How your H2020 proposal budget can make you fail during evaluation


Do you constantly receive high scores on the Excellence and on the Impact sections for your Horizon 2020 proposal, but the Implementation score drags you down? Here are four ideas on what the potential problems might be, and how to improve next time.



1. You are not including enough details on the contribution of individual partners to Work Packages


“General allocation of task and resources is appropriate, but the role and contribution of individual partners in the specific tasks is not always clear”


One of the most frequent negative comments by the evaluators regarding the allocation of resources concerns a lack of clarity on the link between the person-months allocated to a partner and its contribution to the work of a specific task or work package.

Very often, you would write the description of a Work Package after endless rounds of Skype calls, e-mail discussions or even face-to-face meetings with partners, so the latest developments and changes are perfectly clear in your mind. However, an external reader only has the Tasks’ description and the allocated person-months to judge: any further detail may not be so obvious.


Tip: include a clear description of the partners’ contribution in each task AND at the end of the Work Package description.


A screenshot of a social media postDescription generated with very high confidence


2. You are allocating a predominant proportion of resources to one single partner or there is no balance among different partners having similar technical roles


“The coherence and effectiveness of the work plan is not fully adequate as shown by the strong domination of the coordinating partner, without sufficient justification. This lack of balance also applies to the distribution of tasks and resources”


This problem may refer to a domination in the allocation of tasks, staff efforts or direct costs. However, an EU collaborative project requires strong cooperation among partners, and especially among partners working in different disciplines or industries. This should be reflected not only in your methodology section, but also in the distribution of responsibilities and – correspondingly – of resources.


Assigning resources to the coordinator when agreements have not been found, thinking that this can be changed during Grant Agreement Preparation is not only a misconception – as there is no chance to change substantially the budget, but a mistake altogether, as you might be underscored under Section 3!


Tip: after an initial planning of task distribution, check the proportion of person-months, travel costs, or any other direct costs of your partnership: does it make sense and is it fair?


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3. You are not explaining high subcontracting costs


“The amount of resources allocated to subcontracting is high, with lack of sufficient explanations”


Generally speaking, subcontracting in Horizon 2020 is not an optimal solution; subcontractors do not sign the Grant Agreement and are paid based on the price they give – not the costs they incur: two points that provide a stark contrast with the prevailing Horizon 2020 mindset.

If a specific expertise is missing in the consortium, it would be preferable to involve a new partner.


On the other hand, in specific circumstances (e.g. highly technical work that is not core part of the research, extremely small tasks in the overall project), contractors are needed. In these cases, you should make sure you clearly describe the relevance of the specific activity, justify the need for subcontracting, and the value for money.


Example of necessary subcontracting:

Specialised service in a clinical trial (professional trial monitoring, regulatory support, etc.), for instance, when this is provided by a Contract Research Organisation (CRO) that works on a for-profit basis.

The full costs of a clinical trial, on the other hand, should be born by a proposal partner, based on actual or unit costs.


(Also see Annotated Model Grant Agreement, Article 6.2.B)



4. Resources are overestimated

“The resources allocated to this work package are overestimated in relation to the work to be performed and to the contribution of this work package to the general objectives of the proposed project. This is a shortcoming”


One of the key interests of the European Commission is to achieve high cost-effectiveness in the projects it funds; in certain EU funding programmes (such as the Rights, Equality and Citizenship and the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund), cost-effectiveness is one of the official award criteria, weighing up to 20% on the overall scoring.


This means that you should not aim at requesting a low budget, but rather at devising the most efficient way of delivering the results you are promising. Show a direct, obvious, technical link between the choice of specific activities, countries and methodologies, and the related costs.

Why is it necessary to organise ten events instead of two? Why does a partner need to participate in a conference outside the European Union?



Tip: Think horizontally – include technical explanations across the proposal, so when the evaluator reaches Section 3.4 it becomes obvious that a specific partner needs to travel outside the European Union.


A solid proposal budget will ease your life also during project implementation! Join us 11-12 June in Budapest for our always popular H2020 Proposal Development training course




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