Seal of excellence and which proposals are covered


Seal of excellence and which proposals are covered

26. February 2016

The Seal of Excellence is a quality label, awarded to project proposals submitted for funding under Horizon 2020, which succeeded in passing all of the stringent selection and award criteria, but could not be funded under the available Call budget. The EC by this attempts to help increase the number of promising project proposals receiving funded by certifying them, which can be used as a fast-track access to other funds like regional, national public or private. Official press released can be found here.

EC introduced such a scheme for the first time, and among all the Horizon 2020 instruments, the 'SME Instrument' was selected to introduce the Seal of Excellence (SoE).

How it works

SoE is granted by EC to proposals having scored 13 or above. SoE can then be handed in to eligible regional, national public or private funding bodies that have created special calls that are targeting exclusively at the applicants of the positively evaluated Horizon 2020 proposals, aka. The ‘sealed’ proposals. It is up to the national funding bodies how the proposals will be handled further on, but in most cases we have seen so far, proposals are funded immediately without further evaluation steps, although not always the full amount requested. Some national government have already taken a stand and declaring full support of SoE scheme through funding certified projects through national funds.

“We are very happy about the ‘Seal of Excellence’ initiative”, said Kenneth Junge Hermansen, founding partner of NI. “The reality is that the allocated EC budget for the Dedicated SME-Instrument is significantly limited in order to meet the number of excellent innovation projects submitted across Europe. We are especially pleased that Norway and Finland have implemented the scheme. This is enabling our increasing number of Norwegian and Finnish SME clients’ to come one-step closer to realise their business innovation projects and create growth!“
Some notable positive interventions by national public funding bodies already taking place are:


Norwegian project proposals having a SoE but not funded by the SME Instrument Phase 1 will be funded by Innovation Norway.
Companies that receive SoE but no funding from the EC, hereinafter can get funding for their projects from Innovation Norway (Innovasjon Norge). This year it is allocated ΝΟΚ 15 million to this Norwegian scheme, which is funded by the Ministry of Education. However, only SME Instrument I projects will be funded by national funds under this scheme. SME Instrument II are excluded.


Building on the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument to support its innovation champions
When the results of each phase 1 of the SME instrument are published on the Horizon 2020 website, VINNOVA invites the companies that have scored 13 or above to apply under a Call for Proposals of the 'runner up' programme that is targeted exclusively at the applicants of the positively evaluated Horizon 2020 proposals. The applicants receive a link to a simplified application form, requiring a summary of the project and a budget asked to be supplemented with the original Horizon 2020 SME instrument application and its Evaluation Summary Report and a statement that the applicant is not above the limits for the so-called 'de minimis' rule under the state aid. The applications are not evaluated for the second time, but instead, VINNOVA accepts the outcome of the Horizon 2020 evaluation.


Finnish proposals with the Seal of Excellence will receive support from TEKES
Tekes - the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation recognizes the SoE as a proof of an innovative business venture with a very high potential. Tekes actively scrutinizes the Finnish SMEs which have received the Seal. On a case-by-case basis, it seeks to build a tailor-made national funding and service package which can in the best possible manner substitute for the Horizon funding. Partners in this initiative are Finnvera, the national promotional bank and Finpro, the Finnish export promotion agency.


The Region of Lombardy issues vouchers for SMEs that were positively evaluated (but not funded) under Phase 1 of the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument
The Region of Lombardy issues vouchers with the value of €25,000 for those SME applicants that were positively evaluated in Phase 1 of the SME instrument under Horizon 2020 but not funded due to budgetary reasons. Such SMEs from the Lombardy Region are encouraged to apply under a SME Voucher R&I Call at regional level, submitting the same SME Instrument - Horizon 2020 proposal and related Evaluation Summary Report provided by the European Commission.
Hopefully in the coming months more funding bodies will jump on the bandwagon and start funding ‘sealed’ project proposals, since not many countries and regions have made relevant announcements on their intentions so far, like for example Denmark’s research councils.
“By implementing national funding to those few projects who get the Seal of excellence, we are not only fund a great project”, said Søren Haslund, founding partner of NI, “an indirect benefit is that we make the SME instrument more attractive and thereby encourage and strengthen Danish innovation and participation in H2020. There are currently so few SME Instrument projects awarded to Denmark each year, and only a few who get above the funding thresholds.
“I ‘tip my hat’ to the countries, accepting to fund applications purely on the basis of the SoE. The benefit for the company is obvious, as it eliminates the need to find, reshape and rewrite the application to fit a national funding agency, with an additional waiting period.
“I feel we should be able to find the money to pay for the Phase 1 projects, and try to analyze the implications for funding phase 2. Why this is not planned and implemented already, is a rant for another day.”

For further information about SoE, or for a talk on how we can help realise your innovation project, please contact Kenneth Junge Hermansen on +45 3120 5538 or send an e-mail to