Submitted proposals are evaluated by independent high-level experts in the domains corresponding to SME Instrument topics. The more proposals there are for a certain topic, the more experts in that field we need. This is why more than 20% of evaluators are experts in ICT – the most popular topic under the SME Instrument.
The vast majority (above 80%) of our evaluators come from the private sector and almost half are women. In total almost 60 different nationalities are represented with around 10% of evaluators from non-EU countries.
Experts can apply to be evaluators through a call for expression of interest.
Each project submitted to the SME Instrument is evaluated remotely by four independent experts offering a mixed profile in innovation, business and finance in the topic concerned. Each evaluator works independently and there are no contacts between the four evaluators.
Projects are evaluated against the three award criteria: impact, excellence and quality of implementation. The experts-evaluators score 21 different questions and the score received by a project is the 'median' of the four individual scores. To be selected for funding, the project must score above the threshold (13 for Phase 1 and 12 for Phase 2) and be ranked among the best projects. This is all detailed in the rules of participation to Horizon 2020.
Independence and impartiality
To avoid the risk of conflicts of interest, experts submit to a code of conduct that asserts they work in an independent, impartial and confidential way. Experts must confirm there are no conflicts of interest for the work they are carrying out and they have to declare any conflicts of interest arising during their work. The Commission then assesses whether a conflict of interest exists and if so replaces the expert. If it becomes clear that a conflict of interest occurred and was concealed by an expert the work carried out is invalidated and sanctions will apply. The rules can be found in the contracts signed by experts.
Resubmissions of proposals give us a reliable indication that the evaluation system is consistent and the candidates are treated in an impartial way. Under the SME Instrument, applicants can resubmit their application as many times as they wish. These resubmitted applications are evaluated by experts different from the first time. If the scores of resubmitted projects would differ drastically from the previous ones, especially in cases where only minor changes have been made, the validity of these evaluations could certainly be put to question. But analysis shows that the majority of scores do not change substantially. There is also a yearly rotation of 20% of the experts to ensure there's an impartial treatment of the projects submitted.
Read more and find all the relevant documents on the participant portal pages on experts.