Getting ready to apply for Horizon Europe

Note*: As we have discussed already, there are several other funding schemes outside of Horizon Europe that can be very relevant to researchers and clinical scientists in the field of endocrinology. However, the following section reflects on requirements for submission and grant management for Horizon Europe calls. For requirements for other programmes, please check relevant links.

Coordinator vs partner

Monobeneficiary schemes such as MSCA DT, ERC individual grants and EIC calls require only one partner, while most of collaborative grant schemes in Pillar II of Horizon Europe need consortium of minimum three partners from three different Member States or Associated Countries with at least one of them being from member State. One of the consortium members becomes Project Coordinator. One of the most important decisions to make on EU funding journey is to whether you want to become the project coordinator or the project partner.

Horizon Europe project coordinator needs to be able to show proven research excellence and leadership in the field and preferable previous experience of managing large international or national projects.  Being Horizon Europe coordinator brings several advantages such as prestige, leadership, personal and institutional visibility, and on the other hand with the privilege of initiating the project, forming its concept, leading the partner selection and the proposal writing process.

What it actually means to be the project coordinator? Usually, the researcher who came up with major idea, selected the right call, initiated the project, framed the outlined and assembled core consortium naturally becomes project coordinator. However, it is important to bear in mind that the coordinator duties do not stop after the proposal submission. If the project is retained for funding, during the project’s lifetime, and in addition to the scientific tasks that the coordinator may have as a consortium partner, there is a line of mandatory responsibilities that the coordinator is obligated to perform. Non-exhaustive list includes:

  1. Act as the intermediary for all communications between the beneficiaries and the EC;
  2. Monitor and control the project’s work plan and that the action is implemented properly;
  3. Arrange  consortium meetings and subsequent reporting;
  4. Implement quality procedures for the project;
  5. Gather, monitor and consolidate scientific and technical content of periodical reports;
  6. Prepare, manage and coordinate project’s financial checks;
  7. Administration of project resources including budget-related issues;
  8. Financial management including distribution of payments to the beneficiaries;
  9. Facilitate communication within the consortium on administrative matters;
  10. Handle outstanding administrative issues like contract amendments;
  11. Consolidate project’s deliverables and reports and maintain Quality Assurance including submission to the EC

Looking at the check list above it is clear that decision-making process of whether you are ready to become a coordinator must include also assessing your organisation capabilities: does it have required resources and is ready to support your project financial, administrative management? (please also see section - Are you and your organisation ready to apply for and to manage European projects?)  

If you have identified the call you want to focus on but feel that you are not (yet!) in position to assemble and to drive your consortium what should be next steps? You can still become partner of choice and find partners taking several steps below.

Your professional visibility

Firstly, you need to make sure that your research profile is visible and all your professional credentials are up to date. Make sure that you are registered for an ORCID ID so that you have a unique identifier which will tie you to your work and distinguish you from other researchers. Apart of your research profile, there might be other points of your professional experience which make you stand out of the crowd and enable you to become a partner of choice for particular call. For example, do you have access to some unique infrastructures or data repositories, i.e. biobanks, patient data or have links to patient organisations? Do you use some cutting-edge technologies? Do you have experience of participating in/or management of international or national projects? Have you been designing and/or managing any training and educational programmes in your field?

You might want to consider writing a plain English summary of your work, focused on making it more accessible to a wider audience, and stressing out what unique expertise and experience you can offer. This can be summarised on your personal webpage and do make sure that it is regularly updated.

Consider also using social media like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram to promote your professional experience – these platforms are becoming more and more widely used for professional reasons.

Partner search

What partners do you need? Irrespective of whether you choose to partner or coordinator, you need to decide what partners you are looking for (i.e. sector, field/discipline or organisation in particular country). You need to read carefully particular call you have selected to identify your partner. Please see example Interpret  Horizon Europe call

There are plenty of opportunities to extend/build your network of EU collaborators in your field or event having in mind particular call. Where to look:

  1. Participate in thematic or information events run by EC – please see https://ec.europa.eu/info/research-and-innovation/events_en
  2. Previous projects funded by EC – check CORDIS project database https://cordis.europa.eu/projects/en you can go back to FP7, Horizon 2020 and later Horizon Europe and filter projects for example by combining funding scheme with key words
  3. Use the Partner Search function of the Funding and Tenders https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/portal/screen/how-to-participate/partner-search

The function allows to: look for organisations which received funding in the past and to

create and check Partner Search requests by call/topic

  1. Ask your National Contact Point https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/portal/screen/support/ncp Apart of help with partner search, he/she will be able to let you know about forthcoming international or national relevant events
  2. For Private and industrial partners check Enterprise Europe Network https://een.ec.europa.eu/
  3. For MSCA check http://www.mariecuriealumni.eu/
  4. EURAXESS partners search https://euraxess.ec.europa.eu/partnering
  5. Register as the expert. The European Union Institutions appoint external experts to assist in the evaluation of grant applications, projects and tenders, and to provide opinions and advice in specific cases.

In particular, experts assist in evaluation of proposals, prize applications and tenders and in monitoring of actions, grant agreements, public procurement contracts. It is not only great opportunity to meet experts from your field, but participation in the evaluation process will give one insights of “dos and don’ts” of European projects 
https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/portal/screen/work-as-an-expert

Is you and your organisation ready to apply for and to manage Horizon Europe  projects

Several administrative issues should be checked before applying for Horizon Europe.

