Proposals Evaluation: What’s new in Horizon Europe

Key differences between Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe proposal evaluation

Author: Gabriella Lovasz

You put together a winning consortium, developed strong ideas and wrote them down using logical arguments connected to even more logical action points. 

Now the time has come. You must upload your masterpiece to the Funding and Tenders Portal. You’re excited but also nervous. And you know you won’t hear back any news in at least three months from the moment you pressed OK on the submission button. 

But what happens in the meantime? During this excruciating wait, your proposal goes through a thorough, analytical check to make sure it deserves to be funded. 

At Europa Media we submitted seven proposals in the first Horizon Europe calls round, and we were thrilled to see that three of them were successful

Now let’s get down to business. It’s time for us to show you, based on our first-hand experience, what are the fundamental changes between a Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe proposal evaluation.  

Join our recorded webinar on the first evaluation results in Horizon Europe, available until 8 February: learn more here.

The evaluation criteria 

The proposal template changed, and so has the evaluation criteria. One tip: pay attention to the highlighted keywords on the European Commission slide (Figure 1).

Key differences from Horizon 2020 to Horizon Europe:

  • Objectives are merged with the ambition (how to go beyond the state-of-the-art) 
  • Gender dimension and open science practices have a separate evaluation question under Excellence 
  • The pathway logic and the narrative that supports this logic is crucial in the Impact section
  • Both the aspects concerning individual participants and the consortium as a whole are evaluated based on section 3.2


Figure 1 European Commission Slide


 Interaction with applicants 

The interview step is included in some evaluation procedures (ERC and EIC schemes) to increase the system's robustness and credibility. This is excellent news for ERC applicants. 

Blind first-stage evaluation 

Blind first-stage evaluation is a procedure that was commonly used in earlier framework programmes, and it might make a come-back in Horizon Europe.  For the moment being, the use of this type of evaluation is just a possibility. If indicated in the specific call conditions, first-stage proposals of two-stage submissions will be evaluated blindly, and applicants may not disclose their identity in Part B of their proposal. The first experiences will decide on the continuation in Horizon Europe. 

Proposals with equal scores 

When proposals are equally scored, evaluators and the European Commission need to stick to a methodology that clearly describes which elements are considered priority. This final evaluation will take place during a panel review, and it is then that these proposals are arranged in the right order.

The methodology changed a little from Horizon 2020 to Horizon Europe. You should consider the issues below:

  1. Just like in Horizon 2020, evaluators will give higher priority to those proposals that address all aspects of the call, despite not being the most highly ranked
  2. Also similarly to Horizon 2020, the proposals identified under 1), if any, will themselves be prioritised according to the scores they have been awarded for ‘Excellence’. When these scores are equal, priority will be based on scores for ‘Impact’. In the case of ‘Innovation actions’, priority will be given to the score for ‘Impact’, followed by that for ‘Excellence’.
  3. NEW: only if needed, evaluators may take into account the gender balance among the personnel named in the proposal who will be primarily responsible for carrying out the research and/or innovation activities. Pay attention to the researchers included in the researchers’ table in the proposal Since this is new in terms of order and phrasing.
  4. NEW: Any further prioritisation will be based on geographical diversity. Meaning the number of the Member States or Associated Countries represented in the proposal, not otherwise receiving funds from projects higher up the ranking list (and if equal in number, then by budget).
  5. If a distinction still cannot be made, the panel may decide to further prioritise by considering other factors related to the objectives of the call or to Horizon Europe in general. These may include, for example, enhancing the quality of the project portfolio through synergies between projects or, where relevant and feasible, involving SMEs. These factors will be documented in the panel report. (SMEs are mentioned, but not in terms of budget distributed to SMEs as in H2020! – this factor will be very rarely considered).
  6. The method described in 1), 2), 3) and 4) will then be applied to the remaining equally ranked proposals in the group. 

The main takeaways would be to pay more attention to gender balance in the researchers’ table as well as to geographical balance in terms of typical and not typical countries in the consortium. 

How to make sure you have a good overview of the evaluation process and criteria? 

On the Funding and Tenders portal, following this link, you can download all the evaluation forms for all types of action under Horizon Europe, which include the key points evaluators are asked to judge.

Make sure you are aware of these points before you even start writing your own proposal so that your writing will better reflect the evaluators´ expectations.

If you have more questions or doubts, feel free to write to us at or to tweet your question tagging @EuropaMedia, including the hashtag: #AskEuropaMedia

Join our recorded webinar on the first evaluation results in Horizon Europe, available until 8 February: learn more here.

Proposals Evaluation:  What’s new in Horizon Europe