Is there any impact without use? How to innovate in complexity
CategoriesEU Project Innovation Policy

Research & Development (R&D) activities play an increasingly strategic and recognized role in providing solutions to challenges of our time in a multidimensional way.

Research & Development (R&D) activities play an increasingly strategic and recognized role in providing solutions to challenges of our time. Indeed, they do it in a multidimensional way. This role is confirmed by the European Commission through Horizon Europe, EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation. With a budget of €95.5 billion, the programme supports the creation and better dispersion of excellent knowledge and technologies.

What appears evident, however, is that R&D processes cannot be exhausted in the exclusive development of a solution. They need to generate impact, generally defined as a long-term economic, social or scientific benefit.

The results of a research, no matter if in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) or SSH (Social Sciences and Humanities) must be connected to the benefits they ought to generate; the “trigger” that enables the long-term impact is the use of this result by economic, social and scientific actors who apply the invention or new knowledge to solve pressing problems and challenges facing our society.

Impact in the scientific community

This is why, in Horizon Europe, the concept of impact has joined that of scientific excellence, imposing a new paradigm on researchers who must inevitably confront themselves with the need to facilitate the use of their research results to enable impact.

The latter represents a challenge for many teams who are used to focusing on scientific excellence but are not as prepared to manage Exploitation and Dissemination processes. This difficulty was confirmed by a survey carried out by META Group with researchers from a prominent Italian university. According to the study, most of the researchers’ efforts (46%) are channeled into the publication of scientific papers with the aim to inform the R&D community about their activity and only a small part (14%) to “engage” potential users or present more effective solutions than the existing ones in tackling various problems. 88% of those interviewed believe that their research activity can only enable an impact of a scientific nature, while 61% believe that maximizing the value of their research consists in having a paper listed in an academic environment.

Facilitating and achieving the use of R&D results is a challenging but necessary process for those participating in programs such as Horizon Europe, aimed at providing solutions to economic, social and scientific challenges. Yet organisations participating in these programmes tend to consider the development of the “solution” a priority, not addressing how this solution can be implemented or adopted in everyday life. This is even more evident in social sciences and humanities disciplines, where results are usually less direct, immediate, and tangible than those generated by STEM research.

No use = No impact

Starting from these considerations, META Group contributed to the Agency for the Promotion of European Research (APRE) 2022 annual conference with a “No use = No impact” workshop on how to put the use of results at the heart of research to create impact.

The participants could benefit from the international experience of the META Group experts and discussed how to “translate” research into multidimensional impact and enable tangible benefits for citizens, businesses, and the next generations. Special attention was given to university areas dedicated to the Third Mission, particularly to services related to the valorisation and dissemination of findings and knowledge.

Aware of difficulties, the European Commission provides free support services to help researchers tackle environmental, energy, digital, and geopolitical challenges. Horizon Results Booster (HRB) aims to bring a continual stream of innovation to the market and maximise the impact of EU-funded research.

Horizon Results Booster

“This is the largest contract on valorisation and dissemination of research results ever awarded by the European Commission. Having both the possibility and the responsibility to complete is an exciting challenge for our team. Above all, it represents the culmination of a journey that began more than 25 years ago and had us always working alongside researchers”, says Alessia Melasecche Germini, CEO of META Group.

The HRB services support R&D partners, ensuring research activities have lasting impact on the economy and society. They provide support and coaching for portfolio dissemination & exploitation strategy, business plan development and go-to-market activities.

The services are delivered for free to closed or ongoing projects financed through FP7, Horizon 2020, and Horizon Europe programmes. They can be requested online on the Horizon Results Booster website. To date, almost 1000 services have been requested, and over 870 projects supported through Horizon Results Booster.

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Article originally published by the Agency for the Promotion of European Research in the APRE Magazine