DG Research and Innovation has released a publication mapping the preliminary results of Horizon 2020. It is based on an analysis of the first 100 calls for proposals launched under the new research and innovation program. The brochure reports on various trends observed in this relatively small sample size. These relate to application and success rates, proposal evaluator profiles, characteristics of newcomers, and the elapsed time between the closing of a call and the signing of the grant agreement.
In the context of Horizon 2020’s first 100 calls, a total of 36 732 eligible proposals were received. A single proposal can have one or many applicants. The total number of eligible applications in full proposals is thus much higher, amounting to 123 334. Relative to the Seventh Framework Program (FP7), Horizon 2020’s predecessor, Member States have witnessed an increase in their share of eligible applications. The popularity of Horizon 2020, as illustrated by these data on applications rates, suggests that efforts to make the EU research program more accessible and attractive are paying off. Horizon 2020’s popularity appears to transcend the boundaries of the EU, as witnessed by the 3950 applications that have been received from 122 different Third countries.
Whereas the success rate of eligible full proposals was 20% under the whole of FP7, it amounts to 14% under the first 100 Horizon 2020 calls. This lower success rate mirrors the high number of eligible proposals submitted.
In addition to increasing their share of eligible applications, the majority of Member States have also secured a greater participation rate in signed grant agreements. In terms of the share of EU financial contributions received by participants, the EU-12 countries still appear to lag behind centers in Northern and Western Europe.
38% of successful applicants under Horizon 2020’s first 100 calls for proposals were newcomers, i.e. they did not apply to FP7. Once again, this is testimony to the success of efforts to increase the attractiveness of the EU program for research. SMEs and private industry non-SMEs are equally represented within the category of newcomers. Specifically, each of these sectors brought in 40% of the newcomers. The remaining 20% of newcomers covers a diverse range of sectors, including research organizations, foundations and public authorities.
Newcomers are also well represented among the expert evaluators of proposals. More specifically, 58.2% of the contracts for expert evaluators were awarded to newcomers. This is encouraging news in view of the need to continuously expand and renew the pool of experts. Besides the large influx of newcomers, the gender distribution within this category also reflects a positive evolution. 35.7% of evaluator contracts were granted to women. Although still falling short of the 40% target, this figure nevertheless represents an improvement relative to FP7’s performance (33.8%).
A final trend relates to “time to grant”, i.e. the time between the closing of a call and the official start of a project. In 95% of cases, the target of 8 months was met.
These first results of Horizon 2020 suggest that the program is doing well. However, it would be premature to draw any definitive conclusions concerning Horizon 2020’s performance from this very small sample size. With this caveat in mind, the Commission is committed to continuing the monitoring of Horizon 2020. Specifically, the mid-term and ex-post review of Horizon 2020 will provide more clarity on the program’s success. An overview of the indicators that will be relied upon in the evaluation and monitoring of Horizon 2020 can be found here.
The small sample size of the calls for proposals studied in this publication also calls for caution when comparing Horizon 2020 to FP7. After all, data presented with regard to FP7 always pertain to the whole 7 years of the program. Comparison of both programs is further hampered by differences in scope, content and budget.
For a full overview of the first results of Horizon 2020, please consult the following link.