]: evaluator-friendly EU proposal writing

THE EXCELLENCE SECTION

A first advice when striving for evaluator-friendly EU proposal writing is to closely follow the proposal template Part B structure as regards the basic 1.1 – 1.4 heading layout. It is also a good idea to also generate sub-headings to correspond to the bullet guidelines (criteria) given for each (sub)section.

‘The structure of this proposal template Part B must be followed when writing your proposal. It has been designed to ensure that the important aspects of your planned work are presented in a way that will enable the experts to make an effective assessment against the evaluation criteria’

The content for each sub-section needs to clearly address these guideline criteria. Including anything not related to the criteria is superfluous and should be DELETED or re-positioned to another section where it is relevant. It’s important to maximise use of the overall 70-page limit and to have the right CONTENT in the right POSITION.

Why is this so?

Evaluator-friendly EU Proposal Writing

The guideline bullets correspond closely to the evaluation criteria the EU expert evaluator will use to assess and score the proposal. It is important to be aware that the evaluation scoring is framed more around a subtractive process, starting from a maximum score of 5.0 for each section and taking 0.5 off for each criterion that is not deemed to be sufficiently addressed. So, there is little point in waxing lyrical about the brilliant science and wonderful innovation across many pages, if we neglect to address any of the points covered in the topic call text and work programme introduction (both of which must be closely read and assimilated).

The other point relating to the evaluation process which many applicants fail to take due cognisance of, is the limited time which the external expert will have to read your proposal, and also the likelihood that (s)he will have a generalist knowledge rather than in-depth specialist expertise of the project area. Evaluators will have a number of proposals to read (typically 8-10) and will often be unwilling to allocate more than 4 hours to reading your proposal, including not just the 70 pages of Part B Section 1-3, but also the other Part B and A documents.

So, bearing the above in mind, for evaluator-friendly EU proposal writing,  it is very important to make it easy for the evaluator and navigate them through your proposal by using a good template and heading/sub-heading structure that clearly shows you addressing each and all of the requirements the call topic demands.

Proposed layout

A possible heading/sub-heading structure for Section 1 proposal template Part B could be as below:

Note: green text is the specific guidelines given in the template for each sub-section, which can be retained as reference as you develop the draft and removed before submission.

I’ve included some additional pointers for some of the sections which can also be considered.

1.1 Objectives

Describe the specific objectives for the project, which should be clear, measurable, realistic and achievable within the duration of the project. Objectives should be consistent with the expected exploitation and impact of the project.

Here we need a key clear, engaging introduction over 8 – 10 lines mapping out the project, the overall aim (goal), the PROBLEM to be addressed or the OPPORTUNITY to be exploited, and the nature of the SOLUTION being proposed. Keep in mind that it is preferable to get to the point here as soon as possible rather than rambling on with lengthy background text as the reviewer will want to quickly get a clear understanding about the project concept and main idea.

The aim will be achieved through meeting the following specific objectives:

Take time to formulate SMART objectives, which should relate to the expected impact sought and will in turn link to the work package structure outlined in section 3.1. Avoid having too many objectives (5-8 will normally be optimum) and make sure they are framed correctly as objectives rather than the tasks to be carried out (1.3(b) Methodology, Table 3.1b Work package description) to achieve these objectives. In other words, aim for conceptual objectives here rather than technical or operational ones, and typically allocate 2-3 pages for their description in this subsection.

1.2. Relation to the annual Work Programme.

Indicate the work programme topic to which your proposal relates, and explain how your proposal addresses the specific challenge and scope of that topic, as set out in the work programme.

The focus here should be more on alignment to the specific topic rather than the overall work programme.

Clearly and concisely show how your proposal fully addresses the specific challenges and scope of the call topic. Many like to show this in a 2-column table format with specific phraseology from the call text on one side and corresponding project activity on the other. No more than 1 page should be required for this subsection.

1.3 Concept and Methodology

1.3.1 Overall Concept

Describe and explain the overall concept underpinning the project. Describe the main ideas, models or assumptions involved. Identify any inter-disciplinary considerations and, where relevant, use of stakeholder knowledge; where relevant, include measures taken for public/societal engagement on issues related to the project.

Include an introduction – the ‘big idea’ behind the proposal.

Another opportunity here to reinforce a really succinct and engaging ten line description of what the project is about.

Include a Figure 1: Overall project scheme to be shown in a clear visual PERT schematic.

evaluator-friendly EU proposal writing

1.3.2 Project positioning

Describe the positioning of the project e.g. where it is situated in the spectrum from ‘idea to application’, or from ‘lab to market’. Refer to Technology Readiness Levels where relevant.

Clearly state the starting and end TRLs – typically, RIA topics will specify an end TRL 4-5 and IA topics will specify end TRL 6-7. Be sure your project activities and scale mainly fit within these ranges depending on the chosen topic and give a clear justification here on why this is so.

1.3.3 Linkage to other projects

Describe any national or international research and innovation activities which will be linked with the project, especially where the outputs from these will feed into the project;

Don’t limit yourself here to only projects the consortium partners are involved in but show an awareness of previous or running projects in the same project area. It is not necessary to produce a huge list – try to select a few that are most clearly aligned and put the emphasis on showing good complementarity rather than duplication.

1.3.4 Methodology

Describe and explain the overall methodology, distinguishing, as appropriate, activities indicated in the relevant section of the work programme, e.g. for research, demonstration, piloting, first market replication, etc;

It is important to get the level of detail right here – this part of the proposal temple Part B refers to ‘overall methodology’, not the minutiae of detailed task description which will be included in the relevant work package table in Section 3 Implementation.

So, a good, clear overview of the work plan in broad terms, without getting overly complex in the technical detail and which partner is doing what (better left for Section 3). On the other hand, avoid being overly generic here with little specific detail included on the proposed work plan. It’s a question of balance between what to include here versus Section 3 work package descriptions. The time-pressed evaluator may focus more on this section 1 of the proposal, with perhaps only a quick overview of the WP tables in section 3. So it’s important for evaluator-friendly proposal writing to ensure that appropriate methodology detail is highlighted here rather than being” lost” in table 3.1b.

1.4 Ambition

1.4.1 Going beyond state-of-the-art

Describe the advance your proposal would provide beyond the state-of-the-art, and the extent the proposed work is ambitious.

Do an initial overview of existing SoA but better to keep within a tight scope around the specific area your project is  addressing and advancing, rather than an exhaustive review of a broadly related area. Remember, the focus here needs to be on how the project is going beyond the state-of-the-art.

Again, be aware of going into too much level of detail and complexity here and be conscious of additional detail that might be better included in the detailed work plan description in Section 3.

1.4.2 Innovation Potential

Describe the innovation potential (e.g. ground-breaking objectives, novel concepts and approaches, new products, services or business and organisational models) which the proposal represents. Where relevant, refer to products and services already available on the market. Please refer to the results of any patent search carried out.

This section will link in closely with Section 2.1 Expected impacts

Applicants can sometimes be unsure about how to differentiate between innovation potential in this section and innovation capacity which needs to be covered in 2.1. Here, the innovation potential relates specifically to your project and the exploitation potential of your project results and related impact. The innovation capacity to be described in 2.1 has a broader aspect and relates to how other researchers and commercial entities might use your results for innovation in new areas beyond your own application area.

The above approach for Section 1 Excellence can also be applied for Section 2 Impact and Section 3 Implementation. The over-riding point still applies; clearly following the proposal template Part B structure and ensuring that all guideline bullet points and evaluation criteria are covered is key to developing evaluator-friendly EU proposal writing and offers the prospect of a more successful final outcome.