10 Urban legends about Horizon 2020

This month European Commission shared a report, Ex-Post-Evaluation of the 7th EU Framework Programme 2007-2013, prepared by a high-level expert group. This report mainly assesses FP7 but also briefly touches on Horizon 2020 and provides recommendations for the better. I think one of the most interesting and useful part of this report was the myths about FP7. Below I have rephrased them to adapt to Horizon 2020 based on my experience and community discussions.

H2020 is only suitable for large industry organizations/companies and big universities.
Established organizations may be involved in several projects simultaneously or consecutively because they have more resources but not because they are inherently entitled to some privileges. Horizon 2020 is open to all kinds of participants. Moreover, SME Instrument is exclusive to SMEs whereas Fast Track to Innovation Pilot favors SMEs and first-timers.

H2020 is only about science and technology, it excludes other disciplines and business.
For the first time in the history of framework programmes, Horizon 2020 gives a huge emphasis to innovation and close-to-market actions. There is a wide range of funding instruments so that no topic is left out. SME-specific opportunities are also present.

A proposal can only be successful if it includes partners from almost all EU countries.
One of the most important proposal evaluation criteria is ‘European dimension’, which is, basically, to foresee a project impact on EU-countries and deliver value to European institutions and citizens. However, no country is inherently more advantageous to prove this. In addition, high number of project partners/countries does not necessarily constitute European dimension unless, for instance, relevant exploitation tasks are executed.

In order to prepare a good project proposal, it is necessary to hire consultants.
Being freely accessible to everyone, H2020 reference documents are self-explanatory and proposal submission is a self-service process. Both experienced and consultant-backed applicants may find it easier to adapt to the application procedures. However, engaging consultants is neither a requirement nor grants a higher evaluation score.

For winning a grant, it is important to have good lobbying contacts.
This is impossible because proposals are not evaluated by the European Commission personnel. Each proposal is externally reviewed by 4 independent experts from all over Europe. All the announcements and communication, except private corresponding, are publicly carried out over social media, EU web site, and web forums.

H2020 proposals are not worth the effort due to very low success rates.
Although H2020 is very selective, success rates vary among different sub-programmes, themes, and call periods. Proposals require little mandatory form-filling. So, if a proposal fails, it would still be useful in pitching to other funders/investors or in submitting for a different H2020 call. Furthermore, SME Instrument has just started to issue Seal of Excellence for over-the-threshold proposals that are not funded due to limited EU budget.

H2020 is biased against the New Member States (EU13) and associated countries.
All the countries within H2020 are subject to the same rules and measures. In fact, some associated countries receive more funding than some EU-member states. So, low success rate is more likely to be related to lack of professional/research networks or low focus on H2020.

H2020 projects are inflexible and can never be adjusted in the light of novel insights.
Project proposals need to follow through certain application manuals. However, H2020 is more liberal than previous framework programmes. Flexible task descriptions allowing agile implementation as well as grant agreement amendments are possible.

H2020 projects do not produce scientific publications due to intensive workload.
7th Framework Programme resulted in 4 publications per funded project on average. H2020 is expected to produce a higher number of publications. Actually, it is up to the applicant to decide how much a project focuses on scientific research, business innovation, and social impact. It also depends on specific call requirements.

H2020 does not fund the most innovative ideas but rather well-established researchers.
One of the most notable novelty of H2020 is to emphasize innovation in every way. During proposal evaluation, track record of the researchers and achievements of the project team members are not underestimated. On the other hand, innovation level is more stressed where evaluation is based on all 3 main criteria (impact, excellence, and implementation).

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