Dr. Christian Wilms, Research and Development Manager of Scientifica Ltd, shares an insight into applying for European Funding as well as the experience and skills he developed following support from KTN and the National Contact Points at Innovate UK.

Background

Scientifica produces scientific instrumentation, mostly for the neuroscience market. In 1997, they started as a company reselling micromanipulation tools, which is equipment that is used to make electrical recordings with micropipets from single living cells. They have approximately 60 employees in the UK, and expanded to open an office in New Jersey, USA in 2016, with local distributors all over the world.

The core markets that they target are electrophysiology and multiphoton microscopy. Dr. Christian Wilms is an R&D Manager in the Engineering Department at Scientifica and although the company was unsuccessful by a narrow margin this time in applying for Horizon 2020 funding, they learned valuable lessons, gained a wealth of experience and knowledge about the process, and have an incredibly beneficial insight to take them forwards for Horizon Europe funding, the next Framework Programme.

 

What made you apply for Horizon 2020 funding?

Following internal discussions, and ideas of what Scientifica wanted to do, along with meetings with researchers, scientists and other companies in microscopy about what they also wanted to do, which was similar, an informal consortium started to grow – almost on its own. No organisation had the capacity to drop everything else and focus on these ideas, so the partnership loosely formed as together they would be able to focus on a joint idea utilising all resources and capabilities. Shortly after the partnership was formed, KTN had alerted relevant contacts which included Scientifica, about an Horizon 2020 ICT Photonics funding Call topic, a Proposal Writing Workshop and also a Photonics for Europe Workshop which highlighted the Calls and offered Pitching opportunities. Scientifica took this opportunity, and presented their project idea.

Dr. Wilms saw the Horizon 2020* Call Topic and it was a perfect fit with their work at the time. He commented:

“The Call topic was a word for word description of what we were working on.”

He was surprised to see the breadth of what was available:

“I was aware of the whole Framework Programme and was astounded to see how much isn’t just basic research, but also how much goes into industrial R&D funding, and not just the R but the D. The fact that there are funding instruments available to take an existing prototype to a production level was something that was completely unexpected to me. I was very surprised to see the level of funding that they were willing to commit to. If you are starting at a fairly low level technological readiness level, that the funding will be 100%.”

What are your main tips for others thinking of apply for European funding?

Don’t give up!

This is something that may take up a month or two of your time with no guarantee it would be successful and so it really does take a lot of commitment. However what Dr. Wilms recognised from the process was that he now had all the key components established for another proposal. And so all the discussions and improvements, edits and drafts, would form the foundations to apply again for a similar Call Topic within the Horizon Europe* Framework Programme in the future.

“I had this discussion internally and with partners multiple times: Well what if it doesn’t work? But that’s exactly the point about the fact that you’re being fully funded. There’s always a conscious awareness as a Small to Medium sized company – we can’t just jump in and throw hundreds of thousands at a risky project and say well if it doesn’t work it doesn’t work, but the knowledge that you’re funded 100% gives you reassurance to go for it.”

 

Viola Hay, Knowledge Transfer Manager for European Programmes at KTN supported Scientifica with their proposal and commented:

“It was a great pleasure to work with and support Christian Wilm’s, Scientifica, in their European Funding journey. What impressed me most was the fact that throughout the process, they put in the hard work, but also took the long-term view on how putting together the proposal and thinking about their innovation strategy, as well as building relationships with partners across Europe, could benefit them beyond writing the application regardless of the outcome.”

 

To find out more

Follow on Twitter: @Scientifica_Int
Visit Scientifica’s website: https://www.scientifica.uk.com/

KTN European Programmes Team

Viola Hay

Jane Watkins

 

*Horizon Europe is the next European Funding Framework Programme following on from its predecessor Horizon 2020. It will run for seven years from 2021 to 2027. The total budget set for the programme is €95.5 billion. There are six Clusters under Pillar 2: Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness. Read more here.