Horizon Europe Proposal Writing: Top 5 novelties

The whole year 2020 (besides distressing us with COVID-19) has been about chasing news about the brand-new Horizon Europe programme: decoding the EC’s documents, presentations and statements, and trying to interpret and foresee how writing a proposal in 2021 will be like. The biggest question was: how will the template look? Are the rumors regarding a shorter proposal true or false? Management structure yes or no? We had our nerves fixed, and finally, we got concrete answers.  


As said, a lot of information was already leaking from reliable sources, and many EC-organized events allowed us to have a sneak peek into the novelties. And we were there to collect every single gossip. The good news is that we were right in almost all our predictions! Let me introduce you to the top 5 ones related to proposal writing:

1. There will be more calls with two-stage submission procedures than in H2020. While this novelty is neither “new” nor “shocking”, as the idea to reduce the time and effort spent on writing proposals has been voiced multiple times by beneficiaries (if the concept is not good, it is better to know it after writing 10 pages instead of 45), it will be supported by the possible use of the blind evaluation during the first stage of two-stage proposals. The idea is to reduce subjectivity by keeping the consortium hidden during the evaluation procedure. Cool, right?

2. Less text! Full proposals will have a limit of 45 pages for Research and Innovation Actions (RIA) and Innovation Actions (IA) and 30 pages for Coordination and Support Actions (CSA). Regarding the first stage of two-stage submissions, the latest information seems to confirm 10 pages, namely, addressing Excellence and the Expected Outcome only. 

3. You can expect more non-prescriptive calls for proposals - this means more freedom for your ideas. The main character of the Pillar II Work Programmes is their top-down structure. Specific needs and challenges are already set, type of actions given, activities, outputs, methodologies, and key expertise kindly suggested. But there is no escape: if you want your proposal to be within the scope, you have to follow their rules and instructions. This novelty allows us to decide with more freedom the most adequate activities and outputs to achieve the expected outcome set at the topic level. TIP: Integrate co-creation in each of your projects – experts across disciplines and types of organizations across sectors.

4. The description of the impact-oriented D&E activities at the proposal stage will be shorter, indicatively 5 pages, and therefore more straight to the point. The proposed measures should be proportionate to the scale of the project and should contain concrete actions to be implemented both during and after the end of the project. The template itself will give more guidance on how to write this section. Ah, yes: delivering a comprehensive Dissemination and Exploitation Plan by month 6 is a must if the project is funded! Make sure to include such a deliverable within your work plan, under the appropriate work package. 

5. The Data Management Plan (DMP) will be mandatory and must be regularly updated. Do you remember the Open Research Data Pilot (ORDP)? Well, it is not a pilot anymore. Earlier, the beneficiaries opting in for the ORDP were obliged to deliver a DMP by month 6 of the project. Now, opting out is not an option, and the DMP must be ready by month 6. Again, make sure to include it within your work plan. The old rule “as open as possible, as close as necessary” stays in place. My tip is to find a balance in the DMP between open access and confidentiality restrictions.

Want to learn more? Join our proposal writing webinars:

20  May: Horizon Europe Proposal: Writing Focus Impact

14-15 June: 2-day webinar on Proposal Writing as part of the European Funding Academy

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