Please note that this call is open to Expressions of Interest (EOI) only! The programme's Steering Committee will meet in autumn 2017 to decide about the EOIs. Successful EOIs will be invited to apply in Call 5, which will be open only for Full Applications (FA). Call 5 will be launched in late 2017 and close at the beginning of 2018. Please consult our website for more information.
New and rejected Expressions of Interest can apply under Call 4.
General Guidance for project applicants
How to use this document?
This guidance is meant as an introduction to the programme and provides the most important rules and requirements for applicants when submitting an Expressions of Interest. Reference to stage 2 about submitting a Full Application are made whenever useful. This document is not intended as a replacement for the official documents and rules, and all applicants should refer to the official documents before they apply to the programme. Please note that there is also specific guidance for each call for applications, which sets out any special conditions applying for that call. You can find the specific guidance at the end of this document.
All project developers are asked to submit an Expression of Interest. If the programme’s Steering Committee approves the Expression of Interest, the project will be asked to develop and submit a Full Application. If this is approved, the project will receive a contract and can start work.
After an Expression of Interest is approved, the project team must submit a Full Application prior to one of the next two meetings of the Steering Committee.
The Full Application requires detailed activity plans with targets, budgets, and timelines, as well as technical information and funding guarantees from beneficiary organisations. A lump sum payment of €20,000 is paid to all approved projects for preparation costs, provided they request it in the full application form.
Who can apply?
The North Sea Region Programme is open to anyone in the programme area, which is the whole of Norway and Denmark, eastern parts of the United Kingdom, the Flemish Region of Belgium, northwest Germany, the northern and western parts of the Netherlands and the south western area of Sweden. There is a detailed list of regions in the Cooperation Programme.
You must apply as part of a partnership, and every partnership must include at least 2 beneficiaries from 2 different countries. However, projects should have a positive effect on large parts of the programme area so only meeting the minimum requirements will generally be considered a weakness.
You need to be a legal entity (organization or enterprise) based in the programme area in order to apply. There are limits on which private sector organisations can perform the role of Lead Beneficiary. Please see Fact Sheet 13 for details. Partners from outside the programme area can be part of a partnership under special conditions. At present, however, the Managing Authority faces major difficulties establishing effective control and audit arrangements for countries outside the North Sea Region. You should therefore be aware that partners from outside the North Sea Region may have to be excluded from the partnership. Consult Fact Sheet 18 for further details.
How long does the programme last?
The programme funding period is 2014 to 2020, but this is only the period when the European Commission provides its funds to the programme. These funds can be spent for some years after the final grant is provided by the European Commission. All projects, however, must complete all activities, including final reporting, by mid-2023.
What kinds of issues does the programme focus on?
The programme has 4 priority themes and each theme is divided into two or three specific objectives. Consult the Overview Table in the Citizens Summary for a quick overview of priorities and specific objectives. Every project has to select one specific objective that it will work towards. In past programme periods, broad projects tackling a number of objectives were sometimes approved but projects for the current period must be more focused and all activities must clearly contribute towards the specific objective. If you are not sure under which specific objective you should apply, take a look at the output indicators for the specific objective (Fact Sheet 23). This should give you a clear idea of what the programme expects from projects under each specific objective.
The descriptions of the priorities in the Cooperation Programme also include examples of the types of activities and outcomes expected. These are only examples! Any relevant activity that clearly requires cooperation and will contribute strongly to a specific objective can be considered for funding. Likewise, the fact that an activity is mentioned in the Cooperation Programme does not guarantee that a project application will be successful if it includes thay activity, especially if the overall contribution to the specific objective is weak.
In addition to specific themes, all projects granted funding under the programme have to comply with a number of cross-cutting issues like the need to promote equal opportunities and sustainable development. These are covered below.
There is more focus on results in this programme than previous programmes. All projects under the same specific objective will have to use many of the same indicators to ensure that results can be compiled into total figures for reporting to national authorities and the European Commission. Most indicators are compulsory and the system is simple to follow. A separate fact sheet on indicators tells you exactly what you need to do, but as a general rule make sure that the indicators and targets you use are realistic and capture what you are trying to achieve.
Indicators fall into three types. Use the deliverables to describe the activities you will be delivering (meetings, reports, pilots, etc.). Use the outputs (which are automatically selected for you depending on which specific objective you are applying under) to show how the project has delivered against the main programme targets (number of new green transport services, etc.) and how widely you have communicated your achievements outside the partnership. Use your project results to show the benefit and quality of these outputs. For some examples of good results, please refer to this page on our website.
The Cooperation Programme and Citizen Summary also contain some examples of successful project types exploring how organizations can work together regardless of theme. These are meant to inspire applicants but do not mean that other types of cooperation are impossible.
Are there special rules for Norway?
Norwegian beneficiaries and Lead Beneficiaries are treated the same as EU beneficiaries in the North Sea Region programme and are subject to the same rules.
The only important difference is that Norwegian beneficiaries are funded from their own separate reserve of Norwegian money (€10 million in total). As a result, Norwegian money is kept separate from EU money in the application and reporting systems. The most important practical result is that even if there are still funds available under a certain theme for the programme as a whole, the Norwegian funds for that theme may be more limited. This makes it particularly important that Norwegian beneficiaries ask the programme about available funding before applying.
Can private companies get involved?
Private companies, in particular SMEs, are welcome. They must demonstrate that their work contributes to wider programme goals. For some specific objectives (especially under priority 1), the strength of private sector involvement will be one of the main factors deciding whether a project application is assessed positively.
