“Improved decision-making in contaminated land site investigation and risk assessment”
What REMEDIATE is about?
REMEDIATE - A Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action Initial Training Network for “Improved decision-making in contaminated land site investigation and risk assessment”
REMEDIATE is a €3.7 million Innovative Training Network (ITN) project that will recruit 14 Early Stage Researchers across 10 Beneficiary organisations in Ireland, UK, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Italy. The network also involves a further 14 non-funded partner organisations, from industry and public bodies, who will provide secondment opportunities as part of the researchers’ training. This includes local stakeholders Belfast City Council, Geological Survey of Northern Ireland, Department of Environment and the SME Whiteford Geosciences. The project began in January 2015 and will run until December 2018.
The project is coordinated by the QUESTOR Centre at QUB, one of the most successful groups in the University at securing and managing EU funded collaborative research projects.
The REMEDIATE consortium will contribute to the development of technologies to help accelerate the remediation of contaminated sites, releasing land for industrial or domestic development. In parallel it will enhance the career prospects of young researchers by providing them with greatly enhanced scientific and technical knowledge as well as multidisciplinary skills and business aptitudes.
How was it initiated?
QUESTOR is a mature and self-sustaining Industry/University collaborative research centre with a sophisticated global network of industry members and academic partners. Established more than 25 years ago, the centre carries out research to meet the needs of its Industrial Advisory Board (IAB). One of the key research drivers is contaminated land and significant capability has been developed over several years and across a number of large scale research projects – many performed in collaboration with petrochemical companies such as BP, Exxon, Shell and Chevron.
After achieving notable success through the coordination of Marie Curie ITN projects under FP7 (ATWARM- €3.5M and ATBEST - €3.8M), the centre Director (Dr Wilson McGarel) recognised the need to build on the links with industry to sustain and extend the centres capabilities in contaminated land. The team at QUESTOR worked with its collaborators to design a project addressing the challenges of training researchers in contaminated land remediation and risk assessment skills. The coordinating PI (Prof. Mike Larkin), together with the core proposal writing team in QUESTOR defined an innovative project scope and focus before gradually introducing trusted collaborators to the consortium.
What about the application process?
Writing, coordinating and managing a Horizon 2020 proposal is a significant undertaking – not least for a self-funded research team also working on commercial contracts and a portfolio of existing projects. However, all participants were experienced in European funding and collaborative research. Although a successful framework for collaboration through ITN had been established with ATWARM and ATBEST, the proposal writing team understood the fierce competition to receive funding.
The proposal writing team benefitted from six-monthly meetings of the QUESTOR Network (which included many of the consortium partners) to strengthen the project idea and collaborations. During the intensive writing stage, the coordinator team organised itself to fulfil a number of specialist roles; scientific excellence, editorial proof reading, technical proof-reading, table/figure design, policy referencing and overall coherence.
REMEDIATE was originally submitted in Nov 2012 to the last ITN call in FP7. Although it scored well, it was not funded and in fact remained on the reserve list for funding until the end of the FP7 programme. The consortium regrouped to submit again to what was the first ITN deadline in Horizon 2020 (April 2014). In the interim period, the consortium partners had met to define how the project could be improved and the QUESTOR team had been focussed on how the proposal should be improved – based on their own experience from existing projects, but also the support of National Contact Points. In September 2014 QUESTOR received notification that the project was successful and had been main listed with a score of 93.6%.
After further considerable effort, the Grant Agreement was signed in November 2014 and the project started in January 2015.
What did you learn from this experience?
We learned the importance of maintaining established networks and links with industry (large and small), the value of having a skilled and flexible support team (beyond the academic PI) and the difference that experience can make it convincing the EU to support large scale projects.