How to receive EU funding for research and innovation in Belarus?

24-09-2019
How to receive EU funding for research and innovation in Belarus?
1. I have an exciting research idea: can I receive funding from the EU?

Yes, you certainly can. Belarusian organisations have access to the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, which has a global budget of around €30 billion over the period 2018-2020, and is the European Union’s largest Research and Innovation programme ever.

 

Horizon2020

Belarus may not be in the EU, but Horizon 2020 is open to scientists and researchers from all over the world. Indeed, Belarus has an excellent track record of participation in Horizon 2020, building up many successful collaborations with European partners.

2. It sounds great, but I don’t know where to start looking… How do I apply?

So, you’ve spent years at university and you have a PhD under your belt, but your mind goes blank when you try to work out how to apply?

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one! That is why your best bet is to start with the Belarus National Information Point for the EU Research and Innovation Programmes, which has been supporting Belarusian scientists and researchers for more than a decade.

Horizon 2020 funds research projects in all areas – from space to humanities, from ICT to agriculture, from biotechnology to energy… but the National Information Point will guide you through those areas where partners from Belarus have the best chance to participate – areas such as leadership in industrial technologies, health, green energy or society “because it is here that there is a high probability that the interests of the EU and Belarus coincide in terms of developing specific technologies and solving social problems, which, as a rule, have no borders”.

They have identified the niches where the level of success – both in general and for Belarusian participants in particular – exceeds the average for the programme, and they will point you towards those areas where you are most likely to succeed.

3. It sounds good, but these applications are never simple, are they?

Definitely. You need to take the application seriously and you will need help to guide you through the process.

The first thing to bear in mind is that while some opportunities are open to individuals, most projects are collaborative, so you will need to work through your university or institution to establish partnerships abroad. And because Belarus is not a member of the EU or an associate country of Horizon 2020, Belarusian partners need to team up with organisations from at least three different EU or associated countries.

Secondly, you will never be alone in drafting the application: it is a collective task coordinated and guided by the coordinator. The coordinator distributes the work between the partners, collects their input, shapes the proposal and finally submits it. 

The National Information Point has produced a practical five-step guide, from idea to application (in Russian), which takes you through the process and gives practical advice at each of the five steps along the way:

  1. Find out about and understand Horizon 2020
  2. Find a suitable call and topic
  3. Develop your strategy to take part in the call
  4. Register your organisation
  5. Prepare and submit your application

Horizon 2020 also has an online manual for participants (in English), which answers questions from finding the right call and finding partners, to grant management, payments and audits.

4. Are there any funding opportunities for individuals?

If you’re a researcher looking to give your career a boost by working abroad, you can apply for an individual fellowship under the H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA). To apply, you need a PhD or at least four years’ full-time research experience. Research in all disciplines can be funded – from physics to linguistics, from health-sciences to mathematical modelling. The grants of up to two years cover living, travel and family costs, and the EU also contributes to your training, networking and research costs, as well as to the management and indirect costs of the project (see guide for applicants for full details). The grant is awarded to the host organisation, usually a university, research centre or a company in Europe.

PhD students or young researchers can also gain up to four years of full time research experience within MSCA Innovative Training Networks. In this case they should apply not to a H2020 call but to an ITN project. To find a suitable project, visit the EURAXESS Jobs & Funding portal..

MSCA also has Research and Innovation Staff Exchanges (RISE), which funds short-term exchanges of personnel between academic, industrial and commercial organisations throughout the world. Research staff of any nationality and at any career level – from PhD preparation to experienced researchers – can take part, as can staff members working in managerial, technical or administrative roles.

The European Research Council (ERC) also provides funding for top researchers of any nationality to conduct research in Europe. With an ERC Starting Grant, researchers of any nationality with 2-7 years of experience since completion of their PhD can get up to €1.5 million for five years of research. Even more attractive grants are available for more senior, established researchers.

5. What chance do Belarusian scientists and researchers have to receive grants?

An excellent chance! After 586 concluded calls by September 2018, Belarus had a success rate of 15%, equal to the average success rate for the programme as a whole. By August 2019, the EU has supported 47 projects with a Belarusian partner since Horizon 2020 began in 2014, with total funding of €6.5 million for Belarusian partners. It’s also worth noting that Belarus is consistently ranked among the top seven third countries participating in the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Programme – by the end of 2018, an impressive 165 individual Belarusian researchers working in 22 projects had received funding under the latest phase of MSCA Actions (2014-2020)!

But Horizon 2020 is not just about the money. Projects open the doors to better collaboration between Belarusian scientists and their international colleagues, as well as business partners from the EU and across the world.

For example, a research team from the Centre for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Institute of Physics of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus is working with scientists from Switzerland, Italy, France and the Netherlands to create a new microscope based on specific quantum states of light as part of the Horizon 2020 SUPERTWIN project. Apart from the project’s scientific interest, the experience is invaluable for the researchers involved says Dmitri Mogilevtsev, who is deputy head of the centre: “We got the opportunity to freely interact with our western colleagues, to pay well for the work of those whose knowledge and skills are crucial for the implementation of the project. Our graduate students and young employees constantly travel to visit partners and attend conferences, our results are published in leading scientific journals.”

You can read more about SUPERTWIN and other projects involving Belarus here, and see the full list of funded Belarusian projects here.

6. Is there any funding available for innovation in business?

Horizon 2020 does have dedicated support for innovation in business, but it is only available for EU member states and associated countries. However, Belarusian businesses including SMEs can be partners in projects in the core part of Horizon 2020 – indeed they have a key role to play in the application of many technologies that are funded and are therefore encouraged to take part. Overall, it is expected that 20% of the total combined budget for projects in the areas of Societal Challenges and Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies will go to SMEs. This means that over €8 billion in EU support for Research and Innovation activities will find its way directly to SMEs, most of them part of consortiums participating in EU collaborative Research and Innovation projects.

7. Are there other European programmes I can apply to for innovation funding?

Yes there are! Beyond Horizon 2020, there are many other sources of EU funding for innovation and research:

If you are a business, you can also apply for a ranging of funding and support opportunities under the EU4Business initiative. Belarusian entrepreneurs can also get receive support from the Enterprise Europe Network, which helps Belarusian SMEs find business and technology partners across Europe and beyond.

If you are an academic or a student: Erasmus+ offers a wealth of research and exchange opportunities across all fields and for all levels. Сheck our Erasmus+ e-cards for youth opportunities funded under the programme.

Researchers from either academia or business can also become a partner in a COST action. COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) funds bottom-up research and innovation networks with a duration of four years, that boost research, innovation and careers.

If you are in culture: organisations from Belarus can take part in projects under the EU’s Creative Europe programme, as part of a consortium involving the required number of eligible partners.

To keep up with all the news, events and opportunities about EU support for research and innovation, bookmark the EU4Innovation page.