1st issue - Welcome to the network!

New beginnings with the WIDERA programme and a new NCP Network

It is our pleasure to welcome you to the 1st issue of the newsletter brought to you by the network of National Contact Points for Horizon Europe's programme on Widening Participation and Reforming the European Research Area, from all over Europe and beyond! 

This first issue welcomes all of you to the project, with a quick overview of what is to come. The main focus is on the newly launched network, first with an article from the coordinator and then input from work package leaders, who will tell you what to expect, both for National Contact Points as well as for applicants and stakeholders.

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Introduction from the project coordinator, Katarzyna Walczyk-Matuszyk

The NCP_WIDERA.NET project is the new network of National Contact Points (NCPs) for Widening participation and strengthening the European Research Area under Horizon Europe. The project was launched on 1 April 2022 with a budget of 8 M€ for the next 3 years. The project consortium includes 21 members and 9 associated partners, and is coordinated by the Polish NCP Team.

Focus on NCPs

The WIDERA network gathers NCPs with various level of experience under one umbrella, including newly appointed WIDERA NCPs and those with more than 10 years on the job, both from Widening and non-Widening countries. In addition, the network is very multidisciplinary, as Widening and ERA topics have their origins in different parts of the previous framework programmes. Yet, this melange provides us with an opportunity to share best practices within the community and deliver tailored services, such as face-to-face mentoring. Rich capacity building agenda will be supported by various communication actions that will involve NCPs in the collaboration. In particular, project partners will naturally play the role of Ambassadors through their commitment to the network goals, and by successfully making use of the services, deeply understanding the target audience. NCPs supported with professional tools and materials will therefore disseminate relevant information using different opportunities, including national/regional events and international possibilities. This will be extremely important to build project visibility among applicants throughout the European Research Area (ERA) and in particular in Widening communities.

Collaboration with other NCP networks

Special attention will be given to cooperation with NCP networks operating under Horizon Europe's Pillar II clusters. The role of NCP_WIDERA.NET will be to raise awareness on actions financed under Widening Participation, especially those with research components as an option for collaborative projects and effective application of the Hop-On mechanism. Our goal will be to increase the visibility of Widening applicants to advanced partners for collaboration possibilities through optimisation of virtual networking and Brokerage Events. Finally, we are aiming at mutual communication and sharing success stories that will result in joint activities. NCP_WIDERA.NET will empower NCPs to provide structured services to applicants. The responsibility we have is of a great importance. On the one hand, it shall contribute to achieving the ERA communication goal relying on better quality of proposals in Widening countries and better networking throughout ERA, and on the other hand, enhancing the effectiveness of NCPs within R&I systems. The journey has just started, and we are fully motivated and looking forward to reaching our goals.

What can we expect in the project?

Below you can find input from the leaders of the eight work packages of the project, where they tell us how their planned work and activities will support NCPs and how it will help WIDERA applicants and stakeholders:

Work package 1 - Proposal pre-check.

