Horizon 2020: shaping the future of stroke research

GRGuest Blog by Dr Gary Randall, European Research Manager at the Stroke Association

What is Horizon 2020 you might ask? It’s official description isthe biggest European Union Research and Innovation programme ever, with nearly €80 billion of funding available over seven years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment that this money will attract. It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market. The first funding round of Horizon 2020 opened in December 2013.’

For the Stroke Association and our colleagues over at the Stroke Alliance for Europe (SAFE), it’s our job to make the very most of this chance to increase the amount of funding in stroke research, and to harness it to change the world for stroke survivors. The opportunities are varied and can range from the funding of single researchers and groups of new doctoral students up to larger levels of support for consortium-based collaborative projects from 5 to 50 partners in size.

Horizon 2020 broadly splits its funding into three core areas:

  • – Excellent Science
  • – Industrial Leadership
  • – Societal Challenges

It may not be immediately apparent, but there are funding opportunities for stroke in each of the areas above. For instance, the EU’s Health & Wellbeing theme, which is included under Societal Challenges, is an obvious channel for stroke. And taking a closer look, we can find funding for upcoming call topics such as:

It is not hard to imagine how scenarios from across the stroke pathway could fit into these calls.

The Excellent Science area provides support for what are now known as Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA). The objective of MSCA is to support the career development and training of researchers – with a focus on innovation skills – in all scientific disciplines through worldwide and cross-sector mobility. For this, the MSCA provide grants at every stage of researchers’ careers, from PhD candidates to highly experienced researchers.

MSCA has huge potential in helping us build the next generation of leaders in stroke research. With this in mind, the Stroke Association has been involved in a MCSA Innovative Training Network proposal, aimed at training 12 PhD students across Europe in aphasia rehabilitation techniques.  We are crossing our fingers this initiative will be successful, resulting in the first network of its kind. We know aphasia affects a third of all stroke patients; and through initiatives like these we hope to give a voice to more people whose lives have been devastated by this condition.

The Industrial Leadership theme covers the more conventional IT projects. But even here, stroke research investigating assistive technology can be supported.

The combined expertise of the Stroke Association and Stroke Alliance For Europe means we are well placed to use Horizon 2020 to build on our existing EU projects. These include EuroHYP-1, looking at the effects of post-stroke cooling and WAKE-UP, which will develop new analyses of brain imagery.

Stroke is significantly underfunded compared to other health conditions. Engaging with Horizon 2020 is one way we can redress this balance. Our dedicated staff can advise and help with idea development, consortium formation and proposal submission. We look forward to future collaborations.

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