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From a Project Idea to a Successful Project - Challenges to submit a good application

This article tries to give an overview of the most common features of cross-border programmes, as well as a summary of  practical tips and frequent mistakes which serves as a tool of helping applicants to better comply with the programme requirements.

In the frame of the European Territorial Cooperation programmes, the cross border programmes have some particular features. First of all, financial support is available only for applications to be implemented in a cross-border partnership and with a strong cross-border character. The partners should be represented in a balanced way, should be motivated, and have similar objectives and needs, building long term cooperation. The partners will appoint one of them as Lead Partner, who will represent the administrative connection between the project and the programme, and will be responsible for coordinating the implementation of the project. Each Project Partner will be responsible for his share of the project implementation.

Secondly, the applications should meet at least two of the four joint criteria: common preparation, implementation, budgeting and staffing. In most cases, developing jointly a project (designing activities and responsibilities in common) implies the joint implementation; by implementing jointly a project is almost inevitable to jointly finance or staff the activities. Also, when deciding to implement together a project, it is quite plausible that the partners were involved in its development, and that they participate in its financing and staffing. The proper fulfilment of the joint criteria requirement will give an overall image on the quality of the partnership.

Although many applicants have experience in cross-border projects, for many project proposals there is room for improvement. A good piece of advice we can give to prospective applicants is to read the guidelines and application instructions very carefully. The criteria on the basis of which the applications are assessed are very clear and need careful consideration in the narrative part of the application. Sometimes applicants simply assume that their project is highly significant without attempting to justify the project proposal by filling in properly all the fields of the Application Form.

The successful project application process starts with a well-formulated project idea, directly linked to the Call for Proposal under which it applies for funding. Taking into account that funding is allocated only to the activities that have not been financed before the applicant should pay a greater attention to describing how their proposal differs from the already existing solutions or implemented activities in their region and what added value it brings to the regional development through cross-border cooperation.

The next step is to find at least a Project Partner, with common interest, from the other side of the border. Thereafter, the partners develop the idea into a project proposal that can be evaluated and, if submitted on time and prepared according to the necessary EC procedures, can be selected for financing and further implemented. The number of partners should be carefully selected; the proper number should be agreed according to their involvement in the project. Too many partners may jeopardize or mitigate the chances of a successful project.

The project proposals selected for financing in the frame of our programme shall have a strong cross-border character, meaning that the need or opportunity identified is present on both sides of the border and produce an effect on the target groups. To solve the need or capitalize the opportunity, the solutions proposed should be approached commonly, in order to be applied in both countries.
One more important factor to take into account is how the proposed project would contribute to the achievement of the Programme objectives. Also, the need for the proposed project should be detailed, the existing problems should be identified and the outputs and results clearly mentioned

The application shall be built upon each partner’s knowledge and experience, therefore project preparation and development should be a negotiation process where the partners present and refine the project idea, establish objectives, designate a Lead Partner, design activities, assume responsibilities, and allocate budgetary items. These have to be done in common by partners from both sides of the border, in order to establish a real and efficient cross-border partnership. The Application Form and the Declaration on Partnership shall be the outcome of this procedure and be reflected as such in the application form.

The Lead Partner shall submit a single application for the common project, with a single budget but with expenditure allocated for each partner, in accordance with the planned activities. The application package includes the Application Form, annexes and several supporting documents depending on the type of call procedure used.

The JTS and IP gathered for you some practical tips and frequent mistakes, to help in successfully developing your project ideas bringing added value and positive effects in the border region. The document can be accessed here.