Aurelija Povilaikė Research Council of Lithuania: WP1 will support development of NCPs’ know-how and technical skills through 6 capacity building exercises and by introducing Pre-screening standards and best practices guide, specifically aimed at NCPs from Widening countries. The guide will deepen NCPs skills on financial instruments, policy aspects of the programme and provide tips and tricks for providing the best advice to applicants. In WP1 we focus specifically on applicants, with transnational seminars and trainings dedicated to Pillar II applicants from Widening countries. With these, we aim to raise awareness of new opportunities that well-qualified potential applicants can use in Horizon Europe in order to raise their research and innovation competences.
Work package 2 - Matchmaking.
Vassiliki Kalodimou, Foundation for Research & Technology - Hellas: WP2 is about matchmaking between applicants from widening countries and the rest of the Horizon Europe community by using the project’s dedicated grant facility. WP2 will provide tools to NCPs to support applicants in finding the right consortia through brokerage events, subscription to online tools and targeted study visits. It is also about creating networking pathways and helping applicants from widening countries to build valuable partnerships with internationally leading organisations. The support means that they can raise their visibility and participate more actively in the international R&I process.
Work package 3 - Widening NCPs’ capacity building.
Ana Hidalgo, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC):
Activities in this work package will enable the sharing of good practises in order to enhance the competences of NCPs, including help to less experienced NCPs and lowering barriers for newcomers. In addition, improving NCPs capacity building will help to simplify the access to Horizon Europe calls for applicants and stakeholders, raising participation of widening institutions and the average quality of proposals.
Work package 4 - Widening stakeholders and synergies.  
Ian Gauci Borda, Ministry for Equality, Research and Innovation – Malta: WP4 will be dedicated to exploring and developing synergies with other programmes and networks, giving NCPs a better understanding of how to ensure the right policy mix for more effective research investments to increase their R&I Performance. This will be done through Mutual Learning workshops and Synergy workshops to expose NCPs and national authorities to best practices for synergies. Furthermore, we will sustain national info-days as well as collaboration with different networks. Regarding applicants and stakeholders, we foresee material and publications on how to apply to the different instruments. We will also publish FAQs on each of the Widening calls and will seek to collaborate with other networks to ensure that the applicants may explore different forms of funding, particularly in calls where funding complementarity is required.
Work package 5 - ERA Sharing for NCPs.
Angelo D’Agostino and Matia Ceracchi, Agenzia per la Promozione della Ricerca Europea (APRE): 
WP5 is devoted to updating the ERA part of the NCP network on ERA specific issues, and to evaluating the contribution of project activities to improving NCPs services. It will be built on mapping expertise, good practices and needs of all NCPs in order to share and use existing knowledge among the entire network through trainings, exchange visits and mutual learning. The objective of WP5 is to improve and professionalise the level of the support provided by NCPs. Improved and professionalised NCPs on ERA specific issues will help simplify access to Horizon Europe calls, lowering the entry barriers for newcomers, and raising the average quality of proposals submitted.
Work package 6 - ERA Visibility for clients.
Randi Wallmichrath, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR): WP6 focuses on the ERA part of the WIDERA programme and addresses NCPs who advise this thematically broad area. Even though the title says "for clients", the NCPs will benefit just as much from all activities. The tasks aim at gaining a better understanding of the ERA calls so we can also advise clients better. For example, we will present successful ERA projects, publish ERA policy briefs, and compile clear and concise fact sheets. Good applications require good consortia - so we will offer brokerage events to help finding the right partners. And since the number of ERA calls is limited, but ERA topics are also present in other parts of Horizon Europe, we will identify those opportunities for participation. To put it simply, our activities aim at making the life of applicants, stakeholders and NCPs a little easier and the ERA part more accessible and visible.
Work package 7 - Communication.
Małgorzata Krótki and Marika Kowalska, Narodowe Centrum Badan i Rozwoju: WP7 targets WIDERA NCPs and stakeholders to raise awareness of project activities, new roles and services such as professional pre-check of proposals. It will enhance the visibility of the WIDERA part of Horizon Europe and promote success stories, contributing to enhancing reputation of applicants from Widening countries. The project will also be a platform for the European Commission (EC) to facilitate dissemination of the WIDERA policy and relevant information to stakeholders. To achieve this, project activities will be implemented in collaboration with the EC. Roughly speaking: Do you want to be updated in WIDERA issues? Follow us on social media and make sure to subscribe to the newsletter!
Work package 8 - Advancing Europe Package support.
Katarzyna Walczyk-Matuszyk and Wojciech Adamiak, Narodowe Centrum Badan i Rozwoju: WP8 focuses on the implementation of the Advancing Europe Package elements, i.e. proposals pre-check service and matchmaking. Financial resources are ensured for Widening countries and outermost regions of France and Spain to establish professional services, strengthening the R&I systems and improving the quality of proposals with Widening applicants. The pre-check will be performed by external experts with support of NCPs and will be dedicated to Widening instruments as well as Horizon Europe's Pillar II clusters proposals, ERA and EIC Pathfinder proposals with Widening coordinators and WP leaders. A central database of experts will be compiled for this purpose. Matchmaking support includes funding for travel of applicants from Widening countries to Pillar II clusters’ brokerage events.
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This project is funded by the European Union's programme
Horizon Europe under grant agreement no.101055286