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Pathfinder (FET-Open) supports early-stage science and technology research and innovation ideas towards radically new future technologies in all disciplines. That’s nice, right?  But with a success rate of less than 1.5% – exactly how open is this grant?


An overview of FET-Open

Pathfinder (FET-Open) is a bottom-up scheme that applies to all research and innovation topics and disciplines. Hence it sounds like the ideal channel for funding. However, when looking into the requirements and evaluation criteria, as well as the evolution process, it becomes clear that winning this grant is not an easy task.


In other words – the perceived ‘openness’ that is associated with this grant is quite misleading. In addition, many look at Pathfinder (FET-Open) as an almost immediate automatic alternative to all other themes and topics of Horizon 2020 (whether they checked other options thoroughly or not). Many proposals are being submitted with little or no match to the call requirements, not to mention the excellence criteria standards. As a result– the system is overloaded and the overall success rate statistics are distorted.


The outcome is well known – the over-subscription in this grant is skyrocketing and the success rate is very low. So, how can one know whether or not to apply?


Understanding if you are the right fit

Keep in mind that Pathfinder (FET-Open) is aiming to path-finding Europe’s technological future by presenting radically new, high-risk ideas and accelerate the development of the most promising emerging areas of science and technology. This grant is located on the excellence pillar next to the prestigious ERC grant. In fact, understanding the commonalities between these grants is important. It can improve the competitiveness of your grant proposal.


Tips to doing it right

  1. A crucial starting point is the call text. Make sure that your project complies with the “gatekeepers”.
  2. Make sure that your consortium structure matches the requirements of Pathfinder (FET-Open).
  3. Look at winning Pathfinder (FET-Open) projects.
  4. Talk to colleagues that have applied.
  5. Get support and guidance from experts.


Make no mistake – achieving a Pathfinder (FET-Open) project funding is hard work and highly competitive. However, a proper preparation will help in improving your winning chances.

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