On 7 September 2016, the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) published the list of evaluators who select the most promising projects for the SME Instrument. The list contains more than 1200 experts that have worked for EASME in 2015. Evaluators are categorised by nationality and topic.
Publishing the list is meant to increase transparency and avoid conflicts of interest. This is part of a set of measures taken to ensure funds are distributed in an equal way.
So how does the system work?
- Submitted proposals are evaluated by independent high-level experts in the domains corresponding to SME Instrument topics. The vast majority (above 80%) of the evaluators come from the private sector, and almost half of them are women. In total, almost 60 different nationalities are represented, with around 10% of the evaluators coming from non-EU countries.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
For further information, please visit the relevant EASME webpage at the link below.