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Horizon Europe is the European Union’s main funding programme for research and innovation. As always, the change from one funding framework programme to another presents great opportunities for evolution or even revolution. At Zabala Innovation we have been working on EU funding programmes since 1986, and thanks to our extensive experience we dare to say that Horizon Europe has been a great evolution in terms of consistency and coherence compared to the previous Horizon 2020.
Horizon Europe changes in format and form, focusing on a path towards R&D that in the short, medium, or long term will end up reaching the market, companies, and individuals. The implementation of the programme follows the principles of open science, open innovation, open to the world, social sciences, and humanities activities and include activities aiming at eliminating gender inequalities, enhancing work-life balance, and promoting equality between women and men in research and innovation. The cross-cutting themes that stand out as new in this programme are the Green Deal, which is dedicated to improving the well-being of citizens, making Europe climate-neutral and protecting our natural habitat while creating sustainable economies powered by digitalisation.
The Horizon Europe programme is characterised by the three pillars that define its implementation: excellent science, global challenges and European industrial competitiveness, and innovative Europe. In addition, it is important to highlight the new elements of the programme: European Innovation Council, support for potentially disruptive and disruptive innovations with scaling-up potential that may be too risky for private investors; Missions, sets of measures to achieve bold, inspiring, and measurable objectives within a given timeframe; Open Science Policy with mandatory open access for publications data and results and open science principles are applied throughout the programme; and, the new approach to partnerships: more ambitious and goal-oriented partnerships with industry in support of EU policy objectives.
The main change in this new programme is in the impact part and how it is structured. It is not that there are radical changes, the proposals are similar except for the length. But when it comes to the impact, it must be much more structured, and it must respond to the types of impacts that exist. In Horizon2020 the proposals were impact focused, and now we have proposals that are impact by design. It is a clear evolution compared to what we had before.
In the impact part, what they ask us to do is to have some key impact pathways, some ways to reach the impact, which allows us to structure the chronological order to be followed. Before, when the permitted length was longer, it was possible to digress and say less precise things, but this is now unthinkable. At this point, exploitation is also strengthened, because they can ask for a business case, a business model, or a business plan, which inevitably makes us think about the key actors. And, of course, dissemination and communication gain value, because they are considered essential for the project to be known by both internal and external audiences.
Current proposals start with the results, then the outcomes (detailed in the specific topic), and then the impacts. The European Commission asks you to demonstrate how your proposal contributes to the improvement of science, the economy, and social aspects through the 9 key impact pathways.
Another obvious change is the structure of the topics. Until now, the first thing was the description of the challenge to be solved, then came the scope, and then there was the expected impact (which mixed everything together). Now, however, the first thing is the expected outcomes, and then comes the scope.
The most important and key differentiating element of the programme is that the focus should no longer be on writing proposals, but yes on designing projects. This is the difficulty and the key to achieving it. For this reason, we must always think about the path, about how to achieve the objectives that we must fulfil.
The other basic issue is the concept of open strategic autonomy, which is based on the principle of “as open as possible and as closed as necessary”, which means that collaboration is necessary, but we must understand why we are collaborating and whether the partner with whom we are collaborating is the right one. Because if we do not take this into account, we can become incoherent in terms of strengthening Europe by having some phase, such as production, being led by a country that is not part of the European Union.
Europe has been in Zabala Innovation’s DNA since the company was founded more than 35 years ago, and European innovation projects are one of its core business activities. The European projects department is made up of more than 100 excellent consultants who have made a great effort to fully understand the changes involved in the programme. The values of Horizon Europe coincide with the company’s work philosophy, which aims to support R&D that reaches society, from which many people can benefit.
Great efforts have been made to equip our technicians with the latest knowledge and knowhow on Horizon Europe so that they can deliver excellence at every step of the application and management process phases. The key to success in achieving good results starts with training and is followed by making sure that the project fits in with what the European Commission is looking for, meeting the required deadlines, and striving for excellence at every key milestone.
The added value that Zabala Innovation can bring is considerable because we help in the design of the project, in identifying what the specific topic needs, we help to identify what activities there should be and, based on these activities, what partner profiles we should have. In addition, we can structure those impacts and make sure that the necessary activities of the key impact pathways are included.
The results are what support our way of working. In this launch year 2021, Zabala Innovation has submitted more than 60 proposals, from which we have already obtained evaluations that have confirmed a more than 50 % success rate, thus achieving a return for our clients of 70 million euros. And also, in Horizon2020 our results were
Our expertise in Research and Innovation programmes is also confirmed by the excellent results obtained in the previous framework programme, Horizon2020. We have been the first Spanish SMEs and the fourth Spanish company in rates of return, and we have achieved more than 800 proposals submitted with the 33% success rate (11% is the European average).
Some of the European projects in which we have the highest success rates at Zabala Innovation Innovation are the LIFE programme, CEF Transport, with 16% of the projects financed, and Innovation Fund, where we have tripled the overall approval rate.
At Zabala Innovation, we offer added value as a consultancy specialised in innovation strategy. Our team works in two different lines of business.
On the one hand, we work to achieve public funding for projects through a range of services: 1) Proposal writing and project management, we are experts in European programmes, which provide the opportunity to finance development and market access of your company’s innovative projects; 2) Positioning, we help our clients position their business in strategic areas of interest and involve them in EU projects with the most active stakeholders in their sectors; 3) Project support activities, we manage the communication and dissemination activities and define a social innovation strategy to maximize the success and impact of a project; and 4) Cascade funding, where we can help you with a mechanism to distribute public funding to help SMEs develop digital innovation.
On the other hand, we are innovation experts in three different areas: 1) EU Platforms and initiatives, where Zabala Innovation’s extensive experience in EU platform management can help clients to position themselves in R&D strategic areas; 2) Studies and diagnoses, we collaborate with public administrations to promote innovation and assist companies in integrating innovation into their overall strategy; and, 3) Innovation strategy, we guide companies through the implementation of a customised and integrated innovation strategy, which allows them to tackle any transformation challenge in a coordinated and effective way.
Sede de Pamplona
Head of European Projects / Executive Commitee
Security and Space Leader Area
Horizon Europe makes innovation real
José Luis Fernández de Piérola
Senior R&D&I Consultant
GLOBAL MOBILITY CALL
Juan Cristóbal García
Senior Innovation Strategy Consultant
FROM 'Z' TO 'A'
Because innovation means turning things upside down, our dictionary goes from Z to A, rather than A to Z
The important thing is not to keep moving, but rather to know in which direction to go. Our 37% success rate proves that we know how to guide our clients.
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