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How do I find a Call and prepare an application?

Finding a Call

The following provides guidance on how to search for calls within the Horizon 2020 programme.

However, it is not always that easy to find what you are looking for, particularly if your expertise is in ICT. Whilst ICT has its own calls, it is often the case that some calls listed under another category (e.g., Biotechnology) may include a significant IT content.

It can be sometimes easier to identify open calls within a targeted time frame and review them in more detail. To help you with this MSC R&D has created a simple-to-use Calendar, enabling you to do the above.

How to Find a Call in Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2016-2017
Go to the EC’s Research & Innovation Participant Portal Horizon 2020 Calls for Proposals website.

The default setting of this Calls browser is for all open and forthcoming topics. These are organised by Horizon 2020 ‘pillars’ (of which ‘Industrial Leadership’ and ‘Societal Challenges’ are probably of most interest to you) and thematic sections. Each of these can be investigated further, providing links under ‘Work Programme 2016 – 2017’ to a PDF of the full description of that section.

The Calls browser provides a means to filter by pillar and section, and the results returned – individual Calls – are presented immediately below. Each Call is linked to its own web page, which provides the context of the Call, (usually) a Call summary, a list of Call updates, and a list of Topics within that Call plus their status (i.e., Open, Closed, Forthcoming) and information about the Types of action (funding mechanism) of the Topic, the DeadlineModel (i.e., whether single-stage, two-stage or multiple cut-off), and the Opening date and Deadline(s) for submission of completed proposals. In turn, each Topic is linked to its own web page, which contains a Topic description ‘Specific challenge’, the Topic conditions and documents, and a means to access the Electronic Submission Service for that Topic.

Topics can also be searched for via a Topics keyword search facility. Entering text in the search box causes a drop-down list of search terms to appear, which can be selected for search. A list of open and forthcoming Topics appear, each linked to its own web page. Be aware that the Topics returned are not the result of free text search of Topics. Use of the EC’s own free text search facility accessible under the search box is not effective for comprehensive retrieval of subjects relevant to the user.

Announcements about the opening of Topic proposal submission sessions and similar news of interest (e.g., availability of FAQs, cancellations, deadline extensions) can be viewed via Call & Topic Updates.

How can MSC R&D help?

Another approach is to contact us at MSC R&D. We have invested a significant amount of time and resource in understanding the Horizon 2020 programme and can assist you in identifying whether there is a call suitable for you.

Finding Partners

Many companies already work with colleagues in Europe and these often form the basis of a consortium.

Companies can attend European Commission information days and find partners amongst the other attendees.

The European Commission runs some networks that can find partners for companies, such as the Relay Network.

In the UK, European Information Centres can act as a contact point for potential partners

There are many national based networks, which will find partners for European projects. Specific types of partners, university research groups, end-user organisations and specialist non-government institutes, can be accessed via specific networks.

How can MSC R&D help?

MSC R&D has contacts with many national based networks across the EU and can help find specific types of partners.

Registering your SME

For those who have decided to participate in European Commission R&D schemes it is necessary to register on the Horizon 2020 Participant Portal. The site offers an eligibility check and a financial viability check before completing your registration. Once you have been registered, you will be issued with a ‘PIC Code’, which is your unique identifier. This PIC Code will be valid for the duration of Horizon 2020 (i.e., for any future grant applications).

See ‘Register an organisation’ in the Participant Portal H2020 Online Manual for further information.

Preparing your proposal

Proposal preparation is done online on the Participant Portal in all cases. Once an organisation is registered and has a PIC Code it has access to online forms to make its submission. The forms guide the user through all the steps of the application, whether SME Instruments Phase 1 or Phase 2, or any of the forms of ‘collaborative’ R&D. MSC R&D would recommend offline preparation of the form sections and ‘cut & paste’ to the portal once the content is agreed.

