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As a Horizon Europe proposal writer, you need to carefully consider intellectual property (IP) in your application. As professional proposal writers, let us share with you a few tips about IP in a Horizon Europe proposal.

1. Why it is important to consider IP at the proposal stage?

Although you might not know yet precisely the results you will get from your Horizon Europe project, it is likely that they will require further and substantial investments to take them to the market. These investments require protection, and this is where intellectual property rights (IPR) come into play. IPR are a competitive advantage to firms and simplify technology transfer to research organisations. Moreover, in a Horizon Europe project, while the collaboration reduces the costs to conduct R&D, it can lead to disagreements in terms of results ownership and use. It is therefore critical to anticipate this by jointly agreeing to IPR rules at the proposal stage, even if the actual binding case will happen if the proposal is funded, when a consortium agreement is written.

2. IPR management is part of the Horizon Europe proposal evaluation

Not only it is useful to consider IPR at the proposal stage, it is also a requirement in its evaluation. The impact section of the proposal is the most obvious place where IPR is assessed. In this section, IPR management will be considered as to how it contributes to the knowledge management and protection of the results of the project in order to better exploit them after the completion of the project. However, IPR management is also considered in two other sections of the proposal. In the excellence section, the use of patent databases to assess the state of the art is well appreciated. Indeed, you have to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the state of the art and how your project will go beyond it. In the implementation section, describing the capacities and competences of each partner with regards to how IPR is managed within their organisations can be seen positively by the proposal reviewers.

3. Consider both background and foreground IP

In a Horizon Europe proposal, you need to describe both the background IP, i.e. the IP that the consortium already owns and will use while starting the project, and the foreground IP, i.e. the IP expected to be produced by the project. IP is not necessarily protected such as patents or copyrights and can be data, know-how and scientific studies. In describing the background IP, establish rules to access it, as the partner bringing the IP might want to more or less restrict its access to some or all the partners in the project, or for certain tasks or a limited period of time. In addition to access, also describe how each partner will be allowed to exploit the IP. Have a similar approach to the foreground IP description, with things such as further research, developing / creating and marketing a product / process / service, or standardisation activities.

4. Sign a non-disclosure agreement at the proposal stage

While working on the proposal preparation, you are very likely to share confidential information with the other partners in the consortium. Yet, at the proposal stage, you have no contracting agreement in place to protect the confidentiality of this information. Therefore, we advise the partners to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before starting working on the proposal.

5. Consider the third parties rights

IPR management not only relies to your own IP, it also refers to the IP belonging to third parties to the project. Make sure you also include it in your proposal as not considering it might hamper the future use of your own IP. Therefore, in the excellence section, include a freedom to operate analysis and if necessary, conclude licensing agreements with third parties if you are likely to use their IP in your project.

6. You can claim the IP-related expenses in your Horizon Europe project

The good news is that you can claim the costs related with protecting the IP that will be created during your Horizon Europe project, such as patenting costs. They have to be budgeted in the “Costs of other goods and services” category.

7. You can protect your project’s name acronym

While we generally do not spend too much time thinking about the project’s name and acronym, you may plan to use the project’s results under its name after project completion. It is therefore advisable to check that the project’s name and acronym is not already protected under a trade mark and protect it yourself.

8. Plan for a strategy for dissemination and exploitation

Describing your IP in your proposal is not enough. You also need to explain how you plan to disseminate and exploit it. You have to consider the following aspects:

  • How results will be protected
  • How background and results will be organised and managed
  • How joint ownership will be treated
  • How the results will be exploited. Choose among further research, product development, service creation, licensing, assignments (i.e. transfer of ownership), joint-venture, spin-off, standardisation activities).
  • Which confidentiality measures are in place.
  • How appropriate is the management structure to deal with IPR management issues.

IPR management is a critical and often overlooked issue in Horizon Europe proposals. Yet, by carefully considering it, you can gain both points in your proposal evaluation and a lot less stress when IPR issues arise in your project and beyond.