Success stories from the UiB Brussels Office
There are several ways to create your own success within Horizon 2020. Some more creative than others, Matthias Kaiser was one of them.
The University of Bergen established their Brussels Office three years ago to increase their presence and activity at European level, and to create an arena for the researchers to build their own networks. The main aim is to help the colleagues of the University (leadership, administrators and of course researchers) with understanding the mechanisms behind Horizon 2020, and soon Horizon Europe; the next Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.
But exactly how can researchers and the office collaborate towards Europe?
A few years ago, Professor Matthias Kaiser, Head of Department at the Centre for the Study of Sciences and the Humanities, came to Kristof Vlaeminck with a research idea and asked for help to get in touch with the right people at the European Commission. Professor Kaiser had a topic idea on ethics in aquaculture. Kristof was more than happy to help him get in touch with the right people at the Commission. After pitching the topic idea, the Commission agreed that it fitted well into their strategy at the time. In the end, they managed to get big parts of the idea into the work programme and professor Kaiser applied for the call for proposals based on his own idea. While most might think that the only way to work with Horizon 2020 as researchers is to deliver proposals - this is certainly a different strategy that the office and the University wants to implement more often in the future.
Timing is key
Sometimes a good idea is not enough. Another important aspect is that you have to have a relevant strategy that fits into an idea that the Commission already has. There is a certain strategy; first at the level of the European Union, then at the level of the Directorate Generals, and finally of the Unit – so there are several steps that one has to follow. The member states play an important role in co-defining what will be written in the programme, too. Therefore, momentum is key; the researcher has to play with momentum. It is possible that no one listens to you one day, then the next your idea is a hot topic; this is when you have to act!
It is important that the researchers organize meetings in Brussels to meet fellow peers and prepare project proposals. The research advisors in Bergen organize courses on regular basis to teach new PhD students (also other researchers) and specific departments on the opportunities within Horizon 2020. The role of the research advisors in Bergen is vital as a starting point. The Brussels Office should not be the starting point for new project proposals, the office should be an added value for researchers to get help and collaborate towards calls. It is a way of seeking knowledge and information from experts and project officers, so the researchers can prepare the best proposals for the calls.
The way Brussels and EU works; networking is needed for success to be achieved. Therefore the researchers should not underestimate the importance of traveling to Brussels and the office, where they can sit down with the right people and focus on collaboration. All calls within Horizon 2020 requires that several institutions are cooperating; the office is the perfect place for partners to sit down to plan and discuss their project ideas.
“If you have a great project idea but you are still missing a specific expertise to make your consortium complete, I will help you with finding the missing link” – Kristof Vlaeminck, 09.03.17
The Holy Grail
A total of 24 UiB researchers have been awarded ERC Grants since 2007. The office is more than happy to help researchers that travel to Brussels for their ERC-interview with every aspects of their stay. The office is at your disposal – we will pick you up when you arrive, help you find where you have to be for your interview, and anything in-between. This is so that you can focus fully on your presentation; and for as much burden as possible to be taken off.