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Do’s and Don’ts in communication, dissemination and exploitation of H2020 projects

19th September 2018 at 12:48 pm

For most project teams in research and innovation actions, Communication, Dissemination and Exploitation measures are a necessary evil of getting funding. Consequently, the activities planned in these areas are often the result of last minute efforts lacking clearly defined targets and outputs.

The IPR Helpdesk is aware of this problem and has published a guide on «Making the Most of Your H2020 Project – Boosting the impact of your project through effective communication, dissemination and exploitation». Yet, as most project teams want to focus on their research and have no time to read a 36-page guide on something they see as a task of little importance, this isn’t going to help you. This is why we have gone through the document for you and – adding our own experience and expertise – have come up with the most important Do’s and Don’ts to maximize the impact of your project.

Do: Know the difference

Whilst every person involved in EU projects has heard of the terms Communication, Dissemination and Exploitation, there is still a lot of confusion about what exactly they mean. This isn’t helped by the fact, that all three are often strongly linked and boundaries can be blurry. The table below gives you a quick overview of the different terms and related objectives.

Table1: Definition of Communication, Dissemination & Exploitation (adapted from the IPR Helpdesk)

DefinitionProcess aiming at promoting the action and its results The disclosure of the project results to the public Utilisation of the project results in further activities in research, development or standardisation
ObjectiveShowing society the impact and benefits of EU-funded R&I activities Transfer knowledge & results to enable the use and take-up of results Effectively use project results, turning them into concrete value and impact for society
FocusInform and promote the project AND its results/success Describe and ensure results available for others to USE Make concrete use of research results (not just commercial)
Target AudienceAudiences beyond the project’s community, e.g. media, broad public Audiences with interest in the potential use of the results, e.g. the scientific community, policymakers Stakeholders, including project partners, that make concrete use of the project results

Essentially, Communication covers promoting all aspects of the project, while Dissemination and Exploitation focus on the project results.

Do: Know your obligations

As a partner in a project funded under Horizon 2020, i.e. Beneficiary, you are subjected to some obligations related to Communication, Dissemination and Exploitation outlined in various documents. In our experience, even though participants know that there are some rules, very few are truly aware of what exactly they are and what they have to do to comply. So here are the most important ones:

Don’t: Be scared of Open Data

The EC has been promoting the concept of Open Science by supporting open access for Research and Innovation. While providing open access to peer-reviewed publications has long been a standard in EU funded projects, participation in the EC’s Open Research Data Pilot is still approached with caution. The Open Research Data Pilot’s objective is to make research data generated in EU projects accessible while protecting sensitive data from inappropriate access and use. While it is still officially possible to opt out of the Data Pilot, it is getting increasingly difficult for consortia to withdraw completely. This is seen as problematic by many participants as they fear of not being able to protect their data when participating in this pilot scheme.

However, open access to data will not affect the intellectual property (IP) generated by your research results because the decision on whether to seek protection for IP rights is made before deciding whether or not to publish. To handle the data of your project, a well laid out Data Management Plan (DMP) is key and a requirement when participating in the Open Research Data Pilot. And even if deciding to opt out, it is still a useful part of any Dissemination and Exploitation strategy. The DMP should ensure that the relevant data follows the FAIR principle – findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.

Do: Plan strategically

A well defined strategic plan for Communication, Dissemination and Exploitation is a crucial factor of a successful proposal and/or research project. This also means that your strategy should not be planned last minute but well integrated into the entire grant application, and later the project management. During the preparation phase, you will have to analyse how your proposed project addresses the challenges and deliver the expected impacts as described in the relevant H2020 Work Programm or as laid out in the call topic to which you are applying. Your Communication, Dissemination and Exploitation strategy should be based on this analysis and all the activities should be aimed at maximising the expected impacts.

Your strategic Communication, Dissemination and Exploitation measures should further include clearly defined

A well thought out strategic Communication, Dissemination and Exploitation plan also takes into account that measures should fit the timings of the planned research results within the project. Communication activities promoting the project as a whole are usually the first type of outreach activities to take place as at the start of the project, results available are limited. Tying your Communication, Dissemination and Exploitation plan tightly toward the R&I activities within the project will surely maximise their impact. Evaluating your activities and keeping your Communication, Dissemination and Exploitation plan up-to-date is advised. Unforeseen changes or new results can impact what outreach strategies are effective and may need to be adapted over the duration of the project.
Another factor that needs to be included into your strategy is the regular assessment and update of your initial outreach plan. Based on our experience, this is appreciated by the EC, and you can include these adjustments in your periodic project reports.

Don’t: Be overambitious

A mistake often made when creating a Communication strategy is over-ambitiousness. Because it takes a lot of time and effort to come up with a well-thought Communication plan, the activities chosen tend to be general and unfocused. You don’t have to reach everyone – it’s often better to concentrate on fewer target audiences with efforts specifically tailored to them. Although your activities should also target the broad public, more impact will be generated where the audience has a true interest in the results and news of your project.

Do: Integrate into everyday activities

As mentioned before, the Communication, Dissemination and Exploitation of your project should not be seen as something separate from your core tasks but as part of it. It is therefore important that all partners are and stay informed about what is happening in the project at all stages and in all parts. Especially in interdisciplinary projects, partners can be tempted to concentrate on their core activities within the project and lose overview of what is occurring at the project level. Continuously updating each other on activities and results will promote interdisciplinary publications and other Dissemination, Communication and even Exploitation efforts.  

Don’t: Stop after the project ends

As per the Grant Agreement (Article 28), you are legally obliged to ensure exploitation of your project results up to four years after the end of the project. This means your exploitation plan should include measures to fulfill this requirement. But why stop at exploitation? Having a plan for after the project makes sense for communication and dissemination measures too. Guarantee that the project website will be prepared for the end of the project and will still be available at least for a few years after. Many of the scientific publications based on results of the project may only be published after the project ends – ensure that they will be open access too, or that you will keep a list updated on the website.

Do: Get help

Proper Communication, Dissemination and Exploitation activities take up a lot of time and effort, so don’t be afraid to get help. By getting a dedicated and experienced company like accelopment on board will help you make the best of what you probably still see as a chore. Having experienced experts on board will take a lot of the work load off your shoulders and leave you more time to actually focus on the science and innovation.

Our Experience

What started out back in 2008 during the 7th Framework Programme (FP7) has become a long history of supporting the management and communication of projects as well as the dissemination and exploitation of results since, and our success has not halted with the transition to Horizon 2020. Over the years, accelopment have supported scientists in various disciplines and companies in securing public funding for many collaborative projects, dozens of training networks and other basic and translational research funding schemes, including industry-focused funding programmes.

Our multi-disciplinary and highly qualified team has many years of experience notably in projects in Energy, Health, Food, ICT, NMBP and other areas. Besides extensive expertise in administrative project management, our team is completed by specialists in science communication, dissemination management, exploitation as well as in-house graphic design.  Some of our current H2020 projects include the Research and Innovation Actions EURO SHOCK, XoSoft, CHEOPS, SOSLeM and Mat4Rail as well as several Innovative Training Networks such as ClickGene, EXCILIGHT, PEARRL, Train2Target, LightDyNAmics and ImmerSAFE. accelopment AG has the ISO 9007 certified for quality management systems and is GDPR compliant.