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Stand out from the crowd – priority criteria for equally scored H2020 ITN proposals



Proposal writing time is in full swing now with the next ITN submission deadline for Marie Curie Innovative Training Networks (ITNs) coming up on 14 January 2020. We thought to share a few pointers, which could help make the difference in your proposal and, most importantly, in the ranking it will be given during review. These are not just valid for ITNs but for most actions of the Horizon 2020 programme.

With the large quantities of ITN proposals being submitted, about 1,600 in 2019, often times several may receive the same score. What happens when multiple projects receive the same high score, how to tell them apart and determine which ones will be chosen for funding?

Priority criteria for equally scored projects

It’s no mystery what these are, they are in fact very clearly outlined in the Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2018-2020 General Annexes, though often go unread. When proposals are awarded the same score, as there is never enough budget available for all excellent and highly scored proposals, the Research Executive Agency (REA), the administrative arm of the EC for the ITN programme, needs to determine an order of priority. The criteria followed in this prioritisation are the following, as stated in the General Annexes at page 32:

“a) Proposals that address topics, or sub-topics, not otherwise covered by more highly-ranked proposals, will be considered to have the highest priority.

b) The proposals identified under (a), if any, will themselves be prioritised according to the scores they have been awarded for the criterion excellence. When these scores are equal, priority will be based on scores for the criterion impact. In the case of Innovation actions this prioritisation will be done first on the basis of the score for impact, and then on that for excellence.

c) If necessary, any further prioritisation will be based on the following factors, in order: size of EU budget allocated to SMEs; gender balance among the personnel named in the proposal who will be primarily responsible for carrying out the research and/or innovation activities.

d) If a distinction still cannot be made, the panel may decide to further prioritise by considering how to enhance the quality of the project portfolio through synergies between projects, or other factors related to the objectives of the call or to Horizon 2020 in general. These factors will be documented in the report of the Panel.”

What does this actually mean?

It becomes clear that the impact section should receive special attention, especially in the case of Innovation actions, and that the involvement of SMEs, as well as an emphasis on gender balance and networking with other projects should be a winning card, or at least a very helpful one, for getting your proposal ranked above others.

During proposal writing, it is important to keep in mind how proposals will be evaluated so to make sure to address all the aspects of key importance for the specific call and more broadly for the Horizon 2020 programme. Therefore, being aware of the priority criteria given above already when writing the proposal, will help ensure that you’ve really addressed all possible aspects and will hopefully increase the chances of your proposal being funded and making it stand apart from others in the case of equal scoring.

How can we help?

We at accelopment have a long-standing experience in supporting and partnering in ITNs, from the 7th Framework Programme with our involvement in HEALING, SYSWIND, REFINE, TRAIN-ASAP and NeoGel our success has continued in Horizon 2020 in which we successfully supported ClickGene, EXCILIGHT, PEARRL, Train2Target, EuroNeurotrophin, ImmerSAFE, LightDyNAmics.and are currently partners in NanoCarb, STACCATO, MUSIQ, MOSAICS and MORE. We are specialised in supporting proposal writing as well as in delivering training activities in project management and communication. Before having the opportunity to provide any type of training though, we ensure the proposals we help write are of top quality and dedicate special attention to carefully addressing key points that could make the difference in its ranking. We are especially successful in helping proposals improve their Impact section and achieving a high impact score. How? We have a highly qualified team, with specialists in communication and dissemination of research output and, through the synergy of each individual’s expertise, we make sure to go the step further that is needed to bring a proposal from highly ranked to funded. For advice on how we can support your ITN proposal get in touch with one of our experts, Jacqueline Strehler, who will be happy to help and answer ITN-related enquiries.