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My Horizon 2020 Journey

Just over a year ago Aridhia took the decision to engage in the H2020 programme. Up until that point we had been brought into a small number proposals, with mixed success, through existing contacts here in Scotland via word of mouth.

Horizon 2020 is the European Union’s biggest ever research driven programme with nearly 80 billion Euros of funding available over a period of 7 years. It provides specific opportunities for SMEs and includes an extensive health, demographic change and wellbeing programme, with lots of calls that were very relevant to Aridhia.

Having just launched AnalytiXagility it was timely. We knew that we had the skills and expertise to enable world-class collaborative research and, crucially, offer the ability to operationalise informatics outcomes and offer wealth creation opportunities for joint developments – all of which is particularly pertinent to the aims of H2020. But where to start?

Fortunately, I came across the Enterprise Europe Network in Scotland. Not only did they run a couple of excellent briefing events, but they also assisted me with drafting profiles, providing information on relevant European partnering (brokerage) events (more on this later), and circulating cooperation profiles; all of which aided me in rapidly acquiring the information I needed to actively engage with potential partners.

The European Brokerage events turned out to be a great way of finding out more about specific calls and meeting new potential partners. My first experience was in Lyon in July 2014. If you’re not familiar with these types of events, the idea is that you create a profile in advance and pre-book short B2B (1to1) meetings with potential partners. It’s a bit like speed dating – or so I am told!

In Lyon I met with a number of delegates from across the EU and these introductions led to Aridhia’s direct participation in two consortia proposals submitted in late 2014. Both were single stage proposals and were unfortunately unsuccessful – it is a highly competitive process – but we were undeterred. One of the proposals has recently submitted a re-work under PHC-30-2015, a slightly different call which focuses on health outcomes rather than using ICT in a healthcare setting (the focus of the original application.)

After Lyon I participated in similar events in Genoa, Bologna, Florence and Brussels. The Let’s Match 2014 event in Bologna was also very successful in terms of meeting new partners. Through a meeting at this event Aridhia has been brought into a very exciting and ambitious proposal for PHC-30-15 – Digital representation of health data to improve disease diagnoses and treatment – which was submitted on the 21st April. Our role is considerable and includes the provision of AnalytiXagility, the development of an advanced Clinical Decision Support System (CDSS) and a clinical application which will allow users to consume the outputs of our data modelling. We’ll also be responsible for the business plan and commercial exploitation of the CDSS.

The next event, an ICT Proposer’s Day in Florence in October 2014, focused on the Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2015 in the field of Information & Communication Technologies. Until that point we had focused on the use of ICT in health calls, so this offered a slightly different approach. This huge event was an exceptional opportunity to meet potential partners, with 815 participants, 3,229 meetings and with 90 B2B tables with meetings at 10 minute intervals. Over the course of one and half days I met with around 20 people and developed a number a leads for potential big data projects. It was an exhausting but valuable few days.

So, how would I sum up my experience? From the perspective of developing leads and new opportunities for Aridhia it was a huge success. As of 21st April 2015 Aridhia was a partner in 6 proposals across 4 calls (PHC-21, 25, 28 and 30), bringing us into collaboration with 53 organisations and institutions across 18 countries, which is simply staggering. One of these collaborative proposals was as the direct result of a response I made to a cooperation profile, whilst another two were developed through B2B meetings.

In these proposals Aridhia’s role ranges from providing AnalytiXagility as the data science platform for the collaboration, and supporting collaborative research teams to use AnalytiXagility to develop innovative new Decision Support Systems (DSS), analytical models and clinical apps. In each proposal, participants across Europe will be using AnalytiXagility to integrate and analyse data, generating new data insights and world-class research which we hope will lead to improvements in clinical care for millions of people across Europe.

Of those earlier proposals I spoke about at the beginning of this blog that we were brought into by existing partners or word of mouth, all were two-stage and made it through to stage 2 evaluation. One was successful, while another met the threshold but fell short of receiving funds. The proposal that made it through the evaluation aims to develop and compare new models for safe and efficient, prevention oriented health and care systems. We have recently completed contract negotiations and the 48 month project is about to begin, so we’ll be able to tell you more about that shortly.

For me personally, it’s been an interesting year. This has been my first real hands-on experience of a big European research programme and while not without its challenges, we’ve met some very interesting people, made some very motivating connections, embarked on some exciting projects, and I have got to see some fantastic European cities!