What is a call for proposals?
The European Commission advertises grant opportunities through calls for proposals. The call for proposal includes all the information needed to submit a proposal and therefore it should be read with extreme care. The call text defines for example the scope, targeted objectives and outcomes, eligibility criteria and evaluation criteria. The idea is to ensure that your project proposal matches perfectly with mentioned requirements of the call. In fact, it would be better if your project proposal matches 110% with the call, because competition for EU funding is high and your project competes against other extremely good project proposals.
Browse the websites offering an overview of available national and European calls for proposals. Go visit the European Commission’s official page of EU Funding and Tenders Portal or CORDIS, Business Finland, Spinbase, techfunding.eu, Green Deal office for instance. These platforms usually allow for a keyword search or enable you to select specific themes that are relevant to you.
Once you have identified one or more themes that look interesting at a first glance, skim the text to find confirming or excluding criteria.
How to read a call for proposal?
Have a look at the picture to identify the main things to consider if a call is interesting for you.
Important issues to consider
Whether you are a single applicant, consortium leader or a partner in a consortium, you need to register your organisation to EU Funding and Tenders Portal. By doing so, you will receive a Participant Identification Code (PIC) which you will need in the application process. This is your identification code based on which your organisation is identified in the application process. To register your organisation, follow these steps:
Applications come in many shapes and sizes depending on what you are applying for. They range from 5 pages (EIC Accelerator 1st phase) to 300 pages (Key Digital Technologies) and may have several required annexes. The most common application structures are presented below but check the requirements of your desired call before you start writing. Hover / tap the cards below to see Innovation Fund.
There are three important things that you need to keep in mind when applying for EU funding: (1) Co-financing (2) No double financing and (3) No-profit rule.
It is good to remember that the EU will finance about 40-100% of your project, so you always need to make sure how much co-financing is needed. Also remember that the EU grant or part of it may only be paid out some time after the activity has been reported.
No double financing rule
This means that you can only use the money to the purpose you have promised to use it in your application. Usually, it is possible to combine the EU grant with other funding programmes and state aid but the funding should not overlap. You are not able to apply any other funding for the same purpose. Naturally, you are allowed to have several EU projects running in parallel, but the objectives and the activities need to be different in each one of them.
This can be tricky. You must separate your company and your project. Your company can, of course, make profit but the project cannot. If the project generates income, you must state and report this income as it may affect the grant. This is because the EU cannot distort the competition by allowing the grants to be used directly for profit making. This is of course different for loans and equity.
You can budget your normal salaries for the project concerning the days used for project work. This includes all the statutory costs e.g. pension and insurance payments that are actual costs for the company.
If you have travelling needs in your project, travel costs are also eligible. Your company travel policy is valid in all your project travelling as well.
Equipment costs are any heavy duty equipment purchased during projects. These are usually depreciated over several years and you are only allowed to budget the depreciations that occur during the project time.
Subcontracting costs are costs for the action tasks specified in the Grant Agreement (GA) which are not carried out by the grant beneficiaries themselves but are outsourced to external third parties.
Other direct costs are any other purchases not specified in other categories that are eligible for the project.
Principles of budgeting in Innovation Fund is different compared to Horizon Europe. Innovation Fund for small-scale projects can fund only CAPEX and for the large-scale projects the funding covers CAPEX and OPEX, such as salaries.
The European Commission has provided a specific, rather complicated methodology for the cost estimation which needs to be studied carefully. The general rule is that the applicant should provide a calculation of relevant costs and the applied funding is based on this calculation.
The funding is paid partly as a lump sum in the beginning of the project. When the project is running, the payments are linked to the production i.e., GHG reductions.
The evaluation process varies slightly based on the call but the basic idea is the same everywhere.
Who are the evaluators?
They are industry experts, professors, venture capitalists, lawyers or any other experts that are the most relevant people to evaluate your proposal. They are specifically selected based on the industry of your innovation. But there is no way of knowing who they are in advance and there is no way you can affect the selection process.
How do they evaluate?
Evaluators work under pressure. They have limited time to evaluate each application so all the important information must be in easy to read format and the application should not raise any questions. All should be clear from the beginning on. There are usually 3-6 evaluators and none of them can be from the same country as the applicant. They evaluate the application based on a specific set of evaluation criteria and give points usually from 0 to 5 or give a decision of GO / NO GO. Evaluation criteria varies by instrument so please check the evaluation criteria of your desired instrument and make sure to read the call text extra carefully.
Will I be interviewed?
In some cases, yes! This depends on call but in some calls there are also interview rounds where a jury interviews you and you can present your pitch for the jury. This phase is usually evaluated only as GO / NO GO. Please check the call details to see if an interview is included in your call.
You can find a lot of instructions io internet. They tend to be quite generic or heavily focused on the old Horizon programme. However, you may still benefit from them.
There are several consulting agencies, who are specialized in EU funding. They can provide very concrete hands-on help in preparing your application. You can look for example members of the European Association of Innovation Consultants (EAIC).
Why to apply