Dissemination and exploitation of project results are an obligation for every Horizon 2020 beneficiary. Horizon 2020 funding, after all, is obtained via taxpayers’ money: therefore, the investment made by the European Union must be converted into socio-economic benefits for the society as a whole, in a transparent and accountable way.
Clearly, in certain instances your outputs may need to be kept confidential for security reasons, or they should be formally protected so that you may economically benefit from them; but in the vast majority of cases, your EU-funded endeavours will produce new knowledge, findings, and products that can bring considerable benefits to the European society as a whole, so you are expected to find the most efficient ways to “give back” to society.
With all it takes to efficiently coordinate an international team of researchers, businesspeople and public officers, if you feel overwhelmed when you even just start thinking of dissemination, exploitation and communication – well, you’re not alone.
This is why I have collected a number of tips from the Europa Media team’s experience in developing and managing projects under the EU’s research and innovation programmes, which can help you build an efficient and successful Plan for Dissemination and Exploitation.
No matter whether your project is a Research and Innovation Action, an Innovation Action or a Coordination and Support Action, the work you undertake will generate a number of outputs, typically in the form of a deliverable – but not necessarily so.
While developing your proposal, take some time to reflect on the following:
- List the new knowledge items, new products, etc. that you will deliver. For instance, the analysis of a survey, a new web-based platform, etc.
- Reflect on the potential end-users of each of the new items you plan to create: who will benefit from this? Who may further use these findings and results?
- Perform a profile analysis of the selected end-users: what is their age, occupation, what are their consumption (and media consumption) patterns?
- Identify the best channels and tools to reach that target group and provide them with the knowledge you have just created. Reaching young startuppers will probably require different channels from reaching law enforcement agencies, for instance.
- Identify the behavioural change you intend to cause on your target group (better understanding of a topic? Wider usage of a specific product?)
- Quantify your activity: how many visitors do you expect to see on your website? How many participants should ideally attend your conferences? (Tip: be ambitious, but don’t overpromise! If you are funded, you will eventually have to comply with the numbers you wrote here.)
This term refers to the use that you, as partner or as consortium in its whole, will make of the knowledge you have created throughout the EU-funded project. In this case, an effective exercise during proposal development is a reflection on the vision you have in the long term for utilising the outputs of your work.
When commercial exploitation is concerned, planning ahead is of utmost importance: if you want to protect an output of your project through a patent or a trademark, for example, you should be very strict and apply a no-dissemination rule concerning that specific item. Disclosing a confidential information early on, in fact, may result in a failure in its protection.
A good exercise, again, involves listing the innovative items the partners aim to exploit, and provide an explanation as to how this process will take place. Whenever relevant, a business plan should be included, detailing a timeline, expected costs and revenues.
A solid strategy for the management of intellectual property rights within the consortium is a very advantageous tool; include for instance agreements on the ownership of any new item that will be developed, as well as more detailed management procedures and a governance system.
Finally, identifying already at the proposal stage the partners’ background that is relevant to the project and that can be shared with the other partners can save many headaches later on.
These activities refer to the project level, rather than the individual project outputs level. The main objective of a communication plan is to raise awareness within target groups and the European society at large about the existence of your project, its objectives, progress and results.
Some examples of communication tools that can be useful for your next proposal are:
- An informative project website, describing your work in a layman’s terms;
- An active, human presence on social media, which can serve as reinforcement of your dissemination activities;
- Face-to-face networking at events and conferences: don’t forget that the word communication derives from Latin cum (with) and munire (to tie, to build), therefore referring to the act of sharing, making people participate. Your own understanding of and enthusiasm about your project will be much more convincing than flyers or press releases!
- A press kit downloadable from the homepage of your website, and containing the most relevant facts and graphics on your project. Imagine a journalist wanting to feature your story on a newspaper: from the press kit, he/she should obtain the vast majority of key information needed.
As a final advice, a sound Dissemination, Exploitation and Communication Plan should be as tailored as possible, and reflect the famous basis of Communication Theory:
Sender - Message - Channel - Receiver
Make sure you have thoroughly analysed each of these steps, and personalised them for each item of new knowledge you are about to create with EU funding.
This will not only convince the Commission that your proposal is well planned, but will actually increase the efficiency of your overall dissemination activities, thus making sure that all the time you spend on this will deliver results!