05 Sep / The FET-Open spirit and the “six gatekeepers”

Future and Emerging Technologies

Indeed, FET-Open is an extremely competitive program. For example, in the September 2015 cutoff, about 800 (technically) eligible proposals were submitted, while only 11 were selected for funding. This means a 1.4% success rate. But is it indeed impossible to succeed in FET-Open? Is it a waste of time to even try? The answer is that when you understand the FET-Open spirit, and honestly believe your project is in line with it – your chances are quite different than the grim 1.4%.

FET-Open is open to any discipline, and has no preference to theme or subject. For this reason it is sometimes referred to or treated as the “recycling bin” of the Horizon 2020. In fact, many proposals submitted are simply not in line with the expectation from a FET-Open proposal. One way to illustrate this is seeing the number of FET-Open proposals which are considered of sufficient quality and pass the threshold of evaluation. In September 2015, more than half (454) lacked the quality necessary for the FET program, leaving only 346 out of which the 11 proposals were selected. When passing the threshold, the success rate improves to 3.2%.

A successful proposal needs to capture the spirit of FET-Open. It is first crucial to illustrate the “FET-Open gatekeepers” which are characteristics of a competitive FET-Open proposal

The “six gatekeepers”:

Long-term vision

FET-Open aims to fund projects which set the basis for fundamentally new, currently unavailable and unanticipated lines of technology. Start by asking yourself if you can illustrate the long term vision to which your science and technology are the first step.

Breakthrough scientific and technological target

Can you clearly identify the breakthrough which is attainable within the lifetime of your project? Can you show how your project will contribute to achieving the long term vision which you illustrate? What is that first step on the way? Do you have a plausible and concrete plan on how to get there?


As the call states: “science and technology research for radically new future technological possibilities”. FET-Open looks for completely new, ambitious, non-incremental and ground breaking ideas. If your project is a natural continuation of efforts in the field or if it includes integration of existing ideas or methods, it is less likely to succeed. Notably, most proposals fall on this category. You must be very ambitious in order to stand out.


Your science and technology need to contribute the foundations for a radically new line of technology. This line of technology will only begin with your project.


While the high gain is the possibility to reach the radically new line of technology mentioned above, FET-Open proposals need to carry a high risk. Walking in uncharted territories of research is inherent to a currently unanticipated scientific and technological concept and vision. Your must adapt your research plan to deal with such risk.


FET-Open expects you to get out of your comfort zone. Novelty will undoubtedly stem from collaborations which are not typical. These collaborations need to generate a genuine mutual exchange of ideas and knowledge between distant disciplines. Build your consortium to fit your proposal plan. Assign complementary and essential roles for all partners and choose only the best people for each role.

To conclude – if you can honestly say that your proposal qualifies in each of these six categories, it is now time to start composing a competitive proposal!

By Yasmin Wachs in FET, Our blog