How to enhance the Implementation of your H2020 proposal

Published: 5 September 2017

About the Horizon 2020 programme

The biggest EU funding programme for Research and Innovation is the Horizon 2020 (H2020) programme with a total budget of €80 billion for the 2014-2020 period. The programme involves many different funding opportunities, each with their own specifications. As previously discussed, a H2020 proposal consists of two parts: administrative (part A) and the main description (part B). The proposal is subdivided in three sections: excellence, impact and implementation, and is evaluated accordingly.


In another resource, we discussed how to enhance the Impact section. Here, we would like to cover the Implementation section to provide actionable tips for aspects that are often overlooked. It is important to realise that the implementation section is not just a detailed scientific description of the intended work. This section must show that the work is planned in a coherent manner, that the timeline makes sense and that you also have a plan in case something goes wrong. You must clearly show that you have the capacity to do the intended work, that you have chosen the best approach, and that every partner presents a valuable contribution to the project. In short, the implementation section of a H2020 proposal safeguards the success of the project, ensures that the excellence is adhered to, and that the potential impact can be realised to the highest extent.

Tips to enhance the Implementation section of your Horizon 2020 proposal

ttopstart has helped prepare numerous Horizon 2020 proposals (over 150 applications over the past three years) under previous H2020 work programmes and we have summarised some of our best practices for writing the Implementation section below.

1. Structure the work using the pyramid principle

“Implementation” is the bridge between the concept and the ultimate project goals. In this news message, we share some insights in how to devise a strong Implementation section with the pyramid principle as a basis for that. The approach in a nutshell: start big and start with the end result, and segment into smaller pieces one level at a time. So, the first question that we need to ask ourselves is: “what are the key aspects that the project should yield?” These aspects need to be summarised in project objectives, which provide the big picture view on the expected results. Next, we need to provide the supporting stones for the objectives, the so-called work packages, which contain a description of the specific steps that need to be taken to reach the objectives. Having outlined the work packages, we can further subdivide them into specific tasks and explain how those steps will be taken.

Practical tip: consider including a PERT chart, which gives a visual representation of how the work packages relate to each other.

2. Ensure suitable timeline and planning

Now that we have designed a solid plan of attack, our next step is to consider the time planning. Careful choice of the duration of the work packages, the timewise relation between them (and, thus, the tasks among themselves), will ensure the efficient implementation of the intended work. To optimise it, we can consider scheduling interrelated tasks in parallel, e.g. the materials produced in task 1 will be used in task 2 immediately as they become available. Also, if part of the work is taking too long or too short, we need to provide an explanation why, e.g. we already have precursors available or we have a lot of expertise in these experiments.

Practical tip: include a GANTT chart; it gives a visual representation of the duration of individual work packages, as well as their overall placement within the timeline of the project.

3. List project risks and possible solutions

An often neglected or completely disregarded subsection is the risk and mitigation strategy description. This is a missed opportunity, because a good mitigation strategy allows us to show that we are prepared and have a plan B should we face adversity. We want to include an overview of potential problems that might be encountered in each of the work packages and how we intend to deal with them. This is especially important if work packages are interdependent.

Practical tip: include a non-standard element into the Implementation section to boost your H2020 proposal. For example, consider creating an “innovation panel” whose members will ensure that novel ideas are generated and that these ideas are leveraged to maintain progress of the project.

Although these three pointers seem obvious, adhering to them can be less straightforward. Yet, if you manage to follow this advice in your preparation, your project will be more coherent. In other words, we need to identify what are the expected project results and set the project deliverables (usually tangible output that you expect to have at a certain time) by which the success of the project is measured. Needless to say, this will result in better chances to get funded.


Request assistance

Would you like assistance with preparing your Horizon 2020 proposal? At the ttopstart academy, we offer trainings on how to write the different sections of a H2020 application in a convincing and competitive manner. Contact us and find out what the possibilities are.