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Applying for H2020 funds, Nigeria style

Two Nigerian researchers who have participated in the Horizon 2020 programme share their tips for success in the European Union funding programme.

[LAGOS] The EU’s Horizon 2020 research-funding programme is open to scientists the world over. But accessing the grants is not easy—especially for Africans who have never previously applied for European grants.

Obinna Onwujekwe, a professor of health economics and policy at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Olusegun Ademowo, a professor of pharmacology and therapeutics from the University of Ibadan, have both participated successfully in Horizon 2020 projects.

On the sidelines of an EU-Africa meeting on 9 November in Lagos, Nigeria, they shared their tips for success with Research Africa.

Before applying, Onwujekwe says, it is important to understand that Horizon 2020 grants require African researchers to apply in collaboration with European partners.

Finding a partner requires that you put yourself out there, he advises. “If you are not visible, the probability of finding partners or partners finding you will be slim. Attending conferences and networking will be very important in finding partners.”

Getting the right partners will make or break your proposal: “It is important to strategically put together partners with diverse background, in the academic, industry, research institutions who are good in their field. It will go a long way to improve your chances of winning.”

Writing up the application is also fraught with challenges. Onwujekwe says applicants should mark out key words in the call for proposals and echo those words in their applications, double check their eligibility, and be in sync with the objectives of the call.

Ademowo adds that applicants should take care with their grammar and choice of words and show in the application that they can add value with the project on which they are embarking. An extra pair of eyes is helpful to spot mistakes. “After writing the application, give it to a neutral person who can point out mistakes. Early submission is very important as waiting until it’s almost deadline might be a costly mistake,” Ademowo says.

Both Onwujekwe and Ademowo agree that a good track record of research projects with high visibility and publications in reputable journals are essential for participating in EU projects.

Ademowo also stresses that applicants should be able to substantiate claims made in the application, especially when it comes to data, or the lack of it: “Do not say that data does not exist when you have just been unable to find it.”

In Nigeria, the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion is the national contact point for Horizon 2020 applications. It offers support to Nigerians wanting to get involved in European funding applications.