PIC: Before submitting an application, all participating organisations involved in the proposal must first be registered in the Portal Participant Register and have their 9-digit Participant Identification Code (PIC number). Please follow EC guide for further details

https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/funding-tenders-opportunities/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=1867802

LEAR appointment

Parallel to the validation of your organisation in the Participant Register, your organisation needs to appoint a Legal Entity Appointed Representative (LEAR). (e.g. typically the CEO of the company, the rector of the university, the Director-General of the Institute, Head of Research Office). Your LEAR will:

  • manage the legal and financial information about the organisation
  • manage access rights of persons in the organisation
  • appoint representatives of the organisation to electronically sign grant agreements ('Legal Signatories' - LSIGN) or financial statements ('Financial Signatories' - FSIGN) via the Funding & Tenders Portal

Please follow EC guide for further details

https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/funding-tenders-opportunities/display/OM/LEAR appointment and validation

Grant management: If you/your organisation are successful in receiving Horizon Europe Funding In order to receive payments, the consortium must submit periodic reports. When these are due, they must be submitted directly in the Periodic Reporting Module of the Portal Grant Management System. While Technical reporting will be responsibility of researchers, directly involved in the project, Financial Reporting is normally managed by your organisation administration, Finance Department for example. You might want to check who will be responsible for the Financial Reporting in your organisation.

For further details check https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/funding-tenders-opportunities/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=1867970

Cross-cutting aspects of Horizon Europe

There are several cross cutting priorities which need to be addressed in Horizon Europe proposal

Gender aspects in research and innovation

The integration of the gender dimension into research and innovation content (i.e. sex and gender analysis) becomes a requirement by default across Horizon Europe programme Public bodies, research organisations and higher education establishments applying to the programme  will be required, starting in 2022, to have a gender equality plan (GEP) in place. You should check with your research office or administration  if they are aware of this forthcoming requirement and if they are taking necessary steps to prepare GEP.  For more information please refer to https://eige.europa.eu/gender-mainstreaming/toolkits/gear  

Integrating the gender dimension into research and innovation content of your proposal is also requirement. You need to determine the relevance of integrating sex and gender analysis in your research. Are there any sex differences that should be investigated and addressed? Have you questioned the gender assumptions that can influence your scientific priorities, research questions, and methods? Do you expect that your research findings affect differently male and females, women and men, girls and boys?

For more information please refer to https://ec.europa.eu/info/research-and-innovation/strategy/gender-equality-research-and-innovation_en

Open Science  

Definition of Open Science from HE proposal template says : “Open science is an approach based on open cooperative work and systematic sharing of knowledge and tools as early and widely as possible in the process. Open science practices include early and open sharing of research (for example through preregistration, registered reports, preprints, or crowd-sourcing); research output management; measures to ensure reproducibility of research outputs; providing open access to research outputs (such as publications, data, software, models, algorithms, and workflows); participation in open peer-review; and involving all relevant knowledge actors including citizens, civil society and end users in the co-creation of R&I agendas and contents (such as citizen science).”

Open science is a policy priority for the European Commission and the standard method of working under its research and innovation funding programmes. The European Commission requires beneficiaries of research and innovation funding to make their publications available in open access and make their data as open as possible and only as closed as necessary.

In an EU funded project, Open Science policy is implemented via:

Open Data and Data Management Plan

FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usable data) and open data sharing should become the default for the results of EU-funded scientific research.

Proposals selected for funding under Horizon Europe will need to develop a detailed data management plan (DMP) for making their data/research outputs findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR) as a deliverable by month 6 and revised towards the end of a project’s lifetime.

Your research office or administration should be able to help you with managing Open Access (possibly your organisations has its own repository for scientific publications) and help you to create DMP. For Open Access publications you can also use Open Research Europe publishing platform https://open-research-europe.ec.europa.eu/

For more information on EC policy on Open Science please refer to https://ec.europa.eu/info/research-and-innovation/strategy/goals-research-and-innovation-policy/open-science_en

Ethics

For all activities funded, ethics is an integral part of research from beginning to end, and ethical compliance is essential to achieve real research excellence. An ethics review process is carried out systematically in all Horizon Europe proposals, based on a self-assessment included in the proposal.

Ethical research conduct implies the application of fundamental ethical principles and legislation in all possible domains of research. This includes the adherence to the highest standards of research integrity as described in the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity.

Proposal templates for Horizon Europe include an Ethics issues table. This table should be completed as an essential part of your proposal. The table includes questions regarding use of Human Embryonic Stem Cells, human participants, human cell tissues, use of personal data, environmental safety and use of artificial intelligence. For the help with filling in Ethics table please check Guide “How to complete your ethics self-assessment”.  https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/docs/2021-2027/common/guidance/how-to-complete-your-ethics-self-assessment_en.pdf

One has to describe how the issue(s) identified in the ethics issues table above will be addressed in order to adhere to the ethical principles and what will be done to ensure that the activities are compliant with the EU/ national legal and ethical requirements of the country or countries where the tasks are to be carried out. Your organisation Research Ethics Committee or equivalent should be able to help to address these points.

Getting support

  1. Talk to your organisation research office
  2. National Contact Points(NCPs) will provide guidance, practical information and assistance on all aspects of participation in Horizon Europe. Find your NCP  here  https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/portal/screen/support/ncp
  3. Enterprise Europe Network https://een.ec.europa.eu/
  4. A lot of guidance is available on EC portal https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/funding-tenders-opportunities/display/OM/Online Manual
  5. Consider ESE as partner of choice and source of support and update on funding opportunities (see link)