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EU Funding Opportunities for R&D on the Horizon

Horizon 2020 is the new EU Framework Programme offering more than €70billion funding for Research and Innovation initiatives over the period 2014 to 2020 and covering every stage of the innovation process from research to market uptake. Ivan Waide and Kate Keith, IP & Technology lawyers at A&L Goodbody, take a closer look at the programme, including opportunities available to Northern Ireland businesses and research organisations. 

What is Horizon 2020?

Horizon 2020 brings together the major existing EU research and innovation funding initiatives (including FP7, the innovation related activities of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)) into a single programme, intended to stimulate Europe's economy and increase its global competitiveness. The programme offers funding to private and public sector organisations and is structured around three key strategic objectives, or 'pillars'. The first pillar, 'Excellent Science', supports world-class science by ensuring access to the best research infrastructures and developing, retaining and attracting leading research talent; the second, 'Societal Challenges', seeks to tackle key concerns of EU society (including bio-economy, clean energy, health and transport) and focuses on developing breakthrough solutions; and the third pillar, 'Industrial Leadership', is centered around strategic investments in key enabling technologies and attracting more private investment into Europe's research and innovation.

Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) participation is promoted on the basis of an integrated strategy that aims to fill gaps in funding for early-stage, high-risk research and innovation by SMEs, as well as stimulating breakthrough innovations. It is expected that a significant proportion of the combined budgets for the Societal Challenges and Industrial Leadership pillars will go to SMEs. Participation rules have also been broadened; as well as being open to all 28 EU Member States, Horizon 2020 funding is generally open to third countries and has a strong emphasis on international co-operation.

How do I apply?

Horizon 2020's online 'Participant Portal' publishes 'calls' for proposals (listed under sub-categories of the programme's key strategic objectives), each call clearly setting out proposal requirements and evaluation criteria. To respond to a call an applicant must submit an online proposal, in the prescribed format, before the call deadline.

Horizon 2020 focuses on international consortium-based collaborations and most (but not all) calls require a team of at least three organisations from different EU Member States or other specified countries. Where partners have not already been identified, the portal's partner search option can help to identify potential partners with particular facilities or experience.

Proposals are then evaluated by a panel of independent specialists. Once a proposal passes the evaluation stage (five months), applicants are informed of the outcome and a detailed grant agreement is drawn up to be entered into between the European Commission (or relevant European funding body) and each participant.

Horizon 2020 and Intellectual Property

Horizon 2020's intellectual property rules are based on the FP7 rules, with a number of improvements and clarifications, intended to achieve a balance between legal security and flexibility. Pursuant to the model grant agreement, as a general principle project results are owned by the partner which generates them. Where results have been generated by two or more partners jointly (and it is not possible to establish the contribution of each beneficiary or to separate the results for the purposes of obtaining protection) a default joint ownership regime is established. The model grant agreement also includes obligations relating to the protection, exploitation and dissemination of project results.

Opportunities for Northern Ireland Businesses

The scheme provides Northern Irish businesses (large and small) with the opportunity not only to obtain vital grant funding for their research and development activities, but also to access new markets and collaborate with partners on an international level. Horizon 2020 provides a huge range of opportunities for academical institutions and research institutes to participate in world-class research projects. In Northern Ireland, a new Horizon 2020 NI Contact Point (NICP) network has recently been established to help local businesses and other relevant stakeholders ensure they can successfully compete for Horizon 2020 funding.   The simplifications and changes to the Horizon 2020 programme are likely to mean increased competition for funding on an international level. Therefore, Northern Ireland-based organisations hoping to obtain funding should seek to identify research and innovation projects that align with those of Horizon 2020 and as well as collaboration partners offering expertise and resources which will be complementary to their own.

The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute professional or other advice.

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