What are the success rates for proposals in Horizon 2020?

It was hard to get an overview of the success rates of proposals in all calls in Horizon 2020. In September 2015 the European Commission’s Director-General for Research and Innovation, Robert-Jan Smits, told that success rates are between 12 – 14%. That figure is an overall rate for Horizon 2020, and thus varies in between different calls. This success rate is much lower than in FP7, the previous research programme of the EU.
Unfortunately this means that many applicants waste their time in preparing a proposal. On the other hand, the low success rate is probably in part a reflection of some researchers reusing their proposal texts for multiple calls.

The report “Horizon 2020 – First results” has aggregate statistical information on success rates as percentage of eligible applications: Horizon 2020 compared with FP7 on page 15.  For all countries the Horizon 2020 success rate is much lower than the FP7 success rate.

What is stands out from the results (page 16) is that Public Bodies have a much higher overall success rate than other classes of applicants.  I speculate that this is because Public Bodies are not under so much external pressure to get Horizon 2020 funding, and so decide to submit a proposal only if they have a high chance of success.

It is also noteworthy that newcomers (i.e. first time applicants, which also didn’t participate in FP7) had a relatively high participation in signed Horizon 2020 grants (page 25).

Given the low overall success rate, what can you do to increase your chances of getting funding? Probably the simplest method is to write a short one-page proposal and get external (and critical) feedback on it before embarking on a full proposal.

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