Horizon 2020 Grant Proposals

Horizon 2020: Maximising ‘impacts’ (1/3)

Part two here. Horizon 2020 Grant Proposals: Understanding Impact Most proposal writers focus on excellence, while expected impacts

Part two here.

Horizon 2020 Grant Proposals: Understanding Impact

Most proposal writers focus on excellence, while expected impacts tend not to be adequately addressed. However, impact will become even more important under Horizon Europe, the EU’s next framework programme for research. Even grant proposals with good sections on expected impacts often fail to demonstrate other substantial impacts beyond the ‘state of the art’. Improve your chances of success by writing a grant proposal that demonstrates the wider set of impacts. This article explains the concept of impact and how to broaden it.


What is “impact” in a Horizon 2020 context?

Nearly all types of actions under Horizon 2020, but specifically Innovation Actions (AI) and Research and Innovation Action (RAI), require applicants to describe “Expected Impacts” from project outcomes. The Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2018-2020 introduced new features specifically aimed at boosting impact. Proposals now need to go beyond the impacts explicitly stated in the work programme.

But what is impact? It may be broadly defined as a change or a benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life. The European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Intervention Logic distinguishes between three types of expected impacts – scientific, innovation/economic and societal. But successful H2020 proposals need to cover impacts that go even further, such as:

  • Generating or improving awareness
  • Changing attitudes
  • Positive effects on the economy or the environment
  • Improving health and wellbeing
  • Effecting a desired cultural change


Why is “impact” important?

The short answer is that proposals are likely to fail if impacts are not adequately addressed. With its focus on a broader concept of impact, the European Commission wants to extend the benefits from Horizon 2020 beyond the project innovation capability, or the applicant technological leadership and competitiveness, addressing also societal challenges, strengthening the EU’s global role and improving public acceptance of science and innovation.

Horizon 2020 projects will need to deliver other positive impacts that support wider EU policy areas, such as environmental policies, closing the gender gap, fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, improving diversity and inclusion and benefits for society at large. These expectations are reflected in the award criteria under the Horizon 2020 evaluation rules. Evaluators will look for evidence that projects will contribute to “any substantial impacts not mentioned in the work programme”.


Developing broader impacts

Besides project’s expected impact, applicants need to develop a broader perspective and go beyond work programme-related impacts. Let’s take a hypothetical grant proposal for a novel recycling process as an example. The project aims to increase recycling efficiency by 20%. Companies using that process will improve their competitiveness. But the process will have broader impacts: With a more efficient recycling process, it will be possible to process more waste and thus to establish more collection points (change to a policy or service).  As a result, public acceptance of recycling will increase and fewer bottles will be thrown away (change in attitude and behaviour).

This reduces the amount of micro plastic in the environment, including outside the EU (environmental impact). It is possible to go even further than that and link the positive environmental impact to economic benefits in developing countries that rely on fishing. Recovering fishing grounds contribute to more sustainable incomes, thus reducing poverty and illegal migration from those countries (a wider policy aim). Proposals will need to reflect how impacts will be maximised and measured


Getting impacts right in Horizon 2020 proposals

The concept of impact features prominently in our proposal writing support and training services. European Fund Management Consulting (EFMC) will help you develop broader impacts that will contribute to a credible, successful Horizon 2020 proposal.

Register now for our next online proposal writing training on 24 -26 November 2020 or book a face-to-face proposal writing training in Brussels, Amsterdam or Vienna, including a one-to-one session focussing on your proposal. Call us on (+372) 604 1400 or drop us an email at info@efmc.eu  for support tailored to your needs.