Young researcher with success in Horizon 2020

Two years ago, Nhien Nguyen from Nordland Research Institute had never heard of Horizon 2020. Now she is the coordinator of one EU project, leads a work package in another, and participates in a third as a researcher.

Nhien Nguyen og Forskningsrådets nasjonale kontaktperson - Horisont 2020, EU-midler, forskning
A constructive dialogue between Dr. Nguyen and the Research Council's H2020 contact person Kristin Eikeland Johansen has played a part in NRI’s H2020 successes. (Photo: Rita Jakobsen)

We are in Bodø on a Friday evening in late January. The weather would have been bitterly cold even without the relentless bone-chilling gusts of wind. A group of people with headlamps strapped to their foreheads are pushing forward with grim determination along a narrow snow-covered road. Many in the group have never experienced such weather conditions before; they come from European cities like Barcelona, Bologna, and Vienna. They find themselves north of the Arctic Circle on this evening because the coordinator of the H2020 project SeeRRI has decided to stage the project’s kick-off meeting here and give the participants a taste of adventure. The coordinator is Nhien Nguyen, a senior researcher at Nordland Research Institute (NRI) in Bodø.

Eventually the brave participants end up seated around a cozy fireplace in a turf hut outside of Bodø belonging to the adventure company Tuvsjyen. One person stands up and tells a story. She is Kristin Eikeland Johansen, the Research Council's national contact point for the H2020 program "Science with and for Society."

“Two years ago I got a phone call from Nhien,” she says with a nod in the direction of the project coordinator, who is sitting at the next table.

“She wanted information on how to get funding from H2020. I thought this could be problematic because she was starting from scratch and had never done anything like this before.”

12 partners from five countries participate in the Horizon 2020 project SeeRRI. In January 2019, the kick-off meeting took place in Bodø. (Photo: Svein Arnt Eriksen)

Good assistance from the Research Council

Nhien is advised to join a brokerage event and gets some tips on how to contact interesting partners. The young researcher follows the recipe and joins several consortia applying for H2020 funding for their projects. As it turns out, one of the projects – on the topic of responsible research and innovation in the 3D printing industry – makes the cut and gets funded. Nhien has succeeded in her first attempt.

One month after this breakthrough, Nhien gets the idea for the project SeeRRI. She invites partners from both the previous project that received funding and from the consortia she joined that were unsuccessful. The ability to find good partners has been essential, but Nhien emphasizes that the assistance from the Research Council has been at least as important.

“I have attended several courses organized by the Research Council, and they have given me the knowledge base I need to work with H2020,” she says.

“Also, all the capable people who have assisted me along the way deserve my sincere thanks. I have encountered many obstacles along the way, but the Research Council has always helped me to move on. Knowing that help is there whenever I need it has boosted my motivation.”

Targeted efforts

Eikeland Johansen is very impressed with the 35-year-old researcher from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

Nhien is a dynamic and talented researcher. She has proved that you can succeed even if you are young. I hope more Norwegian researchers will do as she has done. Nhien has shown that it is realistic to compete for H2020 funding if you have a good idea and find the right partners.

Kristin Eikeland Johansen

Eikeland Johansen also praises Nhien's employer.

“The fact that a small institute like Nordlandsforskning is involved in three successful H2020 applications in two years is remarkable in itself. The institute has done most things right when it comes to H2020.”

Naturally, NRI’s CEO Iselin Marstrander is pleased to hear this.

“We have been working purposefully since 2014 towards the goal of participating in H2020 projects. NRI has always had an extensive international network, but our funding from European research programs was negligible until recently. Therefore it has been gratifying to see how we have now become involved in several projects, leading work packages and in one case coordinating the whole project.”

Important ground rules

But what kind of project is it that has attracted the shivering southern Europeans so far north in the middle of winter?

“The goal of SeeRRI is to build a framework that facilitates the inclusion of social values and needs in regional development policies,” Nhien says.

“This is done by integrating the principles of responsible research and innovation in regional development work.”

The point is to create a future that will be attractive to all. To do this, those who shape the future must adhere to some important ground rules.

“They must, among other things, take into account ethical challenges and gender equality, and ensure that citizens are engaged in the regional planning process,” according to Nhien.

“This is how we can ensure that solutions are developed with and for society.”

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