There are specific requirements for how companies operate in the programme, and all participating enterprises must agree to respect these rules. These often differ from standard private sector operating procedures. The rules cover issues like State aid, revenue generation, real cost principles, public procurement, and record keeping. It is essential that all private sector partners consult these rules carefully before committing to the programme in order to avoid problems during implementation. They are described in separate fact sheets on State Aid (16 and 17), Private Sector Beneficiaries (15), and Intellectual Property Rights and ownership of project investments (27).
How should partnerships work together?
All of the beneficiaries must cooperate on joint development and joint implementation of the project. As a change from earlier programmes, each beneficiary must state in the full application how they will be involved, what they will deliver, and what they expect to gain from the project. It is important that these comments do not address the general operations of each organization but are related to the specific actions to be carried out in the project.
Beneficiaries must also cooperate in the staffing and/or financing of the project. When filling in the application form, projects are asked to explain how staff will work together on delivering the project. There are also various options for using shared costs for activities carried out on behalf of the whole partnership.
The need for transnational cooperation needs to be reflected in the way that project activities are planned and implemented. It is not enough for each beneficiary to act independently and then exchange results. Beneficiaries should help each other to design, implement, and communicate new solutions to the problems they are tackling.
It is also important to involve the ‘right’ beneficiaries – meaning those with the required expertise and contacts in each country. The partnership will be assessed on whether it has the right skills and knowledge in place in each participating country.
The partnership also needs to be viable, which means that all beneficiaries should have a clear role in the project, be committed for the entire lifetime of the project, and be prepared to support activities after the lifetime of the project.
It is also important to demonstrate the involvement and support of the main users of project results. For example, a project to develop new ways of encouraging SME innovation must involve effective feedback from SMEs if the results are to be credible.
What is the role of the Lead Beneficiary?
The Lead Beneficiary leads the project, ensures that all beneficiaries deliver what has been promised, and is the contact point between the project and programme management. Every project must have a Lead Beneficiary agreed by the partnership. In particular, the Lead Beneficiary will:
Prepare and submit the application (in cooperation with the rest of the partnership)
Prepare and submit all progress reports and requests for payment based on inputs from the other beneficiaries (see Control and Audit for details)
Ensure that information from or to the programme is communicated on time and in full
Receive all payments from the programme and distribute the amounts owed to all beneficiaries
There is a separate fact sheet providing more detail on the Lead Beneficiary's role and explaining different roles and responsibilities within partnerships.
Help for small organizations
It can be difficult, especially for small organizations with limited resources, to understand all of the programme rules and procedures and fill in the required forms. Although such organisations often fill an important but limited role in the partnership, they may feel that the budgets available are not worth the administrative effort of participation. These partners may therefore participate as ‘co-beneficiaries’.
Small co-beneficiaries can be grouped together as a Local Partnership under one larger Coordinating Beneficiary (generally a public authority of some kind). The advantage of forming this Local Partnership is that all beneficiaries submit a combined claim for payment and activity report (less paperwork). All members of the Local Partnership must be based in the same country. This also means that the whole local partnership can use the same First Level Controller (see below) and get its expenditure checked at the same time (to lower control costs).
There is a separate fact sheet with detailed rules about this, but the following points must be kept in mind:
All co-beneficiaries are still subject to all programme rules concerning the eligibility of funding
All co-beneficiaries must keep full separate records of their expenditure
It is the responsibility of the Coordinating Beneficiary to ensure that there is
real and effective control of all co-beneficiary expenditure
All partners can claim reimbursement of 50% of costs for all project activities, although applicants should always check the specific conditions for each call for proposals for information on the total funds still available and any special funding terms that may apply. There is no formal minimum or maximum budget for projects, but projects will be assessed on value for money and larger projects will be expected to deliver significant benefits to the programme area.
Information about funding opportunities
The programme launches regular calls for proposals. All project applications correctly submitted through the Online Monitoring System with all relevant supporting documents before the end of a call will be assessed. Applicants should regularly consult the programme website at www.northsearegion.eu for announcements about new calls. As a rule these will happen every six months or so during the start of the programme.
You have to make sure that your project idea fits with the programme. Regardless of thematic strengths, applications can only be approved if there is a clear link to European policy goals and the interests and needs of the wider programme area. The detailed programme strategy and expectations for projects under each priority theme are set out in the Cooperation Programme. A shorter Citizen Summary provides only the information needed for project partners. The Programme Manual provides a short overview of other information.
Cooperation: This should be reflected in a work plan based on joint efforts to develop and implement new solutions. Cooperation should also be understood as bringing together different sectors (sometimes called ‘horizontal’ cooperation) and different levels of administration from local to international (sometimes called ‘vertical’ cooperation). The aim of these multi-level and multi-disciplinary approaches is to develop durable solutions based on winning the support of all main stakeholder groups. This need for cooperation should be balanced against the need to ensure that the partnership remains manageable and focused on core stakeholders. The wider stakeholder network will often not be part of the partnership but will be involved in other ways. This should be described in the application.
Innovativeness: Some parts of the programme focus on ‘innovation’ in the sense of developing new products and services for the market. All parts of the programme should be ‘innovative’ in the sense of developing and spreading new and improved solutions throughout the partnership and the wider programme area. Some projects will try to develop completely new approaches to the challenges they are addressing. Others will try to introduce existing technologies and methods into areas or organizations where they have not been used before. The priority descriptions in the Cooperation Programme contain information on the preferred approach for some specific objectives. Applications should clearly set out the innovative aspects of the projects and how they differ from existing norms and practices in target regions / organisations.
Additionality: Project funds cannot be used to fund the regular activities of partner organisations. The activities carried out in the project should be in addition to the normal work of the beneficiaries, and programme funds will only cover the costs for this additional work.
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