General considerations regarding exploitation in EU-funded project

Denis Guilhot, Senior EU project manager at Worldsensing.

Exploitation as understood in the context of EU-funded projects is the part of the project that deals with the use of the results for commercial purposes or in public policymaking, as the European Commission itself describes it [1]. It covers the identification of the results obtained during the action and their subsequent use in further research activities as well as developing, creating and marketing a process or service. The exploitation concept also includes standardisation activities.

The exploitation of the results guarantees a return on investment of the funding provided by the Commission and states the value and impact of the subsidised activities, whether it be commercial, societal, political or knowledge-based. Without it, the knowledge would not be shared with other consortia or the community itself, with the risk of efforts being repeated in the future. Also, the investment effort is considered as a push to allow new products, process and services to be commercialised, creating new job opportunities and strengthening the position and competitiveness of Europe in the global market.

Although in previous work programmes, the exploitation tasks were sometimes neglected (most of the time due to lack of specific business knowledge rather than interest), their importance has considerably increased under Horizon 2020. In that regard, it is important to clearly identify during the project execution different types of exploitable results such as methods, knowledge, communities of interest or technologies for instance. This includes identifying the role of each partner involved, how the results will impact him and which value this will represent. The impediments towards the exploitation should be identified, whether they concern Intellectual Property, competition or certification, and the appropriate measures should be considered and applied. The pertinent protection should also be applied to the new intellectual property developed during the project, whether jointly or individually.   

One key aspect to keep in mind is that, although a preliminary exploitation plan is almost always presented at the proposal stage, it should be updated during the course of the project. Actually, if the exploitation tasks are correctly performed, the exploitation plan should undergo considerable changes, and in many cases even pivot. The main reason is that the average time-lapse between the writing of the proposal and the exploitation of the results is three and a half years. In this considerable amount of time, and with an effort much superior to that dedicated during the proposal phase, it should be common that the initial business case is erased and replaced by a new one. After all, we are talking about innovation projects during which technologies, interactions, applications and sometimes even the potential market, changes. In that sense, it is sometimes recommended to use innovative objectives rather than SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) objectives at the proposal stage, for the same reasons [2].

The main routes of exploiting the results of the CIPSEC project have been considered, as they should be in all similar projects. The generic list consists of mainly four options, which are the following:

  1. Use for further research and standardization activities, such as new standards and ongoing procedures, is a must for a successful project.
  2. Developments and selling of individual products and services should also be performed by each individual partner and should be one of the main motivations for the project.
  3. Spin off activities are one of the preferred options as this would be one of the most successful achievements of the lifecycle of the project. A similar option would be the definition of a cooperation agreement or joint ventures.
  4. Selling or licensing the IP rights and business is also a desired result for any collaborative project.

As CIPSEC is an Innovation Action, the exploitation activities of the project have been intense and required various dedicated sessions such as the Exploitation Workshop performed in October 2018 at DB’s premises in Frankfurt [3]. The results will be presented in two deliverables, one of them exclusively dedicated to independent business cases for both individual and joint exploitation.


CIPSEC project results receive funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, under Grant Agreement no 700378.
The opinions expressed and arguments employed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the official views of the Research Executive Agency (REA) nor the European Commission.