Maximising Impact: Effective Communication, Dissemination and Exploitation in EU-funded Projects
The session put a particular spotlight on the role of communication, dissemination and exploitation in maximising the impact of EU-funded projects. In various IP training activities the team of the European Intellectual Property (IP) Helpdesk found that there still exists some confusion about what these three concepts really mean: How do activities relate to each other? And how can they be distinguished from one another?
Against this backdrop, the major aim of this session was to draw the bigger picture, and provide participants with a better understanding of the differences and touching points between the activities, and why it takes an integrated approach to effectively carry out communication, dissemination and exploitation. Starting with an introductory presentation, participants heard about central definitions and ideas behind the three concepts and got an overview of key practical steps to consider when elaborating an outreach and exploitation strategy. In relation to the latter, the last part of the presentation specifically touched upon issues related to safeguarding and managing IP in EU projects.
The second part of the session was dedicated to open exchange and discussion about personal experiences made by the participants concerning measures aimed at maximising the impact of EU-funded projects. Participants clearly showed their interest in the content presented in the presentation. One of the questions addressed the drafting of the plan for exploitation and dissemination of project results. The participant asked for clarification about when a project team should plan strategic dissemination and exploitation activities, wondering whether that should be done at the beginning or even before the start of the project, or only when results become available. Another attendee gave the example of a project, in which the question of ownership of results had not yet been agreed among beneficiaries. It had not been clear to them when and in which documents these issues could be tackled best, and which criteria should be applied to identify the owners of the results. Finally, it was pointed out by another participant that it can be difficult to convince participants in certain projects of the importance of IP due to lacking resources or a different mindset. Moreover, it can also be challenging to actually reach relevant target groups and stakeholders and to rouse their interest in project outcomes that may not be directly linked to a novel product or service.
Summing up, a key outcome of the session was that in order to maximise the impact of research and innovation projects, communication, dissemination and exploitation measures should be understood as "horizontal issues" that run alongside and complement research activities throughout a project's life cycle.
Take away message
A strategic and integrated outreach and exploitation approach needs to flank the actual research activities in order to help explain the wider societal relevance of science, build support for future research and innovation funding, ensure uptake of results within the scientific community, and open up potential business opportunities for novel products or services.
"It's essential for beneficiaries of EU-funded projects to understand that communication, dissemination and exploitation measures are not to be considered as mere tick-boxes for a successful project proposal, but that a sound outreach strategy will benefit their own work, profile and reputation." (Stephanie Weber, Senior Communication Manager/European IP Helpdesk)
"Exploitation does not always mean monetisation. Exploitation may, but not necessarily has to generate cash. It can also mean using results in further research, policy reports, or education. The type of exploitation clearly depends on the nature and objectives of each individual project." (Michele Dubbini, Legal IP Advisor/European IP Helpdesk)