How to receive EU funding for research and innovation in Azerbaijan?

September 20, 2019

  • I have an exciting research idea: can I receive funding from the EU?
  • It sounds great, but I don’t know where to start looking… How do I apply?
  • It sounds good, but these applications are never simple are they?
  • Are there any funding opportunities for individuals?
  • What chance do Azerbaijani scientists and researchers have to receive grants?
  • Is there any funding available for innovation in business?
  • Are there other European programmes I can apply to for innovation funding?
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I have an exciting research idea: can I receive funding from the EU?

Yes, you certainly can. Organisations from Azerbaijan have access to the EU’s Horizon 2020 (H2020) programme, which has a global budget of around €30 billion over the period 2018-2020, and is the European Union’s largest Research and Innovation programme ever.

Azerbaijan may not be in the EU, but Horizon 2020 is open to scientists and researchers from all over the world: this means you can take part in projects, in partnership with universities or institutes from EU or H2020 Associated Countries.

It sounds great, but I don’t know where to start looking… How do I apply?

So, you’ve spent years at university and you have a PhD under your belt, but your mind goes blank when you try to work out how to apply?

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one! Which is why your best bet is to start with the Network of Horizon 2020 National Contact Points in Azerbaijan, who can offer the following services. 

  1. Guidance on choosing relevant H2020 topics and types of action
  2. Advice on administrative procedures and contractual issues
  3. Training and assistance on proposal writing
  4. Distribution of documentation (forms, guidelines, manuals etc.)
  5. Assistance in partner search

The full list of National Contact Points for Azerbaijan is available here, and you can also visit their Facebook page, which includes information on events, opportunities, seminars and trainings.

It sounds good, but these applications are never simple are they?

Definitely. You need to take the application seriously and you will need help to guide you through the process.

The first thing to bear in mind is that while some opportunities are open to individuals, most projects are collaborative, so you will need to work through your university or institution to establish partnerships abroad. And because Azerbaijan is not a member of the EU or an associate country of Horizon 2020, you will need to team up with organisations from at least three different EU or associate countries.

The National Contact Points will support you in your application, but there is also a comprehensive online manual for participants (in English), which answers questions from finding the right call and finding partners, to grant management, payments and audits.

In addition, there is a practical five-step guide, from idea to application in Russian.

Are there any funding opportunities for individuals?

If you’re a researcher looking to give your career a boost by working abroad, you can apply for an individual fellowship under the H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA). To apply, you need a PhD or at least four years’ full-time research experience. Research in all disciplines can be funded – from physics to linguistics, from health-sciences to mathematical modelling. The grants of up to two years cover living, travel and family costs, and the EU also contributes to your training, networking and research costs, as well as to the management and indirect costs of the project (see guide for applicants for full details). The grant is awarded to the host organisation, usually a university, research centre or a company in Europe.

MSCA also has Research and Innovation Staff Exchanges (RISE), which fund short-term exchanges of personnel between academic, industrial and commercial organisations throughout the world. Research staff of any nationality and at any career level – from PhD preparation to experienced researchers – can take part, as can staff members working in managerial, technical or administrative roles.

The European Research Council (ERC) also provides funding for top researchers of any nationality to conduct research in Europe. With an ERC Starting Grant, early career researchers can get up to €1.5 million for five years of research. Even more attractive grants are available for more senior, established researchers.

What chance do Azerbaijani scientists and researchers have to receive grants?

As good a chance as anybody else! It’s true that participation rates from Azerbaijan are low, but this is not for lack of talent or innovation in the country – rather that there are few applications. As of September 2018, Azerbaijan had seven participations in H2020 projects, while by the end of 2018, 16 individual Azerbaijani researchers had received funding under the latest phase of MSCA Actions (2014-2020).

And it’s important to remember that Horizon 2020 is not just about the money. Projects open the doors to better collaboration between Azerbaijani scientists and their international colleagues, as well as business partners from the EU and across the world.

For example, since January 2019, a research team from the Shamakhy Astrophysical Observatory has been working with observatories from 10 different countries to further investigation into ‘extreme massive stars’ and the role they play in the evolution of galaxies and the Universe as a whole. The POEM project (Physics of Extreme Massive Stars) involves a number of exchange visits among participating observatories: “All these scientific contacts play an important role in the training of young astronomers,” explains assoc. Prof. Dr. J.N.Rustamov. “Young people get priority at this project… It is important that young people are leaders in these activities. This will provide them with the needed skills for their future careers in research and education.”

Is there any funding available for innovation in business?

Horizon 2020 does have dedicated support for innovation in business, but it is only available for EU member states and associated countries. However, Azerbaijani businesses and even SMEs can be partners in projects – indeed they have a key role to play in the application of many technologies that are funded and are therefore encouraged to take part. Overall, it is expected that 20% of the total combined budget for projects in the areas of Societal Challenges and Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies will go to SMEs. This means that over €8 billion in EU support for Research and Innovation activities will find its way directly to SMEs, most of them part of consortiums participating in EU collaborative Research and Innovation projects.

Are there other European programmes I can apply to for innovation funding?

Yes there are! Beyond Horizon 2020, there are many other sources of EU funding for innovation and research:

If you are a business, you can also apply for a ranging of funding and support opportunities under the EU4Business initiative.

If you are an academic or a student: Erasmus+ offers a wealth of research and exchange opportunities across all fields and for all levels. Visit the National Erasmus+ Office in Azerbaijan for details.

If you are in culture: organisations from Azerbaijan can take part in projects under the EU’s Creative Europe programme, as part of a consortium involving the required number of eligible partners.

To keep up with all the news, events and opportunities about EU support for research and innovation, sign up for the EU NEIGHBOURS east alerts.

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