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What do I need to consider in a two-stage submission procedure for a H2020 proposal?

4th April 2018 at 11:38 am

Two-stage procedures are becoming more widespread in the final years of Horizon 2020. Among others, the NMBP, Health and Energy Work Programmes foresee a two-stage application process for many open or opening calls. Compared to single-stage submissions, this procedure has advantages for researchers, proposal writers and evaluators alike: Researchers receive feedback on their basic idea without having to write a full proposal, proposal writers will know that the chances of success increase after the first stage and evaluators have fewer full proposals to go through. The procedure for a two-stage submission has a few important differences to single-stage submissions. As the second stage for many calls slowly approaches, we want to point out what proposers to the stage-2 deadline need to know to give them the best chance of succeeding.

In this first article of an ongoing series we’ll be giving you a broad overview over what a two-stage submission procedure looks like. As the series continues, we will be providing more in-depth advice for current and future proposers. As always, the latest news will be shared on Twitter.

The two-stage submission procedure

All Horizon 2020 two-stage submission procedures share a few things in common: In stage 1, a short proposal (in most cases 10 pages) needs to be prepared and submitted before the deadline. The short proposal is evaluated on the basis of only two criteria: Excellence and Impact. There is also no need for complex budget calculations as a breakdown of the costs does not need to be provided, just the total requested EU funding. Roughly 25% of all proposals will pass stage 1 in most areas and the selected consortia will be invited to submit their full proposal (the second-stage evaluation). At this stage, consortia of rejected proposals will have to revaluate their options: Was the idea just not innovative enough for funding or does the proposal need more work? Perhaps the idea wasn’t suited to the call and a submission to another call might be more fitting.

A successful short proposal will need to be followed up by the stage 2/full proposal. The stage 2 proposal is comparable to a single-stage proposal, consisting of the so-called Part B1 (70 pages) and the Part B2 (no page limit). Both parts are submitted in PDF-form through the Participant Portal. Part B1 covers the three main chapters Excellence, Impact and Implementation that also represent the three evaluation criteria while Part B2 includes the partner profiles and an ethics section. It’s highly recommended to thoroughly check your PDF files before uploading. At accelopment we always do this as something that looks perfect in Word does not always look the same when converted to another format. If just one image moves and the final file ends up being more than 70 pages, the system will show an error message and any surplus pages will be disregarded. As mentioned above, the two-stage procedure has many advantages for researchers. Once invited to stage 2, the chances of success are usually in the range of 1:3 to 1:6 but this can vary from area to area and from call topic to call topic. Generally speaking, the chances of success in stage 2 are much higher when compared to single-stage submissions.

The EU has then a maximum of five months to notify the consortium on the evaluation results and there are then another three months for the consortium to prepare the grant agreement, i.e. deliver the paperwork, in collaboration with the EU Project Officer. The period from the stage 2 submission deadline to the signing of the EU Grant Agreement (= EU contract) is limited to eight months according to Horizon 2020 rules. This eight-month period is called “Time to Grant”.

Surviving the second stage

The good news is that in terms of proposal writing your two-stage proposal has got a high chance of receiving funding. However, it will still take an excellent proposal to succeed. The workload for preparing a full proposal is also not to be underestimated and this is where accelopment’s offered services can help you and your proposal. Our experience helped guide, for example,the EURO SHOCK project through a two-stage submission process. The consortium also used accelopment’s services during the contract negotiation, i.e. grant preparation process, and as a partner on the project we are now responsible for the administrative project management and dissemination. For any questions, please contact us.