Project application to the EU – How does the funding body evaluate the proposal?

Teksti | Mika Launikari

Laurea University of Applied Sciences, together with its European partner universities, is interested in international funding instruments for the development of teaching and RDI activities. In particular, the programmes under the European Union’s Multiannual Financial Framework (2021-2027) and NextGenerationEU offer higher education institutions a wide range of opportunities for cross-border cooperation (European Commission 2021 & 2024). Competition for EU funding is fierce, but Finnish higher education institutions, research institutes and other actors have done reasonably well at winning contracts. In Horizon Europe, Finland’s share of funding was about 3 % of the total funding granted in 2022-2023 (ScienceBusiness 2024). This blog examines the general principles according to which the EU evaluates project proposals and awards funding to them.

Photo by Yan Krukau on Pexels

The evaluation process for EU-funded project proposals varies somewhat depending on the type of application procedure and funding programme, but is generally based on the following factors:

  • Formality: The proposal must be clear and complete in terms of formal requirements. All required annexes and documents must be included in the application.
  • Relevance and objectives of the project: The objectives set out in the proposal are in line with EU policy objectives and strategic development needs.
  • Cooperation and participation: The qualitative and quantitative relevance of the partners and stakeholders involved in the implementation of the project and related development work.
  • Governance, challenges and risks: The capacity of the applicant and the partnership as a whole to manage and implement the project effectively. In addition, the ability to identify the main challenges and risks and to present appropriate solutions and mitigation measures.
  • Resources: Adequacy, realism and suitability of the budgetary and human resources in relation to the project objectives, the action plan and the roles of the project partners.
  • Impact and Sustainability: The qualitative and quantitative impact of the project work, as well as the usefulness and sustainability of the results after the end of the project. Effective communication and information activities will increase the impact of the project.

The European Commission usually evaluates project proposals in a multi-phase process. The funding programme determines the duration of the evaluation process, the number of phases and who is involved in the evaluation. Typically, the steps in the evaluation process are as follows:

  • Step 1 – Eligibility check/assessment of pre-proposals: Once a project proposal has been found eligible under the relevant financial instrument, it will be evaluated. Pre-proposals are normally evaluated on the basis of a short description of the project, budget and work plan. In this case, the evaluation may focus, for example, on the relevance, innovativeness and feasibility of the project. Applicants of the best rated pre-proposals will be invited to complete a more detailed full proposal, including a more thorough project plan.
  • Step 2 – A more in-depth evaluation of the project proposal: The European Commission usually relies on independent external experts with a high level of expertise in the field of the given call for proposals. Typically, a proposal is evaluated independently by several experts from across Europe. Once they have made their own qualitative assessment of the application and scored it according to the European Commission’s evaluation criteria, the evaluators, led by a separate rapporteur, come to a common consensus-based assessment of the application. Once the common position is known, the rapporteur finalises the summary of the evaluation and forwards it to the European Commission Officer in charge of coordinating the evaluation process.
  • Step 3 – Decision-making: Finally, the European Commission takes the decision to fund projects on the basis of expert evaluations and informs the winning applicant organisations in writing. This is followed by contract negotiations between the Commission and the applicant organisation. Negotiations include agreeing the final budget for the project, the reporting schedule and any specifications for the work plan.

The European Commission monitors the implementation and progress of all projects it funds during the project period and evaluates their results and effectiveness at the end of the project. In many cases, the Commission relies on external experts to evaluate and report on the results of projects. If significant deviations are found between the approved work plan and the implementation of the project, the Commission will work with the project consortium to find solutions. This measure will ensure that the funds allocated to the project are used as efficiently as possible for the purpose originally agreed. At the same time, the quality, effectiveness and impact of the project will be guaranteed.

If you are interested in becoming an expert to evaluate project proposals for the European Commission, find out more online on the EU Funding & Tenders Portal.

Information about the author:

Mika Launikari, PhD, M.Sc. (Econ.), works at Laurea University of Applied Sciences as a Senior Specialist responsible for international cooperation in higher education. During his career, he has prepared several project proposals that have received national and international funding and has participated in various roles in many Finnish and European development projects in the fields of education and working life. Moreover, Launikari has also worked on project evaluation assignments in Finland and for the EU.



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