

New funding opportunities

Horizon 2020 Day also included parallel thematic sessions on topics such as energy and environment, health and agriculture, digital technologies, social sciences and humanities, and specific funding for SMEs. Mr Pozzi Mucelli is Luxembourg’s Horizon 2020 National Contact Point for transport and nanotechnologies, advanced materials, biotechnology, and advanced manufacturing and processing (NMBP) and organised a session on smart, green and integrated transport and nanotechnologies. “Our goal is to demystify the programme and try to obtain more proposal submissions for upcoming calls for proposals,” he says. “We would also like to increase the success rates even further.”

During the parallel sessions, Mr Pozzi Mucelli and his colleagues presented topics that will be covered by the calls for proposals to be issued during 2019 and 2020. “The 2019 calls will continue to pursue the major policy drives that defined the call topics in 2018,” Mr Pozzi Mucelli explains. “There will also be a continued strong emphasis on digitalisation, on aspects related to social sciences and humanities and on the actual impact of R&D and innovation activities funded by the EU.”

2020 will be more of a transition year leading up to the next European framework programme, Horizon Europe, which will cover the period 2021-2027. The titles of the 2020 call topics are available in the work programmes that have already been published on the Participant Portal.

“I advise anyone interested in applying to take a look and start to get ready in advance,” says Mr Pozzi Mucelli. “Contacting us at Luxinnovation at an early stage can also be helpful. Competition is tough and often increases during the last years of the programme.”

(Photos @ Marie De Decker)