1. General questions
Is the funding platform structure as set up now already fixed or is it flexible (can I have influence)?
The set-up is a proposal. The funders collectively determine how to collaborate and how the final platform will operate. A maxim of the Platform is to ensure a high level of flexibility enabling each partner a contribution in accordance with its own domestic regulations and restrictions.
Does this platform starts from scratch, or build upon existing experience and networks?
The Platform is a new initiative to implement integrated soil and land research in Europe. It builds upon the experience of a previous transnational funders’ collaboration – the SNOWMAN network – that set out collaborative calls on soil topics (between 2003 – 2012) and the INSPIRATION coordination and support action (2015-2018) that has developed a strategic research agenda on soil and land, and which still provides an extensive network in 17 countries, including funding parties.
What is the envisaged starting date for the Funding Platform?
We want to start ASAP and one of the first activities will be to initiate a pilot call for collaborative funding (Spring 2019) The Platform will start operating as soon as funders commit to participate in the platform (this is independent on whether they chose to become involved in the specific pilot call or not).
Is it possible to start a call with 3 or 4 projects to show added value?
Yes, we want to start with a pilot for collaborative funding.
Do I have to join now, or can I step in later?
Although funders are encouraged to join from the beginning, even if not directly participating in the pilot call, it is possible to join in later. The advantage of joining early is the possibility to determine the Platform’s set-up from the start (e.g. in order to be compatible with national preferences).
If I join the platform but the situation in my country changes, is it possible to step out?
It is possible to step out of the platform at any time, unless a funder has committed to fund a specific call. After the obligations/commitments to a specific call have been fulfilled, the funder is free to step out.
Who take the initiative for the Funding Platform?
The following funders have started the Platform initiative:
- Ademe – The French Environment & Energy Management Agency;
- OVAM – The Public Waste Agency of Flanders, Belgium;
- SPW/DGARNE – The public service of Wallonia, Belgium;
- FORMAS – Sweden
- Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management
What is the difference between full and affiliate members of the Funding Platform?
While this has to be confirmed by the participants of the Platform, an option is to make the following distinction:
- “Full members” help define strategy, provide overall direction and coordination of the platform and initiate joint calls. Full members support the joint secretariat with financial or in-kind contributions.
- “Affiliate membership” is time-limited and only open for research funding organisations or administrations when participating in a dedicated call and sharing its associated costs.
What is the role of INSPIRATION in this?
The initiative takers are supported by INSPIRATION4EU – a voluntary network of 17 country representatives facilitating the implementation of the strategic research agenda for integrated spatial planning, land use and soil management www.inspiration-agenda.eu. The specific elements of the Platform are only set by the funders. It is an initiative by funders for funders.
Activities and calls coordinated with other research agenda collaborations (e.g. JPI Water, JPI Urban Europe, ERA calls)? Is there competition or synergies with these other calls?
This Platform is complementary to existing initiatives. Double funding shall be omitted. Gaps shall be filled. To enable such coordination, the Platform’s strategic research agenda (SRA) shall be regularly updated, including the consultation of relevant European initiatives. The www.inspiration-agenda.eu is seen as a starting point and living SRA. The topic selection from that SRA for actual calls is always based on participating funders’ preferences.
2. Organization of the Funding Platform and setting up calls for research projects
What is expected from a funder in the preparation of a call?
Based on the identification of research topics (with the strategic research agenda from INSPIRATION as a starting point), interested funders contribute to a voting matrix to indicate their own specific research priorities and potential associated budgets available. This allows to define a “scope of the call” for the Funding Platform and to open the discussion with other potential funders willing to participate in a joint call for projects (as affiliate members of the Platform).
Once research questions have been defined and a call package has been formed (call principles paper, call applicants’ guide and application form, research consortium agreement, peer-review guide), interested funders commit to funding the call by a letter of commitment.
What might be the steps for setting up a call and how long is this procedure likely to take?
Setting up calls comprises three steps
- Preparation phase with topic prioritization and selection for a call (6 months to 1 year)
- Execution phase for draft call, public call and review of proposals (about 10 months)
- Contracting phase (about 3 months)
Is it possible to participate only on selected topics in selected calls?
Yes, based on a funder’s priorities the topics of interest can be selected.
What if I want my own themes and topics to be leading in a call? Will the new Platform take over the programming or who decides on the themes and topics?
Topic selection and specification is agreed among the contributing funders. It might be the case that the other funders have different priorities. In that case you can decide to not participate in a specific call.
