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Senior researcher Ulas Im from the Department of Environmental Science at AU acted quickly when he received the first draft work programme for Horizon Europe cluster 5. It was an obvious call for him to apply for, because as it was precisely within his field of climate change. He decided that he would have an application ready when the final call was issued just under a year later. He got down to work immediately, and it paid off. He received funding for a coordinator project with 20 partners from 12 countries.

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Ulas Im read the draft work programme and quickly forwarded it to four relevant researchers in his network. They agreed to draw up an application, and Ulas Im agreed to be the role coordinator. "By starting the process on the basis of an early draft work programme, I got hold of the best researchers in the field. And I took on the role of coordinator, so we could be sure of progress in the project," says Ulas Im. The group quickly made a plan for the process, which entailed spending the first five months on contacting relevant partners, preparing a project description, and setting objectives that they could present to future partners at an online consortium meeting in June.

The participants approved the project and process plan. Based on work packages, 15 people were then selected for a writing group to prepare the first draft application.

Influence on the final call
There are many advantages in starting the application process as soon as the first draft work programme is available: the possibility of getting the most talented partners to join the consortium, time to fine-tune the project, and time to communicate it clearly. Another important advantage is that you can influence the development of the work programme and thus the final call. Ulas Im and his partners submitted several comments included in the final work programme. This meant that the programme and their field of interest slotted together much better. "The work programme was extensive and complex, so being able to influence the final text made it easier for us in the writing process, because we had early knowledge of the details of the call text. This meant we could fine-tune our application,” said Ulas Im.

Training seminars and feedback
Last autumn, Ulas Im participated in three modules of the Horizon Europe training seminars held by the Research Support Office. He said that the module on Impact was a particular help. "For me, the impact section is the hardest part of an application. It's rather subjective and not very scientific. So it really helped to join the course and find out what it should contain. And the Research Support Office's comments afterwards were also really helpful." Ulas calls the impact section his nightmare. But it ended as his dream. They got the highest score for this section.

Many hours, but no problems
Ulas Im spent almost a year on the application, and he makes no secret of the fact that he spent far longer than the 350 hours allocated by the department. He put almost everything else on hold in the final months leading up to submission. Being a coordinator was also new for him, and initially the role was a little out of his comfort zone. “Taking care of all the administrative and organisational work is new for me. But it’s very instructive and also good for my career. It also means that I can set the framework for the project and ensure progress – and that’s the great benefit from the role," said Ulas Im.  In his opinion, the process and cooperation have been seamless. He believes this is partly because the partners are all dedicated researchers, and because they had a plan and were in good time. "So my recommendation is definitely to check out the early draft work programmes and get started on the application process right away. It’s almost certain to pay off,” he concludes.

If you would like more information EU research funding - read here. You are also welcome to contact the Research Support Office.