Excellence is the first of three sections in a Horizon Europe proposal. It requires applicants to define what their project aims to achieve. The Excellence Section is marked against the following evaluation criteria:
- Clarity and pertinence of the project’s objectives, the extent to which the proposed work is ambitious and goes beyond the state of the art.
- Soundness of the proposed methodology, including the underlying concepts, models, assumptions, interdisciplinary approaches, appropriate consideration of the gender dimension in research and innovation content, and the quality of open science practices, including sharing and management of research outputs and engagement of citizens, civil society, and end users where appropriate.
In simple terms, applicants need to detail three things about the project:
- motivation, importance, and novelty
- objectives and concept
- chosen methodology and approach
Tip: Remember that this is the first section the evaluators will read, so it is your chance to make a good first impression.
The Excellence Section in Horizon Europe consists of two sub-sections:
- Objectives and Ambition
This is the same for both Research and Innovation Actions (RIAs) and Coordination and Support Actions (CSAs).
Tip: It is important that you familiarise yourself with the proposal template before you begin writing an EU funding application as it can differ between competitions. For example, proposals for the EIC Pathfinder and EIC Transition have a different structure.
Sub-section 1.1 – Objectives and Ambition
The Objectives section should clarify the project’s objectives and their relevance to the project. When presenting the objectives, you should:
- Refer to the specific topic’s scope, focus, and terminology – This is information the evaluators will have to hand and will help them understand the relevance of your project to the call.
- Be clear and concise – You should avoid long background text at the beginning of the application and jump straight into your objectives. Start with a clear message to the effect of: “The main objectives of this project are …”.
- Include specific conceptual objectives – These objectives should be clear, measurable, realistic, and achievable within the duration of the project. If possible, you should also include key performance indicators (KPIs) so that you can track your progress.
Tip: Keep in mind that your objectives need to be consistent with the expected outcomes and expected impacts of the project.
In the Ambition section, you will need to explain the extent to which the proposed work is ambitious and goes beyond the state of the art. You should do so in the context of the problem you wish to solve. To achieve this, refer to products and services already available on the market and any patent or publication searches that you have carried out. This will help the evaluator to understand the innovative potential of your project.
Tip: While it is important to show broad knowledge of the field, you should only include information that adds value to the application to ensure you stay within the page limits.