Periodic Reporting for period 3 - BioHorizon (Cooperation between NCPs for Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge 2 on “Food Security, Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry, Marine, Maritime and Inland Water Research and the Bioeconomy” and the Key Enabling Technology - Biotechnology)
Reporting period: 2018-03-01 to 2019-12-31
BioHorizon provided tools and services beyond the capacities of individual Bio-NCP’s to develop at the national level. The network fostered exchange between Bio-NCPs and for new Bio-NCPs, in particular, it provided a support structure and facilitated integration. As a result, the project made considerable advances in aligning Bio-NCP services across Europe and beyond, thereby simplifying access to Horizon 2020 for national stakeholders and lowering entry barriers to newcomers.
We also stimulated networking between academic and industry partners active in the areas covered by SC2 and KET-B, as well as other relevant stakeholders such as end-users and authorities. BioHorizon sought to provide suitable thematic platforms for these stakeholders to discuss and develop ideas and projects, thereby facilitating the formation of high-quality consortia. The brokerage events hosted by BioHorizon for this purpose served to dismantle barriers to participation affecting many stakeholders, especially newcomers with no networks and those from less active countries, fostering Horizon 2020’s ‘widening participation’ approach.
Over the duration of the project, BioHorizon hosted 47 events attended by 2 812 Bio-NCPs and SC2 stakeholders from over 60 countries. All of these events were carried out with the support of 68 highly qualified trainers and speakers as well as 15 BioHorizon ‘mentors’ (more experienced Bio-NCPs).
We trained a total of 966 Bio-NCPs and SC2 stakeholders during 7 interactive training, 4 bioeconomy stakeholder workshops for Bio-NCPs and 12 webinars. We developed a variety of materials for use by Bio-NCPs to deliver excellent support services to their clients in many horizontal areas of SC2 and KET-B.
To assess the training needs of Bio-NCPs, and to facilitate their self-improvement, a self-assessment benchmarking tool was created. Using the tool the individual Bio-NCP could assess within 10 minutes their strengths and weaknesses compared to the other Bio-NCPs around the world. Those who participated regularly had the opportunity to monitor their annual progress by comparing the results obtained from year to year. For BioHorizon the benchmarking highlighted where the strengths and weaknesses of Bio-NCPs more generally lie and what training measures should be pursued.
To further strengthen and professionalise the skills of Bio-NCPs, BioHorizon set up a staff exchange programme. Thirteen staff exchange visits were taken up by 60 Bio-NCPs. This activity attracted great interest amongst Bio-NCPs from EU13 countries (38% of participants), and from outside the EU (39% of participants). BioHorizon also provided targeted support for Bio-NCPs from Associated and Third Countries, in the form of assistance in the organisation of national information days. This resulted in 3 missions to Tunisia and Ukraine (attended by over 250 stakeholders).
The highlights of the material developed by the project were two user-friendly guides: ‘BioHorizon’s Practical Guide for Bio-NCPs’ compiling a comprehensive collection of information and guidelines on how to perform the daily work of a Bio-NCP, and ‘BioHorizon’s Practical Guide for SC2 Applicants’ which provided a condensed overview of the funding opportunities available in Horizon 2020 for the bioeconomy sector and outlined the application requirements.
Another fundamental service provided by BioHorizon that benefitted not only Bio-NCPs but also their clients were the annual brokerage events held in Brussels to facilitate networking and the exchange of ideas between research stakeholders looking to build and to participate in consortia applying to topics under the SC2 and KET-B work programmes. Two regional, thematic brokerage events held in Gdańsk and Prague supplemented the large, central events. The 7 brokerage events hosted during BioHorizon catered to 1 030 participants from 53 countries and numerous sectors. During the events 2 184 pre-arranged bilateral meetings between stakeholders took place, and 2 285 research cooperation profiles addressing the open calls were submitted. A total of 120 project pitches were made during these events. These events – the time-consuming organisation, the thematic focus, the support needs of the participants, the intersection between national actors, EC and Horizon 2020 support services – underline the importance of the thematic NCP networks as without the networks and the collaborative effort made by NCPs from across Europe their successful implementation would not be possible.
BioHorizon provided additional support to the participants of the brokerage events by providing dedicated webinar entitled ‘How to maximise your matchmaking opportunities’ and special training for potential coordinators on ‘Opportunities for proposal writers in the Horizon 2020 SC2 work programme’.
Multi-level links were established between the BioHorizon project and the entire Bio-NCP community, and with experts from other SC2 and KET-B related programmes. Several actions were undertaken in cooperation with other initiatives operating within the domain of SC2 and other parts of Horizon 2020 (e.g. BBI JU, EEN, EIT Food). BioHorizon placed an emphasis on the need to develop synergies with other European networks and projects to maximise its impact and the impact of the everyday work undertaken by Bio-NCPs more generally.
The results of the BioHorizon contributed to capacity building and enhancing NCP knowledge and expertise while facilitating access to professional collaboration with other NCPs. The work undertaken within BioHorizon served to achieve greater alignment between the services offered by all Bio-NCPs, the skills of Bio-NCPs were enhanced, their access to materials and support greatly increased, and the professionalism of the network as a whole was raised. For the funding applicants, this had the knock-on effect of simplifying access to Horizon 2020, the lowering of barriers to entry and improving the quality of the consortia applying for funding and of the project proposals submitted.