Source: eKapija | Tuesday, 01.08.2017.| 11:05
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From idea to money from European funds – EUTA aiding project preparation and finding partners

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The trainers of the European Training Academy (EUTA) in Belgrade have brought, in cooperation with their European partners, more than EUR 15 million to Serbia in the past ten years. This network of experts in the field of EU funds uses its expertise to help organizations and individuals to enhance the quality of project proposals and increase the chance to receive funding, and they say in their interview for eKapija that their goal is to transfer practical knowledge and skills acquired during the preparation and carrying out of projects and not to only transfer information the clients can find themselves on the internet.

– Our approach is such that the trainees master, in addition to the technique of preparing the project and finding a partner, the philosophy of preparing the project proposal which is universal and applicable to any donation program, not just the EU funds. We therefore teach our trainees how to think and which strategy to implement in order to get money for the realization of their project ideas most efficiently and in line with their expertise and previous experience – explains Ratko Bojovic, Executive Director at EUTA.

He says that the training is based primarily on the personal experience of the lecturers in preparing and managing EU projects and adds that these experts also have experience as official valuers of the European Commission. The training concept is based on a combination between theory, practical workshops and concrete, practical examples. The training itself involves working on concrete contests, application forms and valuation criteria, and it is mostly focused on the biggest EU research and innovation program, Horizon 2020, as this is the area in which they are most experienced.

More than 4,500 participants from Serbia, the region and Europe have passed our training courses since 2010, and we also organize similar training in the main centers in the region: Belgrade, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Sarajevo, Banjaluka, but also in Brussels. The majority of our trainees have rated the quality of the training very highly – eKapija's interviewee points out with pride.

In addition to client education, EUTA provides direct help in preparing and carrying out projects.

– We provide aid in all phases of project realization, from preparing the contract, to organizing project activities, communicating with partners, to project administration, that is, preparing technical and financial reports. As a project partner, we contribute with our expertise to the successful running of the project, strengthening the influence, spreading information and increasing project visibility and securing project sustainability through training courses for partner organizations on the project – EUTA explains and adds that they prepare projects in the fields of technical sciences and healthcare, whereas the projects in which they act as a partner organization are mostly related to agriculture.

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First IPARD contests in 2017

Regarding the interest of companies and organization from Serbia in preparing project with which to apply for EU funds, Ratko Bojovic says that it is academic institutions, the public administration and the non-governmental sector that have had the most options for getting projects financed so far, and that the business sector has had more options for taking part in the projects as well in the past few years. More precisely, new financial instruments have been created for the business sector, especially for innovative companies, both in the EU (Horizon 2020 SME Instrument) and in Serbia (Innovation Fund).

– The interest in taking part in our project preparation training is in line with this – the majority of the participants come from the academic sector: faculties, universities, institutes, innovation centers, followed by state institutions and the business sector – Bojovic says and clarifies that the number of invitations for project propositions and their time of opening depend on the sources of finance.

The biggest amounts within Europe are provided within the Horizon 2020 program (over EUR 75 billion in the 2014-2020 period), which provides the options for financing projects in each sector and for each type of organization. Currently, there are 120 contests open within this program, which can be found at the Participant portal.

– Furthermore, two contests for local self-government are open – Town Twinning and Network of Towns, from the Europe for Citizens program. A larger number of contests within the biggest EU education program, Erasmus Plus, are expected to open in August.

Judging by the financing priorities within the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance II (IPA II) for the 2014-2020 period, EUTA estimates that the main fields in which the money from this fund is to be invested are ecology, energy and agriculture. If the Directorate for Agrarian Payments gets accredited this August, the first contests within the IPARD program can be expected by the end of 2017.

Italian cooks in Serbian schools

EUTA has taken part in the implementation of three EU projects as a partner. Two of these programs have already been realized – Tempus CaSa, in the field of education, where the Faculty of Agriculture in Belgrade acted as project coordinator, and the total budget of which amounted to EUR 895,225.13, and FP7 COMPETE, a research project in the field of agriculture, with a budget of EUR 2.4 million.

– We are currently taking part in the Strength2Food project in the field of food and agriculture, financed within the EU program for research and innovation, Horizon 2020. The coordinator is the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and the project is worth EUR 6.9 million, is taking place from 2016 till the end of February 2021 and brings together 30 partners from throughout the world. In Serbia, in addition to EUTA, the partners are the Ministry of Education, the Faculty of Economics in Belgrade, the Municipality of Arilje and the TopClass agency – Bojovic explains.

The aim of the project prepared by the University of Newcastle and EUTA is to enhance the efficiency of the European system of food quality, the public procurement system and to strengthen the sustainability of food supply chains.

(Photo: Edhar/shutterstock.com)
– In Serbia, our project will help improve the quality of food for children in primary schools through direct cooperation with agricultural producers. On the one hand, we will help schools which prepare the food in their own kitchens to enhance their menus in order to serve meals with greater nutritional value and to work on preparing quality meals in cooperation with the chef and nutritionists from the Barilla Academy. We will provide schools with educational and promotional materials oriented towards children, parents, teachers and cooks, in order to set standards in nutrition – says eKapija's interviewee.

EUTA will also work on improving the system of public procurement, so that schools would purchase the food of the best quality, and not the cheapest food. It will help school administrations to prepare the tender documentation, but also provide help to agricultural producers in order to provide food in necessary quantities and of adequate quality to schools and other local public institutions. Furthermore, it will provide them with help in organizing themselves into cooperatives in order to make joint offers to schools.

– Our team contributes to a successful running of the project and secures its sustainability through partner training within the project. Furthermore, we use our expertise in rural development and cooperatives to bring the needs of schools in line with the offer of agricultural producers.

EUTA has so far collected and analyzed the tender documentation for more than 350 primary schools within the project.

New training programs from September

Starting this September, EUTA plans to implement new training programs for preparing projects for the Erasmus Plus program, focused specifically on the needs of the primary school system, as well as training for preparing Marie Sklodowska-Curie projects, meant for academic institutions and researchers.

– Also, we will continue our training for preparing Horizon 2020 projects in Belgrade (October 6-14), Zagreb (September 21-22) and Ljubljana (October 10) and the training called EU Projects from A to Z at the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia (September 25-29), meant primarily for individuals looking to master skills in preparing IPA projects and tender documentation for the EU projects in line with the PRAG procedures. In early September, we will set up a new tool for seeking partners on our website, which will help our clients, training participants, but also other organizations to network and cooperate in EU projects with organizations from throughout the region – Ratko Bojovic announces.

If the Directorate for Agrarian Payments receives accreditation in August, the first IPARD program contests will open by the end of 2017 and EUTA will provide help in preparing business plans and the necessary documentation for agriculturists and the food industry.

– Finally, we are looking at new activities within the Strength2Food project, primarily the first visit of the Barilla Academy team to schools in Serbia in November, who will later work with school cooks on preparing the meals. Then there's the organization of a the Hybrid Forum at the Petnica Research Center, also in November, where those interested in enhancing the quality of food in primary schools – agriculturists, representatives of schools and public administration – will be brought together in order to agree on potential mechanism for improving the quality of school meals and for agriculturists to gain access to new local markets – Bojovic concludes his interview for eKapija.

Marko Andrejic
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