The Seal of Excellence is a quality label awarded to projects submitted to Horizon 2020 which were deemed to deserve funding but did not receive it due to budget limits. It recognises the value of the proposal and supports the search for alternative funding.
Every year, thousands of organisations in Europe invest costly resources and time applying to the Horizon 2020 Programme. The European Commission has a first-class evaluation system engaging independent, international experts.
The experts identify proposals which are above the quality threshold necessary for funding. But, depending on the available Horizon 2020 budget, only some of the above-quality threshold proposals will receive funding.
The Seal of Excellence Certificate rewards unfunded proposals which were above this quality threshold with a high-quality label and ensures the investment of their time and resources were worth it. In addition, it helps other possibly interested funding bodies willing to invest in promising proposals (including national/regional authorities through ESIF) to identify them more easily.
The initiative was launched by Commissioner Moedas and Commissioner Creţu on 12 October 2015, in the context of the mandate received from President Juncker to maximise synergies between Horizon 2020 and Structural Funds.
The proposers receive a Seal of Excellence Certificate as soon as the evaluation results are available. It is designed to satisfy multiple purposes:
- Informing: indicates basic info on the proposal, the call and the proposer
- Building reputation: highlights the competitive and highly professional selection process
- Explaining: refers to the evaluation criteria used in Horizon 2020
- Showing the political commitment: displays the signatures of the two Commissioners
- Unique and safe: Digitally sealed against fraud, as is the related proposal and Evaluation Summary Report (ESR)
The Seal of Excellence is currently awarded to above-quality threshold, unfunded proposals who applied to either the SME Instrument or Teaming under the Horizon 2020 programme.
The first implementation of the SEAL of EXCELLENCE:
the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument
The SME Instrument under Horizon 2020, supports breakthrough innovations in close-to-market activities by SMEs.
The SME Instrument was selected as the ideal candidate to begin implementation of the Seal of Excellence due to its high popularity, high competitiveness and limited funding capacity compared to demand.
In addition, supporting proposals from the SME instrument fits with the intervention logic of European Structural and Investment Funds, as they target small scale R&I projects, high impact potential at local level and are mainly single-company led.
An SME whose SME Instrument proposal has received a Seal of Excellence will be looking for financial support for two types of activities:
- Feasibility assessment activities (Phase 1) – which would have (if successful) received €50 000 lump-sum grant (covering 70% of total cost of the project)
- Innovation development & demonstration activities (Phase 2) – which would have (if successful) received a grant ranging between €500 000 and €2.5 million (covering 70% of total cost of the project)
The proposals are usually led by a single SME and deal with small-scale research and innovation actions with clear territorial impact. So, the selection-logic for the SME Instrument is in-line with the logic of structural funds.
International panels of independent experts conduct the evaluation process under supervision of the Commission following transparent, well-known evaluation criteria.
Between 60 % and 85 % of the proposals are normally rejected as they are not ready for funding. The rest deserve funding.
But, 45-84 % of proposals which deserve funding are NOT funded. This is due to the popularity of the scheme (in two years around 20 000 proposals were submitted) and limited resources compared to this demand.
These high-quality proposals receive the Seal of Excellence. They passed an extremely competitive evaluation process and deserve recognition.
First two years of operation of SME instrument (results including all cut-offs in 2014 and 2015)
By the end of 2015, more than 2 300 SME Instrument proposals received the Seal of Excellence. These proposals came from SMEs in all EU Member States and Horizon 2020 Associated countries.
The Seal of Excellence is now awarded to eligible proposals every time proposers receive evaluation results related to the cut-off to which they have submitted their proposal (cut-offs are four times a year).
SoE in Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions
The past 24th April, the Commission has today awarded, for the first time, Seal of Excellence certificates to more than 2 300 researchers in recognition of their high-quality research proposals under the Marie-Skłodowska-Curie Actions. These are being awarded to all researchers whose MSCA Individual Fellowship proposals in 2016 had a score of 85% or above but could not be funded due to the highly-competitive nature of the MSCA programme.
How is the Seal of Excellence authenticated?
The Seal of Excellence is digitally sealed. Any attempt to change its data automatically invalidates the document. The submitted proposal and the evaluation summary report are also digitally sealed.
The funding institution can electronically check the authenticity and integrity of the document.
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