Horizon 2020 brings together research and innovation while putting a strong emphasis on excellent science, industrial leadership and tackling societal challenges. Researchers spanning all across Europe, as well as its associated countries, are after this coveted grant that can immensely push their research a few substantial steps forward. Choosing to apply for Horizon 2020 undoubtedly means months of intensive preparation as the Horizon 2020 proposal development includes a list of requirements and endless attention. Therefore, stepping into the Horizon 2020 proposal writing challenge can surely seem like a daunting and overwhelming task. But, experience shows that working alongside a dedicated and unique timeline can put aside piles of unwanted stress and allow oneself to fully focus on the proposal development and writing. It is for this exact reason that our team has put together the Horizon 2020 proposal development timeline – tested and improved over time.

An overview of the Horizon 2020 proposal development 

Developing the full proposal for a Horizon 2020 collaborative project takes time. Normally, our team recommends to allocate at least three months prior to the deadline for proposal writing and development.

As a starting point, one must identify a specific topic in the Horizon 2020 work program to apply to. When identifying the topic – it is imperative to note the expected deadline. This is a very important date. In this article, the expected deadline will be referred to and labelled as “T”.

Once the topic is chosen and the deadline is clear, the development process begins. The process of developing a Horizon 2020 collaborative project, whether it is a RIA/IA or CSA project, includes two complementary and parallel efforts that converge at the end of the process. Such efforts are divided into consortium-related efforts and proposal-writing – related efforts, as can be seen in the depiction below:

Horizon 2020 grant writing

The two parallel efforts feed one another throughout the proposal development process.

Additionally, it is important to engage all partners in the writing process. This is done by collecting information, consulting, discussing and articulating the project’s narrative. Nonetheless, a leading partner should manage, coordinate and synchronize these efforts (see also the coordination dilemma).

The Horizon 2020 proposal development timeline

Orchestrating the above efforts for the Horizon 2020 proposal development should be done in a timely fashion while adhering to the strict requirements of the Horizon 2020 proposal structure. Therefore, our team recommends following this timeline:

ActionRecommended due date
Prepare the preliminary project summary/abstract – This summary should be a a live, working document, which will help in shaping the project definition and consortium structure (refer to‘Building a consortium in Horizon 2020 -don’t bring your friends’). We recommend that it will not exceed 2 pages for the matter of simplicity and efficiency. T-90 days
List of partners – Based on the preliminary project summary/abstract work to recruit partners for the project. Since the partners should take an active role in developing the project proposal, we highly recommend to conclude the partners’ list at least 2 months before the call deadline. T-60 days
Send out the proposal template with instructions – Once the list of partners is intact, it is time to allocate tasks to the partners and start the writing process. Make sure to use the most updated template for the proposal. Use the official guidelines and add any specific instructions for the partners. From this point on, manage the writing process of this document with the partners until you submit it in the electronic submission system. T-60 days
Collect partner profiles (section 4) – This is generally a mostly ‘administrative’ task. We recommend not to postpone this to the end of the process. There are some items in section 4 that indicate the exact role and tasks of each partner, which might be finalized only in later stage. Still, the majority of the texts in section 4 can be produced earlier in the process, and we recommend doing so. As well, this is a good opportunity to collect budgetary needs from your partners, to help plan the consortium budget.
T-45 days
Have a first full draft of the proposal – It is crucial to have a first draft of the full proposal, including all key sections (1, 2 and 3) about a month before the call deadline. You will need the rest of the time for fine tuning, final budgeting issues, quality assurance procedures, proof reading, etc.T-30 days
Handle any supplementary aspects, such as ethics, security, etc. – In case the project is subject to any of these aspects, invest the time to finalize them and ensure there are no loose ends. Addressing and answering ethical aspects and requirements may take a long time to handle in the proposal development phase. T-30 days
Open a submission system in the Participant Portal – Filling in the details in the electronic system takes time and cooperation of the partners. After setting it up, add the partners into the system (you will need their PIC numbers for that matter) and invite them to sign in and fill in their own administrative data. Monitor the process to ensure that there aren’t any validation errors. T-30 days
Finalize the budget – We would like to recommend that you have it earlier, but reality and experience show that it is unrealistic in most cases. Finalizing the budget is a process that usually converges only in the very last phase of the proposal development process. It is subject to final negotiations between partners. Sometimes it is also subject to internal approval procedures in large organisations, etc. Make sure to finalize it no later than 2 weeks before the deadline and consequently produce section 3.4 at that time to be in line with the budget.T-15 days
Near-final draft – Dedicate about a week for final touches and proofreading. At this point it is fine to share these tasks with the partners, but we recommend restricting any new input from them at this point in time. If you do get new input, make sure that it is important enough and examine it carefully before adding it to the text to avoid any imbalance or incoherence in the overall proposal text. T-7 days
Final draft and first submission – Do not wait for the last day to submit the proposal. The system is programmed to allow you to submit multiple versions of the proposal until the deadline, while only the last version submitted is the one that will be accepted. Due to various reasons (system instability, overload on the system due to concurrent submissions, etc.) we highly recommend to submit a first version of the proposal about 3 days before the deadline. Submitting it will ensure that there are no validation errors, which is very important (validity errors will not allow you to submit any version of the proposal). After submitting the first version, you can re-submit newer versions of the proposal, as you go, to ensure that the most updated version is in the system. T-3 days
Final submission – Aim at submitting the final version early on the deadline, or on the day before, and go have a rest. You deserve it. Good luck! Expected Deadline (T)

To conclude – the above Horizon 2020 proposal development timeline is surely your go-to guide for keeping up with all the required steps of the proposal development process. Follow the timeline accordingly as you proceed from one step to the next. If you need any additional assistance in the process, review our selection of services and contact us for more information.

Categories: Horizon 2020