Horizon 2020 Seal of Excellence

Horizon 2020 has met with considerable interest from the research and innovation community since its launch in 2014. In fact, many calls for proposals experience considerable oversubscription – more high-quality projects are submitted than can be funded from the call budget. As a consequence, not only do many outstanding projects forfeit their chance of seeing the light of day, but applicants might also lose motivation to go through the application process again.

According to the European Commission, the Horizon 2020 evaluation system is “one of the most complete evaluation systems in the world”, assessing a project according to its quality, its impact, and its implementation. However, only a part of proposals above the quality threshold are funded.

An initiative to reward high-quality projects beyond Horizon 2020

In order to help high-quality, but non-funded projects that have already gone through the Horizon 2020 assessment, the Seal of Excellence initiative introduces a certificate awarded to applicants whose proposal is above threshold, but not funded. This certificate can help applicants approach alternative funding sources, be they on a regional or national level, or coming from private or public sources.

The Horizon 2020 Seal of Excellence will first be awarded to applicants to the SME Instrument. At a later stage, the Fast Track to Innovation programme and other parts of Horizon 2020 may be included. The Seal of Excellence will take retroactive effect, i.e. applicants to past calls will be able to benefit from the certificate.

A nudge, but not a guarantee

While the Seal certifies the quality of the proposals according to Horizon 2020 criteria, it cannot guarantee that funding will be available on a local level. The Seal of Excellence is chiefly endorsed by European Commission President Juncker, who encourages Member States to take advantage of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) to fund these promising projects.

National funding for SMEs

The initiative is new and EU Member States are about to determine how to best use the certificate to support good projects by SMEs from their country. In Luxembourg, it is likely that companies whose Horizon 2020 proposal for an SME Instrument was not funded despite its quality will be able to access national funding, granted by the Ministry of the Economy.

The ESIF national managing authorities, Horizon 2020 National Contacts Points and Enterprise Europe Network representatives can further advise you on how the Seal of Excellence initiative is implemented in your country.