Skip to content

Horizon 2020: a quick guide and useful tips to apply

Horizon 2020 – the 8th European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation – offers numerous great opportunities for academic researchers and aspiring entrepreneurs. Dr Eva Servoli, University of Geneva, presents Horizon 2020 vision and goals and gives us a quick guide and some useful tips for preparing the application.

With Horizon 2020 and its EUR 80 billion budget in grants, the European Commission empowers scientists and research-intensive companies of any size to produce a concrete impact on the scientific, societal and economic progress of European countries, Switzerland included. The final aim is providing and implementing effective solutions for the benefits of citizens dealing with the challenges of our fast-changing world. Personalized medicine, cleaner environment, new models for inclusive societies, user-friendly and secured processes covering all aspects of everyday life are only few examples of how Horizon 2020 can solve societal challenges and change the game in Europe and beyond.

The philosophy of Horizon 2020

How can these ambitious – while necessary research goals – be achieved? By changing the way we perform R&D and by involving citizens and policy makers as essential components of the innovation process, until novel technologies, products and services become part of a better everyday life.

The philosophy of Horizon 2020 opens up the opportunity of making the best use of the enormous amount of knowledge and talents of our academic institutes and innovative companies. The calls are designed to foster international collaborations, integrate soft and hard sciences, share and consolidate available data, set common targets between the public and private sector while keeping in mind the central role of the citizen and the end beneficiary. The future competitiveness of European science and economy will strongly depend on how academia and industry will be able to meet this challenge.

Knowledge is power

Yes but true knowledge,  combined with trustful and transparent information, can only be achieved by sharing. That’s why Horizon 2020 stresses on the value of exchanging ideas without borders (Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World). It goes in the same direction as the recent implementation of the Open Data policy for funded projects, which aims at making available to everyone data and results generated during the execution of European projects.

From philosophy to action

How can you benefit from Horizon 2020 and have access to funding, talents, skills, network for running best-in-class projects? And how can you afterwards turn this opportunity in a privileged access to the European market?

Visit the EU Participant Portal to identify the right call for your project. This is the best moment to do so, as the new Work Programme for 2018-2020 has been published in October 2017. You will find a huge selection of topics, covering all fields of hard and soft sciences, for the various stages of development of your project, starting from concept to demonstration, until prototype testing and market launch. This is even a better moment for you if your project aims to translate a promising technology into a breakthrough product or service, as you can benefit of calls launched by the newly established European Innovation Council (EIC). EIC calls, also part of Horizon 2020, support top-class innovators, entrepreneurs, small companies and scientists with bright ideas and the ambition to scale up internationally. Irrespective of the call you will be applying for, read very carefully the three sections of the topic description (Specific Challenge, Scope, and Expected Impact) and make sure that your project is designed to fulfill the expected impact described in the text.

Create the best possible consortium to develop the project successfully. You need to select partners that not only cover all the scientific, technical and operational skills required for the project execution, but you also need to align objectives and timelines and share a profound sense of mutual trust. These are essential points for a successful output of the project and for perpetuating its results, especially when academia and industry work together.

Make sure that the consortium has a good balance of public and private partners, has a multidisciplinary approach to the challenge, and involves at least three European countries, Switzerland included. Create connections with relevant stakeholders (e.g., key opinion leaders, policy makers, consumer associations). Even though they might not participate directly in the project operations, they can become your ambassadors and contribute to the implementation of your results at international level, so that you can produce the desired impact. In case you aim at commercialization, the right consortium and stakeholders will facilitate the launch and penetration of your product or service in the European market.

Devote adequate time and resources to develop your project proposal. Collecting information, aligning European strategies with project objectives and partner needs, coordinating the consortium and writing a winning proposal is a full time job. Plan accordingly and make sure you are not missing the deadline for submission.


I want to be honest, it is not an easy task and the competition out there is tough. Fortunately enough, you can always refer to Euresearch, the Swiss guide to European research and innovation, and get assistance from the network of Euresearch offices that are located all over Switzerland. Euresearch is a public service offered to Swiss academia and industry, where dedicated professionals can support you at any stage of your European adventure. Attend our numerous information events, workshops, and partnering event organized by Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), get in touch with us for one-to-one meetings to obtain personalized advice on your project idea, consortium and proposal, subscribe to our webpage and profile yourself to obtain targeted information.

Former scientist, PhD educated, Eva Servoli lived and worked in several European countries with the support of EU grants. After several years of industrial experience, from corporation to start-ups, she moved to the public sector where she is now advising academic researchers and innovative companies of Geneva to identify the right opportunity and successfully apply for European funding for research and innovation.

Leave a comment

The editors reserve the right not to publish comments or to abridge them.