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Who is evaluating the proposals

Dragon’s Den: Who is evaluating your innovation?

If you have a look at the recently published Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) report on the first two years of implementation of the SME Instrument (2014-2015), you will notice a section on who is evaluating the proposals. In an almost Eurovision song contest-like manner, there is a table listing all the countries affiliated with the evaluators. There is also a pie chart showing affiliated sectors, ranging from expertise in ICT to security. But one can get lost amongst the stack of statistics and pretty figures aimed at showing some form of breadth and non-bias. So clients are left asking: what are the important facts to know when entering the dragon’s den? 

  1. “In the current pool of 1,406 expert-evaluators 88% come from the private sector and almost 50% are women.”

Translation: In the words of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when asked why he selected an equally balanced gender cabinet: “Because it’s 2015”. Or in this Case 2017. But you get the idea. Steer clear of gender bias but more importantly, be gender inclusive! Form partnerships that show gender balance, for example at the management level. 

  1. “Four expert evaluators assess each project. Reaching appropriate balance in terms of skills, experience, knowledge, geographical diversity as well as gender receives careful attention when these groups are formed.”

Translation: Yes, there will most likely be at least one person who knows your subject area but remember to account for those evaluators who are considering your project from a non-expert lens. Explain the technical complexities in a language accessible to all. But also ensure that is not your only focus – there is an entire business-centric component steering the innovation. 

  1. “As a general rule, expert evaluators coming from the same country as the application will not be allocated to its assessment. In total 58 different nationalities are represented with 11% of evaluators representing non-EU nationalities.”

Translation: Don’t expect points from your fellow countryperson for just, well, being your fellow countryperson. Your work should dictate the evaluation, not nationalistic sentiment. 

Remember that your work is evaluated in a confidential manner and only the abstract of your proposal will be available for public access. The quality of your work is the backbone of your application. However, the delivery of the work is equally important. Your “sales pitch” will help secure the funding you need so focus on that rather than trying to figure out who will be assessing your work. Most importantly, don’t let the statistics on evaluators drive your proposal, you have an entire innovation to do that.

Dr. Damla Khan, Research and Innovation Funding Specialist at GAEU Horizon 2020 Centre of Excellence