Communication, dissemination and exploitation strategy analysis in Horizon 2020: keys to multiply the impact of European projects [article]


This study presents a review work on communication, dissemination and exploitation of results of the European Union research and innovation Framework Program Horizon 2020, a program of almost 80 billion euros for 2014-2020.

The objective is to clarify the terms communication, dissemination and exploitation of results, activities that multiply the impact of public investment and to give keys about their strategic plans.

As a result, it has been possible to establish the narrative of what the EU expects from European projects regarding the communication of science and the dissemination and exploitation of its results. This clarification will help research teams to generate more assertive proposals.

The methodology of narrative syntheses has been applied and the reference documentation of the participant portal Horizon 2020 has been used as the basis of the evidence. As a method of analysis, structured summaries have been made to prepare the narrative synthesis, core of the work.

In conclusion, strategic planning of impact multipliers is essential. Communication design begins with the proposal; dissemination and exploitation plans, once results have been obtained. Measuring its effects to adjust strategic plans will enhance the overall global impact of the project.


The 2010 “Europe 2020 Strategy” of the European Union (EU) has marked the last decade’s scientific policies (European Commission, 2010), thanks to the general targets and flagship initiatives to be achieved as goals by 2020.  In particular, the Europe 2020 Strategy builds on what the EC considers its seven flagship initiatives. These would seek to «contribute to the society of the future through intelligent, sustainable and inclusive growth» (European Commission, 2019c), as defined by the EC and summarized in table 1.

According to its vision, to achieve these flagship initiatives, each country or region tailors them to their particular situation using national, EU, and international regulations (European Commission, 2010).

In any case, as the EU executive arm (Ludlow, 2018), the European Commission (EC) is in charge of leading the implementation of the strategic plans it approves, as in the case of the “Europe 2020 Strategy” as a whole.

Horizon 2020 table
«Europe 2020 Strategy» general targets and its seven flagship initiatives. Source: European Commission, 2010.

One of these flagship initiatives, the “Innovation Union”, which is part of Europe 2020, sets up the policies related to the European funds for research and innovation. The stated target is to enhance the innovation chain, from basic science to the market and society (European Commission, 2010). This initiative was implemented under the European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. It is a programme of programmes (Reillon, 2015), called Horizon 2020 in its 8th edition. It brings together calls for competitive projects in a range of 7 years, from 2014 to 2020.

By doing so, the EC’s public policies are adopted in Horizon 2020 work programmes’ calls. It is expected that the programmes will be adopted in the projects presented by the participants (Mc Carthy, 2014) competing for these funds. Thus, the European Union (EU) invests public money in science and its research and innovation activities (European Commission, 2016), resulting in new knowledge, new products, and services, as well as in technological and social innovation (European IPR Helpdesk, 2016).

According to its vision, one of “Europe 2020 Strategy” pillars has been to focus on excellent science to place its results as the economy’s driver. This has been further enhanced by promoting the opening of Horizon 2020 to participants from many countries around the world.

As Carlos Moedas, EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation in 2014-2019, stated in July 2019, the impact of public investment is critical. As Moedas argues, «for every 100 euro we invest [in research and innovation] through Horizon 2020, we expect to add 850 euro to our GDP by 2030, creating millions of jobs for Europeans» (European Commission, 2019b).

In principle, the EC states that by investing public funds, it aims to transform the ideas from laboratories into innovative products or services that can reach the market, to create economic growth and jobs to improve society’s living conditions in the EU and the world (European Commission, 2014b).

This is how the cutting-edge research funded by the EU research framework programme is supposed to have contributed to discoveries that are highly relevant to science like «exoplanets, the Higgs boson and gravitational waves, first images of a black hole, and at least 17 Nobel Prize winners received EU research funding prior or after their award» (European Commission, 2019b).


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