EU-USA Research Collaboration and Funding Opportunities in Horizon 2020, the European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation
• Delegation of the European Union to the United States of America
• German Center for Research and Innovation (GCRI)
As modern communication and information technologies bring the world closer together, it is becoming increasingly important to internationalize the production and use of knowledge in order to accelerate innovation. Horizon 2020 is the largest EU research and innovation program ever, with a budget of nearly 80 billion euros over seven years (2014-2020). The program prioritizes excellent science, industrial leadership and societal challenges. Its funding is open not only to scientists and other innovators based in Europe, but also to participants from other parts of the world.
A representative from the Delegation of the EU to the United States and the GCRI Director gave presentations about transatlantic research collaboration opportunities at the GCRI in New York. They explained how individuals can get involved in the Horizon 2020 program, find research opportunities and apply for funding in Europe and Germany in particular. Afterwards, two scientists gave testimonials about their collaborative research experiences as well as the grant application process to highlight different opportunities for EU-US cooperation through the program.
Dr. James P. Gavigan, Minister-Counselor at the European Union’s Delegation to the United States, provided an overview of the Horizon 2020 program and the participation opportunities for US-based researchers and organizations. Since the EU started funding research and innovation 30 years ago, the budget has continuously grown, resulting in the Horizon 2020 program which has the largest budget so far. The program aims to respond to the economic crisis by investing in future jobs and growth and to address people’s concerns about their livelihoods, safety and environment. Dr. Gavigan described the program’s new approach to work programs and calls for proposals the initiative offers. Programs funded by Horizon 2020 typically run for two years and focus on societal challenges such as health, clean energy and transport. In comparison to has less prescriptive calls compared to previous programs, the calls are less prescriptive and the topics are broader. The program is open to participation from companies, universities and institutes from the EU and other countries. Dr. Gavigan went on to describe details about the top three priorities: excellent science, industrial leadership, and societal challenges. He also explained participation possibilities for individuals from the US. Besides opportunities for grantees and fellows, researchers can also participate in collaborative projects and program-level inter-agency cooperation. The program, which provides access to Europe’s best expertise, equipment, facilities and research networks, had received more than 30.000 proposals by the end of September 2014. Dr. Gavigan concluded his presentation by offering practical information on how to apply through the EU’s online participant portal.
Dr. Joann Halpern, Director of the GCRI, presented the work of the GCRI. The GCRI was created as a cornerstone of the German government’s initiative to internationalize science and research. The Center facilitates collaboration between North America and Germany by bringing together leaders from science, technology, and industry and provides a platform to foster creativity and enhance innovation. The GCRI’s areas of focus include health and nutrition, communication, climate and energy, mobility, and security, topics that resonate well with the Horizon 2020 program. In addition to providing information about the GCRI’s mission and areas of focus, Dr. Halpern gave an overview of the GCRI’s website and how it can be used to discover resources and funding opportunities for researchers, entrepreneurs, and other individuals who are interested in the German research and innovation landscape. She spoke about some of the events organized by the GCRI to illustrate the diversity of topics included in the Center’s work. She then pointed out concrete opportunities for US-based researchers on how to find out who is conducting research in their area in both Germany and Europe. The GCRI can provide the appropriate contact information for anyone interested in taking part in the Horizon 2020 program.
Dr. Paolo Boffetta, Director of the Institute for Transnational Epidemiology of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, spoke about the CHANCES project (Consortium on Health and Ageing: Network of Cohorts in Europe and the United States) to illustrate a successful collaboration of EU-US research funded by the EU. The study’s aim was to combine and integrate cohort studies in order to produce evidence on aging-related health characteristics in Europe. The data used in the study came from cohorts from 18 EU member states, four associated countries and three additional countries. Dr. Boffetta pointed out the health-related characteristics observed in the study, namely disabilities, chronic conditions and mortality in the elderly and explained how the research focused on the relation of incidence, prevalence, and social and economic implications of these factors. He found the study to be very successful as it produced eight published papers, five submitted papers and has over 40 more papers in preparation. He pointed out challenges, such as how to produce long-term sustainability and explained what he learned through the collaboration, namely how existing resources could be efficiently used and harmonized, how young investigators could be trained better and how the integration of European und US institutions can be implemented more effectively.
Dr. Manfred Lindau, Professor of Applied and Engineering Physics at Cornell University, shared his personal story of how he came to work with the European Research Council (ERC). Dr. Lindau became interested in applying for an ERC advanced grant after he received an email from the German Research Foundation (DFG) presenting the opportunity to work at a research institution in Europe while remaining affiliated with his home university. He contacted a former colleague in Göttingen, Germany who worked in the same research field of nanoscale cell biology and shared his interest in starting a research project. After Dr. Lindau prepared a first draft of the grant application, he sent it to the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Biophysical Chemistry for a review and immediately received a positive answer concerning lab space commitment. During the preparation of the grant application Dr. Lindau was supported by the EU-Liaison office. They helped him enhance his understanding of the application structure and process. Several months after submitting the application, he received an invitation to prepare the grant agreement and was ready to start his research as the Head of the Research Group Nanoscale Cell Biology in April 2013. Dr. Lindau divides his time between Cornell University and the MPI and manages the interaction between his group in Cornell and the group at the MPI by organizing weekly video conference group meetings. He has found the process to be a great experience and hopes to enhance efficiency by initiating more face-to-face visits between the two groups in the future. He concluded by summarizing key aspects for a successful application, namely knowing a host institution working with scientists who are interested in the project, being able to present an innovative research plan with strong evidence of feasibility, and possessing a good track record.
After the testimonials, the speakers answered the audience’s questions, which focused on the preparation time for applications, additional funding opportunities, and collaboration opportiunities for US-based startups and companies.