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European Union Funding

NIC Document

Summary


The European Commission (EC) invests significantly every year in research, education, new product development and technology validation. This guide outlines the steps you need to take to obtain funds from the EC.

In brief


  1. The Framework 7 Programme
  2. Application requirements
  3. Proposal writing
  4. Proposal content
  5. Proposal submission process
  6. Getting support
  7. References and useful sites

Introduction


The quantity and depth of EC funding is enormous and its scale is matched by the number of different agencies and bodies involved, which is both confusing and ever-changing. However, you can keep up-to-date with the latest information by visiting the EC website. The EC also provides advice and guidance at the national level through a National Contact Point and frequently holds information events.

The Framework 7 Programme


One of the EC’s long term objectives is to make Europe the most “dynamic competitive knowledge-based economy in the world”. As a result, a huge investment programme was devised that bundles initiatives together under a common name called Framework Programme 7 (FP7). FP7 is grouped into four categories of:

  • Cooperation – stimulus for parties to cooperate on projects with a common goal
  • Ideas – implemented by the European Research Council to support frontier research around a principal investigator
  • People – support to promote the education and mobility of researchers, and
  • Capacities – programmes designed to improve the capacity for innovation for specific groups, e.g. SMEs

Cooperation and Capacities are generally more fertile areas for health-related projects.

Application requirements


The application process for EC projects starts with the identification of a call for proposals. Calls are issued by the EC on a rolling basis, usually annual in frequency, and are published around six months before the deadline for applications.

Identification of the call

Calls are published on the EC website along with a complete package of reference materials needed to apply for the funding. The most important document is called the Work Programme (WP). This explains the type of project the EC wants to fund. Correctly interpreting the WP is the most important success factor in gaining EC funding. The WP has all the details about the political objectives and topics the Commission has defined, the schemes available under the theme, size of projects, how many partners are needed, and other issues.

Concept fit to the call

The most important aspect behind EC funding is understanding the call and preparing your concept and project objectives to match it. Many people try to make the EC call fit their concept, which is a recipe for failure. EC funding is highly competitive so a very good fit to the call is an absolute prerequisite.

Consortium


Another essential aspect is the composition of your proposed project consortium. One of the central objectives of EC funding is cooperation between member states, and most calls will specify that participants from two, three, four or more member states will be required (depending on the type of project). To find the most appropriate pan-European partners, check the reference section at the end of this guide.

Proposal writing


EC funding is based on the submission of a project proposal document to the call specified by the EC. Follow these rules of thumb for success with EC funding:

  1. CALL – Pick a high quality idea that fits the call very well
  2. CLARITY – Present your ideas in a clear and unambiguous way, taking care to ensure that a non-native English reader can understand your text/ideas
  3. DILIGENCE – Put effort into ensuring the document has the depth of detail where requested and needed
  4. CONSORTIUM – Identify and present the ideal blend of partners to deliver the concept you present.

Proposal content


It is very important to thoroughly read the guidance documents published by the EC and ensure you understand what the EC want to see and present it accordingly. The most common mistake applicants make is to fail to take the time to read and understand what the EC want to see.

Proposal submission process


The submission process for EC applications is now done via a web portal called the EPSS. Proposals are registered by the project coordinator and the site then issues you with a password for later access. You or your partners then upload the required documents and information onto the site. You can submit the complete application as many times as you like. Do NOT to leave your submission to the last minute. Deadlines will be strictly enforced by the EC; there are likely to be large numbers of applications for each call and there have been site failures due to high volume of network traffic. Finally, remember that the call deadline time is based on Brussels, not UK, time. It’s typically 17:00 CET on the deadline day.

Getting support


It is important to obtain help and support for the proposal writing stage whenever possible. Good sources of support include:

National Contact Points (NCP)

The EC pays for associated national organisations to support applicants. To find out the contact details for the UK Health NCP please refer to their website for the most up to date contact.

The NCP will generally only provide guidance and signposting to key resources and support documents and will not help with the technical content or writing of the application. One of the most important things they provide is contact details for specific EC Scientific Officers (SOs) that specify what the EC are looking to fund.

EC Scientific Officers (SO)

Each fund defined by the EC is produced and controlled by an individual called a Scientific Officer (SO). This person has been closely involved with the creation of the particular fund so is in a unique position to provide advice on what the EC is looking to fund. They will not provide feedback that positively benefits your application, but they will give input on the direction of your concept. It is important to note that they will not tolerate any canvassing or lobbying for your application. SOs are highly busy individuals so if you are in contact with them, make it quick and to the point.

Proposal writing support

As discussed above, writing applications for EC funding is a detailed business that takes time and effort. It can be very helpful to get help from others, for example from your partners or from consultants that specialise in creating EC applications.

References and useful sites


Cordis – http://cordis.europa.eu/home_en.html
CIP – Competitiveness & Innovation Framework Programme – http://ec.europa.eu/cip/index_en.htm
The European Research Council – http://erc.europa.eu
A reference guide to FP7 – ftp://ftp.cordis.europa.eu/pub/fp7/docs/practical-guide-rev3_en.pdf
National Contact Points – http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/ncp_en.html
EC’s guidance and support documents – http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/find-doc_en.html
The EC’s EPSS proposal submission website – https://www.epss-fp7.org/epss

Partner search resources

EC’s find a partner database – https://cordis.europa.eu/partners/web/guest/home
Europe wide Yellow Pages – http://www.europages.com
Qualified suppliers to the medical device industry – http://www.devicelink.com/company