FAQ: Writing of a successful Horizon 2020 application

Writing successful project proposals within the Horizon 2020 programme requires some background knowledge. From Gantt charts to deliverables and milestones, knowing what is asked for in the proposal template pays off. Based on our experience as a professional grant writing partner and the issues our clients face, we answer several frequently asked questions to ensure that your next successful Horizon 2020 application meets the requirements. Is there any specific question you want answered? Let us know, and we will update this section.

Please take note that the European Commission also has an extensive Participant Portal H2020 Online Manual.

What is the difference between a deliverable and a milestone?

A strong proposal contains a solid project plan, of which progress can be successfully monitored by a clear set of deliverables and milestones. These deliverables and milestones should guide the reviewer through your work plan, and show that the goals you want to achieve are reachable. Defining the deliverables and milestones early on in the writing phase will help you shape the work plan and present it in its most optimal form.

About deliverables

Deliverables are tangible or intangible objects produced as a result of the project that is intended to be delivered to a stakeholder (either internal or external). A deliverable could be a report, a document, a server upgrade or any other building block of an overall project.

About milestones

Milestones are scheduled events signifying the completion of a deliverable or set of related deliverables. There is no work associated with a milestone; it is a flag in the work plan to signify other work has been completed. Milestones can be go/no-go moments, be sure to explain what will happen if the milestone is not reached and how you will mitigate this risk.

Difference between deliverables and milestones

A deliverable differs from a project milestone in that a milestone is a measurement of progress towards an output, whereas the deliverable is the result of the process. For a typical project, a milestone might be the completion of a product design, while the deliverable might be the technical diagram of the product.

The EC recognises several types of deliverables, including:

  • R: Document, report (excluding the periodic and final reports)
  • DEM: Demonstrator, pilot, prototype, plan designs
  • DEC: Websites, patents filing, press & media actions, videos, etc.
  • OTHER: Software, technical diagram, etc.

Moreover, be sure to specify the dissemination level:

  • PU: Public, fully open, e.g. web
  • CO: Confidential, restricted under conditions set out in Model Grant Agreement
  • CI: Classified, information as referred to in Commission Decision 2001/844/EC

What is the difference between a Gantt chart and Pert chart?

Gantt charts and PERT charts can help visualise project timelines and the breakdown of tasks within the work packages (WPs), along with the time it takes to perform the particular task and the interrelationship between different WPs.

About Gantt charts

A Gantt chart is represented as a bar graph and is used to illustrate a project schedule. The Gantt chart shows the start and end dates of each WP and individually breaks down the project into smaller tasks. Gantt charts can also show the dependency relationships between activities. The chart shows a horizontal bar which represents the task, while the length of the bar shows the time required to complete the task. On an x-y axis, the x-axis represents the time for project completion. Independent tasks are connected using arrows, which show the relationship between two independent tasks.  The relationship stems from the dependency of one task on another, where one task must be finished in order to start the other task.

example of a Gantt chart
Figure 1: Example of Gantt chart

About Pert charts

The Program Evaluation and Review Technique (Pert) chart is represented as a flowchart and is designed to present the interrelationships of the work packages in a given project. The PERT chart can also show the various different tasks involved in a project and the time it will take to complete each task and subsequently the whole project.

example of a pert chart
Figure 2: Example of PERT Chart

One of the key differences between a Pert chart and a Gantt chart is the way the information is presented. Gantt charts present information in the format of a bar chart. This presentation helps show the percentage of work completed for each task. A Pert chart, on the other hand, displays information as a network model. This means that a Pert chart presents an initial node from which tasks branch out. This helps to visualise the sequence of tasks, as you cannot start on the next activity until the one preceding it is completed.

What are Technology Readiness Levels (TRL)?

Technology Readiness Levels (TLR) refer to the maturity of your technology and provide the reviewers with a uniform measure of the status of development and the position in the value chain. By evaluating a technology project against the parameters for each Technology Readiness Level (see below), one can assign a TRL rating to the project based on its stage of progress. There are nine technology readiness levels; ranging from the idea stage (TRL1-2) to product on the market (TRL8-9). Many of the Horizon 2020 call topics have a pre-determined TRL at which the implementation of the proposal is intended to start, as well as a target TRL.

As can be found here, the EC describes TRL as follows:

  • TRL 1: basic principles observed
  • TRL 2: technology concept formulated
  • TRL 3: experimental proof of concept
  • TRL 4: technology validated in lab
  • TRL 5: technology validated in relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)
  • TRL 6: technology demonstrated in relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)
  • TRL 7: system prototype demonstration in operational environment
  • TRL 8: system complete and qualified
  • TRL 9: actual system proven in operational environment (competitive manufacturing in the case of key enabling technologies; or in space)

What do they mean by ‘innovation’?

Before you start with your next subsidy application, take a moment to reflect what terms like ‘innovative’, ‘innovation’ and ‘impact’ truly mean.

 “Innovation is the successful exploitation of new creations, which when used produce tangible benefits, satisfying needs and wants. Invention is not innovation: exploitation of the invention equals innovation.”

Quote Dr. Eugene Sweeney (see presentation “Impact and Innovation in H2020” by the European IPR Helpdesk)

Getting the best result out of your project will include paying attention to innovation, intellectual property and exploitation. Think about whether your project results can stimulate further innovations or can be used beyond the project objectives. Perhaps not only for you, but also for other organisations in Europe. This will maximise the impact generated from your endeavour. Impact presents the extent of the benefits derived from the innovation, which can be financial, societal, environmental, technical, and/or educational.

Where can I find information on upcoming Horizon 2020 calls?

Information on upcoming Horizon 2020 calls can be found on the Horizon 2020 website. Furthermore, for a quick overview of all calls relevant for life sciences, medical technology and health and their deadlines in H2020 and other (national) funding programmes please visit our free Funding Database.

How do I submit a Horizon 2020 project proposal?

To prepare a Horizon 2020 project proposal submission, first log in to the ECAS portal. Then, locate the call you are interested in under ‘Funding Opportunities’. Select the opportunity, and click the button ‘Start Submission’ to download proposal templates and prepare the required documentation.

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