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Europe streamlines project approval

The European Union has adopted a series of measures to simplify the process of requesting scientific funding under the Horizon 2020 program, which has a budget of €76.4 billion for 2014–2020. Most of the measures have had a positive effect. The average approval time, for example, decreased from 347 days to 191 (see graph). But not all have produced the desired results, according to a report released by the European Court of Auditors in November. The assessment was based on responses from 3,598 funding recipients. According to the audit, the network of national contact points is useful, but differences in how they are qualified undermines its effectiveness. The report also makes some recommendations to be implemented by 2021, such as improving communication and increasing the number of online tools to help applicants fill out forms; encouraging two-stage proposal evaluations to reduce the administrative burden for unsuccessful applicants; improving the quality and efficiency of external audits; and reducing the time spent on rejected funding requests.