Part A
Part A of the forms is administrative – names, addresses and answers to certain formal questions, such as “are you an SME”? Most of the questions are mechanical, although one or two need a good understanding of the Commission’s intentions. Part A also requires a summary of the proposal which will be published by the Commission; care is needed to ensure that commercially sensitive ideas and IP is not given away in this step.

Part B – The Application
Part B is the true application, the description of the project, justifying the funding, resources and outcomes. The form requires a description of the objectives of the project including the science and technology approach to be taken. The proposal needs a clear description of how the project is to be managed, including the roles of each partner where appropriate. The proposal needs to make the case for the project’s potential impact – for the company, for the partnership and at the European level. For each of these points several critical questions are asked and the answers must be specific to the project, but also reflect wider European Commission agendas.

Pages & Appendices
For SME Instrument Phase 1 the application is a maximum of 10 pages, for SME Phase 2 a maximum of 30 pages and for collaborative R&D a maximum of 75 pages. Any pages beyond the page limit are watermarked at submission and not considered in any subsequent assessment.

Appendices are allowed, but are not a vehicle for submitting a longer application. A letter of support or recommendation will be accepted as an appendix, as will a list of publications, but another ten pages to explain the scientific case will be rejected.

How can MSC R&D help?

MSC R&D has broad experience of the agendas that underpin the Commission’s R&D programmes.

Our experienced team of industry experts and bid writers can take the pain away and maximise your chances of making a successful application – either through assisting you in completing your application or by completing it for you.

MSC R&D can also provide a range of other related services, including:

  • Project management and resourcing
  • Report writing
  • Training on how to manage the complex EU administration requirements
  • Commercialisation of your project output


Proposal Submission

A proposal is ‘live’ on the portal until the submission deadline or until the proposer presses the submit button. Thus, you can work on your proposal, fine tuning parts of the text up to (but not beyond) the submission deadline. Once you are sure you have addressed all points as well as possible you can submit. If you do not ‘submit’ by the deadline your last version is treated as the submitted version by the Commission.

Early submission is recommended, as there have been several instances where the Commission submission system has crashed in the last few hours before a deadline because of the number of applications. While in some cases the Commission has accepted late submissions in these circumstances, there is no guarantee that this will always be the case.

See also ‘Submit a proposal‘ in the Participant Portal H2020 Online Manual for further information.

Can a successful grant application enhance my future chances?

The EU Commission like to work with successful grant applicants, engaging with them to shape the future direction of Horizon 2020. Aligning the development of the Commission’s roadmap to company R&D can establish long-term multiple opportunities to access Commission R&D funding.

There are a number of ways in which you may be able to influence the Commission’s thinking and increase its focus on areas relevant to your technology.

Information Days
In advance of the official opening of calls the Commission often runs ‘information days’. These days serve several purposes:

  • They allow the Commission to present the background to a forthcoming call, so that potential applicants understand the Commission’s goals and intentions.
  • They allow companies and organisations considering this area of R&D to meet and form consortia to bid.
  • They help the Commission to take soundings from potential applicants for R&D funding, in advance of the finalized version of the call, so that fine tuning of the terms can be made before publication.


Commission Consultation Activity
The European Commission regularly run ‘consultation days’ in R&D fields of interest to the Commission and the development of the Horizon R&D programme. Consultation days are open to all stake holders to make the case for how they see the need for R&D in particular emerging fields. The meetings are moderated by the Commission or its appointees, and reports produced suggesting the key areas for future R&D activity.

Much of what transpires in consultation meetings finds its way into Commission R&D programmes over an 18-month to three-year period. For those with long-term strategies in R&D, involvement in these events sets up European funding for future R&D challenges that a company sees on its development trajectory.

Commission consultations can be your opportunity to put your R&D plans at the centre of future Commission calls.

Special Interest Groups
The Commission frequently set up groups via workshops and conferences to bring together stakeholders in a particular field to discuss, develop and produce ‘roadmaps’ for R&D. In many ways these are similar to the consultation days, but meet regularly for several years. Again the output of these groups feeds the Commission mill that produces the specific calls for R&D.

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