This is the second article in our series dedicated entirely to the Horizon 2020 Impact section. In the previous post, we laid the foundations for understanding the common pitfalls researchers experience when writing the Impact section (we recommend quickly reading this post first if you haven’t yet). Now, we’re ready to accelerate and further improve the Horizon 2020 Impact section with a solid and professional commercialisation plan. It is our deep understanding that a an impressive commercialisation plan will highly improve any Horizon 2020 project proposal. So where do we even begin with a Horizon 2020 commercialisation plan? Let’s get started.

Why do we need a commercialisation plan in Horizon 2020 proposals?

Quite simply, and in line with the EU innovation policy, the EU provides official instructions for evaluators to seek out a commercialisation plan in grant proposals. For example, the Horizon 2020 Proposal Evaluation brief refers to this in the Impact section and states: “Strengthening the competitiveness and growth of companies by developing innovations meeting needs of European and global procurement markets.” We agree that these instructions are quite elusive. We therefore understand why many researchers overlook them as a direct requirement for a commercialisation plan, as part of the expected innovation management activities. That being said, experience shows evaluators are definitely looking for such a plan. Therefore, grant proposals that successfully present solid commercialisation plans will truly enhance the competitiveness of their overall proposal.

Horizon 2020 researchers and the struggle to “speak” business

Having cleared the need for a commercialisation plan, the next issue often arises when initiating a conversation on this topic with a researcher. To put it quite simply – researchers are not businessmen. They think and act quite differently. While crafting research proposals is truly their “bread and butter” and they “speak” science fluently, discussing the business implications of their research is an entirely different story. Most researchers refer to business/ commercialisation plans as a foreign language. The result we often come across is many research proposals that are not pushed past science towards a commercialisation plan.

Finding the right people to “speak” business for you

Truth be told, we do not expect researchers to become businessman overnight. Moreover, we find it important that they continue to focus on producing their science and avoid sidetracking to other aspects of their project or proposal. Therefore, the key to curating a commercialisation plan in Horizon 2020 is finding the right people who can assist in defining and elaborating the business case and the derived commercialisation plan for you. This will eventually, and potentially, yield the value (=impact) that we are after in the Horizon 2020 impact section.

The people that we are looking for can be found in the following places:

  1. The companies involved in the project (yes, we always recommend having a commercial entity on board most of the Horizon 2020 collaborative project proposal). For writing a competitive commercialisation plan, we’d highly recommend that the company’s Business Development and/or Marketing managers will be involved in the process and may even actually write the desired impact text. In this context, we advise to refrain from relying solely on the company’s research and development personnel for that matter. The information that is needed for the commercialisation plan is typically not in the R&D department entirely.
  2. The University’s Technology Transfer Office (TTO), or similar office (e.g. patents office) in your institution. The TTO (or similar) personnel works constantly to set the stage for future potential commercialisation of research outputs. Therefore, they are familiar with these processes and have the knowledge about what a commercialisation plan for the project constitutes. Sometimes they may have very relevant data for that matter, which we recommend on using in the application. Similar to the case above with the business-related personnel in companies, it is recommended to involve the TTO personnel in the grant application writing process, and preferably have them write the impact section. If there is no TTO in your university (or similar function in your institution), consult with the Grants office, as sometimes they may work with external support for such purposes.

Moving forward with the right team

Once you’ve obtained a working link to the relevant people, work with them to craft a highly professional commercialisation plan for the project. Initial tips include clearly defining with them the project, its goals, its relation to the call text, and its overall concept. Clarifying such topics off the bat will help pave the way for prosperous and successful work together.

Conclusion

Presently, we focused on the people that will help to craft a competitive commercialisation plan for your Horizon 2020 proposal. It is our recommendation to seek out these individuals as soon as possible, and begin laying the foundations of a working relationship with them. This will truly assist in curating a commercialisation plan you are proud to present in your proposal. In our next post, we’ll dive deep into the expected content for preparing a commercialisation plan in Horizon 2020. Use the guiding questions as detailed in our next article when working with the above-mentioned personnel, and your business plan will be ready to go!

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