Excellence is what you need to obtain EU funding under the Horizon 2020 programme, which is now approaching the end of its life-span, but also under the new Horizon Europe programme.

Although many EU funding programmes have passed, one fundamental characteristic will not change: only the best proposals will get funded. With the current economic climate, you could even go further and say that only the very best of the best will get funding, because most calls for proposals receive far more applications than there is funding available.

The standard scoring scale for individual criteria used during the evaluation of project proposals consists of 5 levels: 0, the proposal fails to address the criterion; 1, poor, the criterion is inadequately addressed, or there are serious inherent weaknesses; 2, fair, the proposal broadly addresses the criterion, but there are significant weaknesses; 3, good, the proposal addresses the criterion well, but a number of shortcomings are present; 4, very good, the proposal addresses the criterion very well, but a small number of shortcomings are present; 5, excellent, the proposal successfully addresses all relevant aspects of the criterion. Any shortcomings are minor.

In general each evaluation of proposals looks at 3 criteria, subdivided in a varying number of subcriteria. These 3 criteria can reach a maximum of 15 points. Over the years we can clearly see that this maximum of 15 points is a neccessary requirement to get funding. Therefore, all ingredients of your proposal need to be excellent.

Well, some say that while excellence is in the eye of the beholder, getting funded is a bit like winning a lottery. Nothing is further from the truth. The thing is, every proposal is carefully studied by groups of experts that carefully weigh each and every element, form an opinion of the proposal as a whole, and then, moderated by an EU official, discuss their assessment with their peers. These groups change all the time, so there is no chance that patterns of affinity, or lack thereof, can influence the process as a whole. Every subcriterion is discussed in minute detail, and the scores are then given on the basis of consensus which is reached as a result of the discussion, they are therefore not the average scores of the individual assessments.

This process is fair, transparent, and well-managed. In addition to its inherent high quality, the whole process is monitored by independent observers who have access to all meetings and all people involved. The observers report directly to the European Commission and the Programme Committee.

So there is no reason to be assume that your proposal doesn’t get all the care and attention it deserves. But, to be funded, it has to be good, very good, no, excellent.

Excellence means that you have to pay equal attention to all the important details. The most important of which being the concept, the pivot around which the project revolves. What is it about? And why?

These are the first and main questions every evaluator asks. If it isn’t crystal clear what a project is supposed to do, you have lost valuable momentum, no matter how well argued the methodology, the planning, the dissemination and the budget are. The independent experts, acting as evaluators, will get on average between 7 and 10 proposal to read and assess. It will help them tremendously if they can remember what yours was about, even after reading 5 other proposals. At some point he or she will have to discuss your proposal with the other 2 of 3 evaluators, and a clear description of the concept with a clear and credible assessment of the expected impact are the best way to make sure that such a meeting takes off smoothly. If the experts have to spend 15 minutes, or more, aguing what the project exactly is about, it will be difficult to get an excellent score.

Clarity is gold. That may seem obvious, but it is rarely put into practice. It is as if proposers sometimes think that confusing the reader with a shedload of loosely related information is a more sound strategy. It is not, it takes time to process, and it is difficult to remember.

If you need an expert who has assessed more that 100 proposals, reviewed dozens op projects, and attended countless consensus- and panel meetings, look no further and contact us.

Disclaimer: we have always respected, and will always respect the confidentiality rules set by the European Commission, and will therefore never reveal any information about the projects we have assessed, reviewed, or advised. Neither will we reveal information about the confidential stages of the evaluation process, or information about the people involved. We treat every client with the same impartiality that characterises the process. We do not offer tricks, nor shortcuts, but give a balanced advice based on our experience and expertise. The outcome is ultimately a result of the quality of the concept of your proposal, the quality of its implementation, and the magitude of its impact.

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