Common mistakes when writing a proposal

Common mistakes when writing a proposal
Crafting a proposal for a Horizon Europe call is challenging to say the least and is a highly competitive endeavor. To bolster your chances of success I have gathered some of the most common pitfalls and mistakes, some of which I know all too well from experience, to avoid. 


1. Failing to align your proposal with the call's objectives is a grave error. Ensure a clear connection between your project and the call's requirements. Treat the call text as your holy text. Every word in that text is carefully chosen. Refer back to it during the proposal writing process.  


2. Choosing the wrong partners or lacking the necessary expertise can be detrimental. Assemble a consortium with the right skills to meet the call's objectives. Make sure to cover a diverse range of partners not only geographically but also expertise wise. 


3. A vague project concept or poorly defined problems and research questions can lead to easy rejection. Start with a strong project concept. Try to emphasize the gravitas of your project. Clearly articulate how your project breaks new ground. 


4. Horizon Europe prioritizes impact. Neglecting to address expected impacts, dissemination, and exploitation can hurt your chances. 


5. Ignoring ethical considerations and research integrity can result in rejection. Address ethical issues and data management properly and clearly.  


6. An unrealistic budget or unjustified costs can be problematic. Ensure your budget aligns with project objectives and can be justified. Make sure to start planning your budget as early as possible with the necessary input from the partners (Person-month rates etc.).  


7. Unrealistic Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). When setting KPIs, strike a balance between ambition and realism. Avoid overcommitting, aiming for targets that align with your project's scope—ensuring evaluators see a feasible and impactful plan. 


8. A weak project management plan can be a deal-breaker. Show a robust plan with work packages, tasks, timelines, milestones and deliverables.  


9. Don’t try to write the entire proposal yourself. Remember, your partners are experts in the field of interest, let them contribute towards the proposal. An idea would be to let them develop their dedicated work packages and tasks which then you can finalize at later stages of the proposal writing process. 


10. Missing the submission deadline is a guarantee of rejection. Plan meticulously to submit on time. Make sure you don’t miss the deadline due to unplanned challenges such as the submission portal being overwhelmed on the day of the submission. If you can, have your proposal ready 24 hours before the deadline. 


11. You either win or you learn. Not using feedback on a rejected proposal is a missed opportunity for improvement. 


Overall, to boost your proposal's chances, thoroughly review the call documentation, seek feedback from your consortium, follow Horizon Europe guidelines, and consider engaging with National Contact Points (NCPs) for support. By sidestepping these common mistakes, your Horizon Europe proposal can move closer to securing funding for your innovative projects. 


Want to dive deeper into the topic, and have the evaluator’s perspective too? Then join my colleagues on 17-19 April in Prague, for our Horizon Europe Proposal Writing & Evaluation course. Check out the agenda and sign up here. 

By submitting your comment, you agree to Europa Media Trainings terms and conditions and privacy policy.