Horizon 2020 Exploitation
Written by Chris Barnett

Your H2020 proposal has been selected for funding. You demonstrated an innovative approach to address an important problem, defined the concept and approach that was considered feasible and brought together a consortium of partners with the necessary experience and expertise to achieve your objectives. The risks associated with achieving these objectives have been identified together with the scientific and technical challenges that must be addressed. Now the hard work begins for the next few years. If the approach was easy and the risks low then private sector investment would have been possible but because of the nature of the risk public funds have been made available to support your endeavours.

What about the expected return on investment for these funds? The Horizon 2020 programme places exploitation of project results as a core aspect for funded research projects. However, exploitation of results can take many different forms and may not necessarily be associated with direct revenue generation.

From the planning stages of the project it is important to establish the expectations of each of the partners with respect to exploitation. The results of the project may be used internally, used to support new international collaborations, raise the profile of an organisation, enhance competitiveness within the marketplace or commercially exploited to generate new revenue streams. Consideration must also be given to jointly owned IP that could arise during the project and how this will be managed for exploitation and benefit to the owners.

If there is any intended commercial exploitation of the results it is useful to ensure that you monitor the patent landscape to make sure you have freedom to operate. It would be unfortunate to reach the end of the project only to find that your new product cannot be commercially exploited because it infringes another organisation’s existing patents.

The process of exploitation is a whole of life activity for the project management and should be regularly reviewed and monitored. Many projects develop the exploitation plan at an early stage in the project and then regularly update the plan as new results are generated from the research. Ultimately, many projects will need to continue development following the end of the H2020 funding and the exploitation plan can be converted into a business strategy post-project to secure additional private and public sector funding.

There are various methods for monitoring the creation of new results and intellectual property. Perhaps the most simple is to establish a board within the management structure to monitor dissemination and exploitation activities. The board can then monitor all deliverables, progress reports and potential public presentations as they arise. Most Consortium Agreement documents will detail how dissemination will only take place once the potential for protection of results has taken place particularly if these will form the basis of a patent application.

Establishing a portfolio of exploitable results is beneficial for reporting activities to the EU and also for development of a clear strategy as to how the results may be exploited. If your exploitation route considers licensing a patent or co-development opportunity with a third party then it is important to establish an agreement with the project partners as to how this will take place. Most third parties only wish to negotiate with a single representative and would not readily engage with a number of different organisations each with slightly differing expectations.

Protecting results through patent applications can increase the complexity of the project activities. Using the EU services or an external patent attorney is probably the most efficient method but it is essential to establish criteria for inventorship and ownership at an early stage. Future costs associated with continued protection also need to be considered and it may be beneficial to consider a managing partner for any intellectual property created. Finally, there are potential revenue sharing considerations if the patent can be used to generate revenue.

Euram has specialist individuals within the company that can support your considerations as to how project results can be exploited. We can be contacted by any consortium to support your exploitation activities.