During the last few years, a considerable number of organisations and potential clients have approached me in order to ask me to prepare grant applications under various EU funding schemes / programmes. And while the scope and ambition of these applications has varied a lot, over time I have noticed one common trait -a very frequent misleading perception of the workload and expertise needed for these services and, in return, expectation of nothing less but an approval.
Very often, they consider filling-in the so-called “paperwork” to be an easy task that does not even require careful analysis of the “Call for Proposals”. In order to shed some light on the situation, I invite you to look at some key facts within the investment into staff costs or success rates in key programmes that Out of the Box International operates under.
What are the usual rates of “staff costs”?
For less complex funding applications (for example small scale projects in Erasmus+), staff costs could vary from 15 to 20 working days; an average Erasmus+ application could require around 40 working days; incidentally, the costs of more complicated proposals can vary anywhere between 60 and 80 working days. To sum it up, staff costs for the preparation of an application for funding may fall anywhere under the following ranges:
- EUR 5,800 small-scale projects (approx. 60,000<)
- EUR 11,600 mid-scale project (approx. 60,000 – 250,000)
- EUR 23,000 large-scale projects (approx. >250,000)
These costs could be lower in some countries, but also the consulting services are usually rated higher than average salaries; nevertheless, these figures could be and should be debated. Realistically, investments for the development of new applications must come from an organisation’s own resources so they usually face an uneasy choice – to manage existing projects, or to work on the development of new initiatives.
Introduction to the concept of “economic drain”
Here are some bare facts of the success rates for the following programmes:
- HORIZON 2020 / Period 2014 to 2020 / Number of submitted applications: 1 001 314 / Number of signed grants: 35 206 / Success rate: 3,5% / Number of rejected applications: 966 108
- CREATIVE EUROPE / Cooperation projects / Period 2014-2018 / Number of submitted applications: 2619 / Number of signed grants: 393 / Success rate: 15% / The number of rejected applications: 2226
- ERASMUS + / KA2 Actions in 2019 / Number of submitted applications: 13 772 / Number of signed grants: 4 794 / Success rate: 34% / The number of rejected applications: 8 978
- EUROPE FOR CITIZENS / Period 2014- 2020 / Number of submitted applications: 14 222 / Number of signed grants: 2 529 / Success rate: 17% / The number of rejected applications: 11 693
For reference, within the Horizon 2020 (2014-20) approximately four applications out of 100 get approved. The situation looks a bit “brighter” in Erasmus+, Creative Europe or Europe for Citizens programmes, where the success rates varied between 10% and 35% within different calls for proposals.
To consider my “hands-on experience”, the usual workload for Europe for Citizens is around 40 working days of staff time (Manager/Coordinator, Finance Officer, and expert). Based on average costs of staff per day in Belgium or EU, which is around EUR 290, the costs of such consulting engagement should reach around EUR 11,600.
Within the “Europe for Citizens programme”, we observed a total number of 11693 applications that were not approved. It means that the “economic drain” (not granted applications) just within this relatively small programme has reached around 135 million Euros; in comparison, the programme itself weighed 187 million euros in total.
To conclude… shall we make it rain?
When posing the initial question “Does European money fall from the sky?” I intended to provide key examples of costs and loss of investment within a very tight competition for the European grants. At this point, I guess it is obvious that the money indeed does not fall from the sky like rain in Belgium, for example. More likely, it will stay in the sky for the majority.
The main question that comes to my mind is: how can we reduce the money drain that, only in Europe for Citizens programme, has reached approximately 72% of the total programme value? Can the applications be simpler, less demanding and with fewer administrative requirements? And while within every programming period the European Commission promises exactly that, what we see in reality are constant changes and additional requirements instead.
The second thought that bears repeating is: can we create an intelligent system that could omit the big “economic drain” within different sectors by employing better systems for informing, managing and selecting project initiatives that fit to the political agenda of the Union. For example, in some European Calls for proposals, the requirements are divided into stages: 1)The concept note stage and 2)Full-application stage, where the full application is required just from the shortlisted, better quality projects. This system reduces the workload by approximately 70% for the applicants who do not pass the first stage of selection.
Finally, soon we will reach the stage where algorithms and machines could evaluate efficiently and fairly funding applications, based on clear indicators and in assistance of selected project evaluators. On the other hand, the funding applications should be based on simpler inputs and less bureaucratic requirements which the algorithm could easily understand and assess.
Until we get there, keep calm and read the “Call for proposals” carefully.
CEO and Founder
Out of the Box International
References and links:
CREATIVE EUROPE / Source: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2018/627127/EPRS_STU(2018)627127_EN.pdf
EUROPE FOR CITIZENS / Source: https://www.euneighbours.eu/sites/default/files/publications/2021-06/EC0321223ENN.en_.pdf