Managing an EU funded project can be tricky. You need to be aware of all the rules and obligations, the different reporting schemes depending on each programme, be ready for checks, audits and reviews, know how to put together a deliverable, know-how amendments work, how to report the financial part of your project and so on. As overwhelming as this could sound, it is not so hard. If you are not learning while doing type of person, there are really good courses that teach you the ABC of EU projects. Instead of focusing on the administrative part, let-s think about the advantages and disadvantages of participating in EU projects.
- The multidisciplinary approach projects have –Does your project involves both social and nature sciences, or a team where you need scientists and people with the skills to communicate science to the general public? Maybe you need an economist to make a cost-benefit analysis of your nature-based solutions, or someone with a business profile to scale up your ideas. The EU funded projects give the great opportunity of immersing in other areas that are not your own and learn from them.
- The international cooperation – Something that might be taken for granted and, in my opinion, is the top star of EU funded projects, is the international cooperation that EU funded projects push to achieve. The projects, measures, solutions, assessments, studies, and ideas applied to different regions, cultures, and ecosystems, enrich immensely both the brainstorming, the project itself, and mainly the results and impact that each project can achieve. In my opinion, coming from outside the EU, this level of cooperation is something to cherish, and is not so easily achievable in other parts of the world.
- The EU branding – H2020 statistics show half of the proposals they receive are considered high-quality. However, only 12.6% of the eligible proposals get funded, which means the competition is fierce! But it also means that if you are being funded, by using your right and obligation of saying that the EU supports your project, you are seen automatically as a high-quality project that can be trusted and will provide impactful results.
In a nutshell, you can discover new ideas and solutions and learn from the experiences of others. You can develop new contacts and networks in inspiring international cooperation, conquer new markets, and establish new business opportunities. Furthermore, you can develop intellectual property rights for subsequent use and pursue high-risk ideas. Last but not least, using the brand “Supported by the EC” gives an immediate (invisible) but tangible high-quality stamp for your project.
- The high competitivity – As mentioned in the last point, the competition in EU funded projects is high. Not only a lot of project proposals will compete under the same call (102 proposals was the highest number I’ve seen for the same topic), but about half of them will be labeled as high-quality proposals. This means that having a top-notch team and doing a great job sometimes will not be enough. In some cases, you will also have to spice up your proposal and add a special twist that distinguishes it from the rest. After that, you just need to wish that the evaluators will like the condiments you put in.
- The time and costs lost if your proposal is not accepted – As mentioned in the previous point, being a highly competitive arena also means that you won’t get 100% of your project proposals funded. You will have to know how to deal with rejection, and that also implies that you will have to take into account that sometimes you will invest time and money on putting a proposal together that will end up in a drawer. It might seem to you that those costs were a waste, but believe me, the experience you get from the whole process will help you do better on the next proposal.
- Not a lot of buffer to modify things along the way – Once you sign a contract with the EC, you are obliged to comply with what you have promised. If along the way when implementing your project, you realize that it would be more interesting to take a different road to achieve other results, you won’t be able to do that. But you need to remember, the project you are implementing is a priority for the EU, so in the end, what you do will always be satisfying as you are putting your seed for the common good.
In a nutshell, to prepare the right consortium and proposal is very time-consuming and costly, while the competition is very high. Often it is difficult to identify the right programme and find the right partners for your goal (technological preparedness, cultural differences regarding deadlines, documentation, etc.), for getting a proposal rejected and the feeling of having wasted your time and money. However, your bad experiences teach you how to do better next time, and once you get funded, the impact of your project will be on a European level, and sometimes beyond that.
Summarizing, despite the downsides, competing for an EU funded project is more beneficial than disadvantageous. When managing one, or being part of the implementation team, you will have non-refundable support from the EC and a label of trust and high-quality work for your project. The impact you can reach will be higher than if doing it on your own, and the multidisciplinary and international approach to it will be enriching personally and professionally.