What distinguishes EU projects from standard ones?
Borislav Igov: The main difference is in the specification of the goals, the activities, the time frame and the budget of the project. These parameters are assigned in advance in the operational programmes approved by the European Commission. The potential beneficiaries should synchronise the parameters of their projects with the admissible activities and budgets. They are not allowed to plan activities outside of the ones included in the operational programmes. The beneficiaries should perform a serious analysis of the correspondence between the permissible activities and expenditures, and their organisations' plans for renovation and development.
What are the peculiarities in the application process?
Ralitsa Ivanova: When an organisation decides to apply for funding from an operational programme, it first should analyse several questions. Is the organisation eligible based on the economic, financial and organisational parameters of the application? What are the costs and the benefits of realising a project funded by an EU operational programme? What are the goals and the target groups, and do they fit with the criteria of the chosen funding scheme? What is the financial and technological capacity of the organisation, and what finance and technological documentation is needed? Are the planned activities technically feasible?
BI: There are plenty of other parameters that should be considered and will answer the question 'Will there be an effect of the realisation of a project funded by a particular grant scheme?'. The main mistakes in project development are the discrepancy between the project's goals and the operational programme scheme; inclusion of inadmissible activities and expenses in the project application; and weak justification and defence of the planned activities and expenses.
Why is advisable for companies and organisations applying for EU funding to use consultancy services?
RI: At the moment are active 7 operational programmes and about 80 different funding schemes. The information and the regulatory framework are immense, and finding your way into the essence of the operational programmes takes a lot of time and experience. The consultant's job is to follow up this stream of information and and to synthesise the requirements for each potential applicant.
BI: The experienced consultant is able in only few hours to decide if the candidate is admissible and to advice on the best funding scheme. He has to inform the candidate on the realistic options and what activities and expenses are admissible, and what fixed assets and services can be included in the project.
RI: His task is also the justification and defence of these activities and expenses so the application collects maximum points from the evaluation board. The candidate can prepare his application for himself, but this brings a significant risk of rejection on the basis of grave omissions in the application. The skills for preparation and justification of applications take experience and serious knowledge of the regulations, the legislative and normative bases on national and European level.
BI: Our advice is: before choosing a consulting company, do your homework and research whether it is experienced in development, fulfilment and management of operational programmes' projects, and whether it has certificates.
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