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Lessons learnt from Horizon 2020 for its final 2 years

13th February 2019 at 1:31 pm

Four years in, Horizon 2020 has another two years before it will be succeeded by the next European framework programme, Horizon Europe. With the New Year well underway, we are taking a look back at the key facts and figures of the first two-thirds of Horizon 2020 along with some of our own highlights.

Key Horizon 2020 facts and figures (2014 – 2018)

In the past four years, 20,167 grant agreements have been signed and over €35 billion have been distributed to projects in areas such as ICT, health, food, and society, to name a few. A quick calculation shows us that the average funding equals €1.76 million per project. The total requested budget of all evaluated proposals is over €270 billion, almost eight times the distributed amount.

Horizon 2020 has seen 170,606 eligible proposals submitted of which 20,381 funded. This equals an average success rate of 11.94% across all three Horizon 2020 pillars (Excellent Science, Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges) and their many funding instruments. Of the funded proposals, the average consortium consisted of 4.68 partners. Of the participating partners, 33% were public universities, 21% were from the private research sector, 35% were from the private sector and 11% were public institutions and others.

When looking at the advantages and disadvantages for proposers when comparing Horizon 2020 to its predecessor FP7 the statistics tell us that the time-to-grant has been significantly lowered. This can be positive for the proposer, as it reduces the time until the project starts, thus making funding available in a shorter timeframe. However, it has also led to researchers and proposers feeling the pressure of having to finish the process in the given 8 months. Overall, the time-to-grant has been reduced by 111 days, reflecting efforts by the European Commission to simplify the application process.

Compared to the FP7, which had an average success rate of 21.2%, Horizon 2020s success rates are significantly lower at 11.94%. This decline is explained by the SERI (2015, p. 43) to the reformulation of calls which are defined more openly under Horizon 2020. Thus they attract large numbers of proposals, leading to an oversubscription of calls and lowering the success rates as a consequence.

Horizon 2020 highlights for accelopment

In March 2018 accelopment celebrated its ten-year anniversary. Since our start, we have helped with collaborative projects in different research areas (CHEOPS, XoSoft, Mat4Rail, EURO SHOCK) and supported more than a dozen successful ITNs. In the same year as our anniversary, we helped win the first Swiss Phase 2 SME Instrument ever, TEEWood. Also, we have been involved in a Quantum Flagship project, macQsimal, and got awarded two of the prestigious FET Open grants, Lumiblast and FRINGE.

We have continued to innovate with new services (e.g. fundinar, one-two-grant and Strategic Grant Planning) and have strengthened our infrastructure and support tools for proposal writing, project management and dissemination/exploitation. These range from a new document sharing facility hosted in the EU with a collaborative workspace to a Horizon 2020 specific risk management as well as new and exciting exploitation tools.

Closing thoughts

Undoubtedly Horizon 2020 has had and will continue to have an immense impact on European funding. This is reflected in the number of grants signed and the amount of funding distributed alone. However, despite the large budget and simplification efforts by the EU, the access to funding has gotten more restrictive as shown by the lower success rates. Small factors can be the key to success. For accelopment, Horizon 2020 so far has been an intensive yet successful time, which is amongst other things based on the knowledge of these small, but critical success factors. Our many successful applications have been accompanied by diversification into new services and project areas.

The remaining two years promise to be an exciting time for us with new projects starting soon (MUSIQ and FRINGE) and many opportunities for funding still to come. After all, an estimated €40 billion of the total Horizon 2020 is still available (EC, 2013, p. 3).


European Commission [EC]. (2013). Factsheet: Horizon 2020 budget. Derived from https://ec.europa.eu/research/horizon2020/pdf/press/fact_sheet_on_horizo…

European Commission [EC]. (2018). Horizon 2020 in full swing. Three years on. Key facts and figures 2014-2016. Derived from https://euraxess.ec.europa.eu/worldwide/japan/horizon-2020-key-facts-and-figures-2014-2016

European Commission [EC]. (2019). Projects & Results. Interactive data on H2020. Derived from http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/projectresul…

State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation [SERI]. (2018). Swiss Participation in European Research Framework Programmes. Facts and Figures 2018. Derived from https://www.sbfi.admin.ch/sbfi/en/home/services/publications/data-base-publications/fp-2018.html