Graphene Flagship Case Study

ESF successfully handled the management of the entire peer-review process for the Graphene Flagship Competitive Call. 218 projects submitted across 13 topics have been evaluated by the 46 review panel members recruited by the ESF.


About Graphene Flagship

The Graphene Flagship is a ten-year, €1 Bn programme supporting the development of Future and Emerging Technologies. It was selected as one of Europe’s first technology flagships by the European Commission in January 2013. 

The mission of the Graphene Flagship is to take graphene and related layered materials from a state of raw potential to being able to revolutionise multiple industries - generating economic growth, new jobs and new opportunities. Made from a layer of carbon one atom thick, graphene will bring a new dimension to all future technology – including faster, thinner, stronger, flexible electronics and a revolution in the speed of broadband networks.

The Challenge

The Graphene Flagship consortium initially included 75 academic and industrial partners in 17 European countries. During the 30-month ramp-up phase under the 7th Framework Programme (1 October 2013 – 31 March 2016), the consortium was expanded through an open competitive call. 

The Executive Board of The Graphene Flagship defined the criteria for the competitive Open Call, its funding limits and rules.  ESF was the partner appointed to be in charge of setting up the call infrastructure on an international basis, collecting and handling proposals and implementing the scientific evaluation of proposals submitted under this Open Call. This was a complex and wide-ranging project requiring high levels of organisational and administrative capability to ensure the success of the Open Call.

The solution

ESF devised a robust and streamlined approach to provide independent scientific assessment of the research proposals while also optimising the cost considerations involved in implementing the call. 

Priority was also placed on confining the time from the closing of the call to the completion of the evaluation and provision of final results to three months.

Protocols were created for the appropriate management of any potential conflicts of interest, in line with the requirements of the European Commission, to promote the independence of the evaluation process which concerned a highly specialised topic.

The evaluation process was underpinned by the knowledge and contribution of selected experts who participated in the Review Panels set up in the context of this call. The relatively high number of experts involved (46), and large size of panels allowed the right expertise to be mobilised.

Review Panels were comprised of members who were identified and selected principally for their scientific profile as well as for their expertise and its relevance to the topics covered by the call and the proposals submitted. The majority of the Review Panel members were sourced from non-European countries which also contributed to the autonomy and integrity of the evaluation process.

The results

218 projects were submitted, across 13 separate topics, gathering 738 individual researchers from 37 countries. This figure was significantly higher than expected at the negotiation stage, as the consortium had planned on receiving 150 project proposals. The Open Call was therefore very successful in stimulating interest and submissions for evaluation and subsequent funding.

ESF worked successfully with the Graphene Flagship Coordinator and Executive Board as well as with the Flagship Unit of the European Commission Directorate General for Communication, Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT). 

The €8.7M Open Call allowed for 21 projects to be funded and 73 new partners from 19 European countries, including 6 new countries, to join the Graphene Flagship consortium.


“ESF administered the competitive call of the Graphene Flagship, which is one of the largest collaborative research programmes launched by the European Commission. As a response to the call, over 700 organisations submitted 218 proposals on 13 separate topics. ESF ran the whole process from setting up the application system, identifying and recruiting global experts, organising and supervising the review meetings, to compiling and communicating the review results and responding to questions the applicant had during and after the process. The Graphene Flagship is very satisfied with how ESF handled our competitive call, and we are impressed by the organisation’s professionalism in managing large international research calls.”

Jari Kinaret, Director of the Graphene Flagship