It was generalised the feeling that succeeding in the Horizon 2020 (H2020) programme was significantly more difficult than it was with the predecessor programme. The publication of the first Interim Evaluation of H2020 came to provide figures to our suspicions.
In these first three years of H2020 the success rate in H2020 has dropped 7 points compared to FP7. The average success rate in H2020 is 11,6% while it was 18.4% in FP7. In some H2020 programmes such as the SME Instrument the success rate is as low as 6%.
H2020 is attracting many more people than the previous FPs did. H2020 receives annually +65% applications than the previous FP7. H2020 is not only attracting more people, but it´s mainly attracting NEW people. 78% off all applications come from “newcomers”, organisations that had never applied before for an EU grant.
The consequences of this “oversubscription” are clear. In these three years approximately 1.7 billion € have been spent to write unsuccessful proposals. The evaluation reports have become very general, and applicants do not obtain appropriate feedback to understand the reasons for their proposal rejection.
The reasons for the high application rate of H2020 are not analysed in the interim evaluation but we have observed mainly two changes that might have contribute to this “pull effect”. On the one hand, the programme simplification that has decrease the access barriers specially for newcomers. And on the other hand, the increasing popularity of European funding programmes in member Estates thanks mainly to the hard work of the National Contact Points and other managing bodies.
It is generally accepted that the European R&I programmes are a success story, but if H2020 and the upcoming programmes do not adapt to this growing popularity they could die from its success. Let´s see what the new work programme has to offer.