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Horizon 2020: the midterm evaluation is out !

On 28th April, the results of the mid-term evaluations of Horizon 2020 were presented by the European Commission at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in Brussels. The occasion to take stock of what has been done and to reflex upon the successor Framework Programme 9.

From October till January 2017, the European Commission launched a communication for the mid-term evaluation of Horizon 2020. The objective was to contextualise and enrich the interim evaluation of Horizon 2020 requested by the European Parliament and the Council of ministers (which both decide about the programme and its funding). The European Commission received 3483 responses and over 300 position papers from a variety of stakeholders. 49% responded as individual but more interestingly 20% came from business (from which 63% were SMEs). Respondents came from 69 different countries, 79% from the 15 “older Member States”.

Beyond these statistics, the 10 key messages to take away are the following:

1. There is a high satisfaction with the programme. 93% agrees that Horizon 2020 supported the latest developments in research and innovation. More than 84% agree at least so some extent that Horizon 2020 helps foster European industrial partnership and 79% that its priorities address major societal challenges.

2. An increased budget is needed according to 89% of the respondent because not as many good proposals are funded as they could (what is called “oversubscription”). During the presentation at the EESC, the European Commission suggested as possible solutions to improve and expand the two-stage proposal procedure, reduce the scope of calls and/or increase budget.

3. Horizon 2020 fosters excellence according to 94% of the respondents and should continue to be excellence based.

4. Horizon 2020 should better address citizens’ needs. A high percentage of respondents agreed, to some extent or more, that Horizon 2020 addresses the main citizens’ needs (86% agreement rate), however 37% agree only to some extent. The least positive respondents are NGOs. Among the issues listed as needed to further maximize the socio-economic impact of the EU framework programme for research and innovation, four items stood out (i.e. more than 30% of respondents strongly agreed): i) more room for bottom-up proposals; ii) more focus on the support for the exploitation of research results; iii) better access to the programme for newcomers and iv) increased focus on fundamental research.

5. At the same time, the consultation also suggests that Horizon 2020 should further support market-creating innovation. 79% think that Horizon 2020 is stimulating disruptive and market-creating innovation but a large share think this is only the case to some extent (37%). The most positive respondents on this question are SMEs, with 63% thinking that Horizon 2020 is fully or to a large extent stimulating disruptive and market-creating innovation. So there should be a balance between research and innovation according to the European Commission.

6. Horizon 2020 is simplified compare to previous programmes. 73% are satisfied with the support provided by the services of the European Commission (including agencies) during grant preparation, and 80% with the time take to sign a grant agreement. The cost of participation would be lower than in previous programmes and comparable with other international R&I programme. But there is room for further simplification: 20% of the respondents shared the view that the costs of participating in Horizon 2020 are lower than in the previous FP7 and 36% felt they are similar. Comparatively business have a slightly better opinion of the costs of Horizon 2020 than research organisations. The European Commission already published new funding rules end February.

7. Grant for collaborative projects are the key and most relevant feature of the programme for 76% of respondents. 87% of respondents who received support from Horizon 2020 are cooperating with a new partner(s) in Horizon 2020. 30% of the respondents who received support from Horizon 2020 are newcomers to the programme (not having participated in FP7). Decrease in international cooperation is worrying the Commission as well as the remaining lower participation from the so-called EU-13 countries (the “newer” Member States).

8. Combined research and innovation programme better addresses stakeholders’ needs (71%). But the EU funding landscape remains complex to understand and needs to be rationalised. Most of the respondents were unable to assess the linkages with other EU funding programmes. In the short term, you can already ask our team for support as our advisers are also part of the Enterprise Europe Network and they can can redirect you to another EU funding strands.

9. Some aspects of the evaluation process could be further improved. In particular, the Evaluation Summary Reports are reportedly too short and provide generic and not tailored feedback. Transparency and balanced representation of stakeholders including industry, business participant and social sciences & humanities experts would be needed according to the position papers.

10. Horizon 2020 brings EU added value through unique opportunities to collaborate, access new knowledge and know-how and financing of projects which otherwise would not be supported. For 63% of the respondents, the added value of Horizon 2020 is even higher compared to national and/or regional programmes for research and innovation (business and research organisations are even more positive).

In short, the consultation suggests that the programme should be continued, be improved and received increased funding. A similar conclusion has been reached by the Scientific Council of the European Council in a statement on 15th May. Indeed, discussions on the future of Horizon 2020 in the so-called Framework Programme 9 have indeed already started. A large conference will be organised on 3rd July, more information here.

More information
• All presentations from the event at the European Economic and Social Committee can be found here, in particular the presentation of the European Commission.
• The full results of the consultation can be found here.



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