How does the platform deal with national funding rules and regulations?
National funders’ preferences, rules on eligibility for funding and available budgets will be valid during calls. The funder provides grants or funds to applicants as defined by the funder (e.g. only to successful applicants of their own country). Applicants to a call will be informed of both: the specifically (e.g. national) available budget and specific funder’s (national or institutional) funding rules and regulations, which apply for a specific call. This way, in most cases researchers and funders will be able to engage in common procedures.
What is expected from a funder when the call is open?
National contact points in the funding organizations will give advice to applicants on specific (e.g. national) priorities and funding rules. Research teams are invited to consult their national contact points at an early stage to check relevance and eligibility of their potential proposal.
Means available for calls
What are estimated fix costs of joining the Funding Platform?
It is assumed that all members pay their own membership costs for travel and subsistence and their time for the execution of their task in the Platform. In addition, “full members” are expected to contribute resources to a Platform Secretariat. These costs are estimated at 5,000 – 10,000 € / year. Members can be also allowed to substitute in-kind contributions (e.g. administrative staff time).
How much does each partner contribute financially to a call?
Involved funders do specify the budget they want to allocate to the call and the specific terms associated (e.g. maximum budget per project, maximum budget per year) in accordance with their preferences (considering e.g. research priorities, rules on eligibility for funding and available budgets). The actual funding contributions may differ between countries depending upon individual funder’s preferences. Based on previous transnational funding experience, a range of annual call contribution per funder from € 50,000 to € 500,000 can be expected and is sufficient to ensure the success of a call. The national available budget and the maximum funding rates in each country will be made explicit in an applicants’ guide.
How is money distributed among research consortia?
The call will use the “common pot with juste retour” principle in which research funding is ring-fenced within each contributing country. Hence each funder will fund the research teams from its own country (or as specified by the funder).
However, in certain cases, some of the funders will be able to introduce flexibility into this funding model by funding research teams of countries other than their own country. The amounts involved in this mechanism should however remain minor and decisions of this kind will be made case by case and remains at the full discretion of volunteers’ funders.
Do I need to raise and invest additional budgets, or can I use existing resources?
It is up to the contributing funder to evaluate which resources can be used to participate in a call (e.g. within existing internal budget programs or other new programs). Funders do not necessarily need additional budgets to become active in the Platform, as they can also contribute investments in research, they are fore- seeing anyway in their planned national programmes but now in coordination with other funders in order to gain leverage from the coordination and collaboration.
Kind of projects expected for funding
What type of research is expected?
The Platform aims at funding strategic and applied research that is responding to actual knowledge needs of stakeholders. It must contribute to the objectives specified by those providing the funding.
The INSPIRATION Strategic Research Agenda www.inspiration-agenda.eu is considered as a starting point on topic identification.
How are topics prioritized?
The topics selected need to be of enough interest to all the funders, however each country has its own priorities and can participate with selected topics only. These priorities are outlined in the call documents and a funder can exclude one or more topics according to own priorities.
What are project consortium requirements?
Each research proposal must include at least two independent legal research entities from different countries, i.e. all consortia must be transnational with at least two countries involved.
Consortia offering transnational collaboration from three or more partners are encouraged and may be given special consideration in the assessment. These and other specifications and requirements are to be determined by the collaborating funders and made available to applicants with the calls (e.g. in a guide for applicants).
Is it possible to set up specific participation requirements to project consortia?
Yes, the funders decide on the participation criteria together, e.g. the participation of researchers, policy makers and businesses (e.g. contractors or service providers or SMEs) can be specified for each call and country.
How are project applications selected? How do members contribute to the evaluation assessment panels?
Contributing funders are deciding on the specific evaluation and selection process. It might include external peer review and expert consultation.
How can we deal with knowledge dissemination requirements?
In order to make research results useful, knowledge dissemination and arrangements for knowledge must be an important part of the research projects. The target groups for the results must be clearly defined and technical information must be provided in an understandable form and manner for the respective target group. This will be announced in call texts and addressed in the evaluation of the applications. There is also some support in the call text with examples of dissemination activities.
Some of the deliverables, especially dissemination tools, may be produced in English and in the national languages.
What is expected from a funder when all contracts are awarded?
It is expected that funders, while preparing a call, agree on a sufficient monitoring process (e.g. based on reports provided by the research coordinators and/or common meetings).