Horizon 2020- First results

Horizon 2020: let’s check the first results together

The European Commission has recently released its publication “Horizon 2020 – First Results”, sharing data collected throughout the first year of implementation of Horizon 2020, the European Union’s research and innovation framework programme for 2014-2020.

Let’s take a look at it together.

By 1 December 2014, a total number of 100 calls for proposals had closed. Breaking down the Programme into its pillars:

  • 20 were under Excellent Science,
  • 26 were under Industrial Leadership,
  • 43 were under Societal Challenges,
  • 3 were under Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation,
  • 5 were under Science with and for Society,
  • 3 were for the Euratom Research and Training Programme 2014-2018.

The number of proposals received in total was 36 732:

  • 29 794 full proposals in single-stage calls
  • 5 617 outline proposals in the first stage of the two-stage calls
  • 1 321 full proposals in the second stage of the two-stage calls


Out of this, 4 315 proposals were retained for funding; therefore, the overall success rate of eligible full proposals (thus not considering the outline proposals in the first stage of two-stage calls) is around 14%.

Breaking down the number of eligible applications per country is interesting to visualise which European countries are more active, and how more recent member states are coping with this new research and innovation programme.


UK, Germany and Italy seem to occupy the top three positions. However, if you want to see the full picture, take a look at the success rates chart, broken down by country:

It is actually France, Belgium and Austria who win the podium for successful applications – they were respectively 5th, 7th and 10th as for number of applications.

Efficiency, anyone?

Naturally, there is a learning curve enabling organisations to improve their proposal writing skills, consortium creation, networking enlargement, as well as cost-efficient and realistic work plan design: this is a trial and error process for everyone, after all. It is therefore not surprising that newer member states and smaller countries are at somewhat the bottom of the rankings.

At the same time, though, as many as 38% of successful applicants were newcomers, defined by the Commission as organisations that did not take part in FP7.

First lesson learned: do your homework.

It doesn’t matter if this is the first time you participate in Horizon 2020 or in an EU competition at all, your chances to win are not diminished by the fact that you live in a smaller country or in a recent member state, if you learn to write an effective proposal.

This argument is best explained when looking at the success rates, broken down by country, under the SME instrument.


The majority of eligible applications were submitted from the five biggest EU member states: Italy, Spain, UK, Germany and France. However, the first five states by success rate are: Malta, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark and the UK.

Yes, you read it well: Malta has submitted the highest number of successful applications for the Horizon 2020 SME instrument in 2014, scoring 20% in success rate – well above the EU average of 7.3%

In 2014, newcomers were also welcomed within the experts’ pool, as 58.2% of proposals evaluators had not participated in FP7.

Although a comparison with FP7 figures is necessarily doomed to be unfair given that Horizon 2020 has only run for one year, it is already quite clear that Horizon 2020 has become more accessible and attractive, thus also leading to a decrease in the overall chances to win.

Do not be scared, though, as this means that only the best proposals will win, so you are simply pushed to do your best.

Overall, a total of 3236 grant agreements were signed by the end of April 2015, with the large majority of agreements (95%) signed within the expected “Time to Grant”, the elapsed time between the close of a call and the signing of the grant agreement, which marks the official start of the project.

Good luck to all colleagues who have submitted a proposal and are waiting for the evaluation; if you are one of the project managers who signed a grant agreement, share your success story with us – we would love to hear it!

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