In the 39th issue of MSI Turkish Defence Review we have published an article titled “Finding a Place for Indigenous and National R&D in Europe” by Dr. Rosen Dimov, EU Projects Manager at Etkin Proje. You can read the article below:
Noting that one of the most important obstacles hindering the development of domestic and indigenous technologies is the problem of funding, the April issue of MSI TDR covered the TÜBİTAK TEYDEB programmes and the support provided by the Teknoparks/Teknokents and R&D Centres. In addition to these domestic R&D support mechanisms, it is also possible to benefit from various European Union (EU) funds and grants.
The EU has a number of support programmes aimed at raising the infrastructure and prosperity of its member states to a high and relatively equal level. To this end, it supports cooperation in areas defined as being compatible with EU policies, as well as the development and dissemination of applications and technologies between both member states and candidate states. Due to Turkey’s position as a candidate state, Turkey has been able to benefit from these programmes since 2002.
It should be noted in advance that since the common goal of these programmes is enhancing the cooperation among countries and institutions, it is important that applications are made with the participation of partners from various countries.
What Programmes Are There?
The investment tools described below are open to applications from all member and candidate states. Apart from the Eureka Thematic Programme, in which project proposals can only be submitted for calls in the fields of software, energy, hardware, food, production technologies, chemistry, materials and communication, there are no limitations with these instruments, in terms of the areas of application. The support programmes, for which the application requirements are listed below, are especially relevant for the dual use or civilian purpose projects of companies in the defence industry:
Eureka Projects require the participation of at least two countries. The organisations involved in the project can be of different types. In other words, one of the participating organisations might, for example, be a company from Turkey, while the other might be a university, an industrial enterprise or a non-governmental organisation from another country. There is no upper budget limit for participants from Turkey. These projects cover a maximum of 75 percent of the expenses incurred by small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), while for larger companies, this ratio is limited to 60 percent (it should be noted that the EU defines SMEs as companies with less than 250 personnel, and with an annual turnover below €50 million or balance sheet €43 million, respectively). There are also no limitations in terms of the date and field of application.
The Eurostars Programmes support projects that can be introduced into the market in three years. As is the case with Eureka, these projects require the participation of at least two countries, and the participating organisations can yet again be of different types. Companies from Turkey can apply to the programme, while universities and other type of organisation can become involved as subcontractors. In this programme, there are two prerequisites for application: The project coordinator should be an SME that conducts R&D, and the project output should be able to commercialise. Applications are accepted in the months of February and October. The programme covers up to 75 percent of expenses for SMEs, and up to 60 percent for larger organisations. Just as with the Eureka programme, project proposals can be submitted in any area.
Eureka Thematic Programmes specifically focus on certain areas. From Turkey, only companies may participate. Once again, up to 75 percent of expenses are covered for SMEs, and up to 60 percent for larger companies. One of the Eureka thematic programmes, which defence and aerospace companies might find interesting, is the Celtic+ programme for software projects. Subjects relating to the cloud, big data or the Internet of Things, which will all be part of Horizon 2020, are within the scope of this programme. The Euripides programme can accept applications for any smart electronic solution, while the scope of the ITEA programme can be even wider.
The Horizon 2020 SME Instrument offers rapid and administratively straightforward funding opportunities for SMEs. In the first stage, SMEs can receive €50,000 (no more, no less) for a feasibility study of their initial ideas. In the second stage, an innovation study is initiated for a period of two years or less to assess whether this idea can be launched into the market. The R&D studies conducted in this stage can be supported with grants up to €2.5 million. For SME projects, the maximum ratio of support is, once again, 75 percent. On the other hand, for projects focusing on healthcare and biotechnology, the EU may fully cover all expenses required by the project. The best part of this programme is that it does not require a partner from another country. In addition, project proposals can be submitted in any area.
The Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programmes require partners from at least three different countries. While it may seem difficult for Turkish companies to find foreign partners, the financial conditions the programme offers are quite remarkable: Up to 100 percent funding with no limitations in terms of subject area, as well as budgets of up to €8 million.
Within the scope of Horizon 2020, defence and aerospace companies can:
- Develop imaging technologies for naval, land and air environments.
- Develop informatics systems for border control and crime prevention purposes.
- Develop vehicles for protecting the public during high participation events.
- Develop solutions to protect people against terrorist attacks.
In addition, as part of the recently initiated programme, Space 4.0, there are plans to invest more than €10 billion in areas such as earth observation, navigation, exploration, launch rockets, telecommunication and associated space technologies.
Where Does Turkey Stand in Relation to these Programmes?
Turkey is able to benefit from all of these programmes without any technical or administrative limitations. Even so, the following points are important and should be considered to ensure that the application is approved:
- The subject of the applied project must be innovative, not only for Turkey, but also Europe-wise.
- Applying companies are expected to have an R&D background.
- If the scope of the project is deemed suitable, the first samples (prototypes) should be made available.
- In certain programmes, it is essential to properly assess the size of the company. For instance, larger enterprises cannot apply for supports/grants specific to SMEs.
- It is also necessary to find project partners from different countries and cooperate with them.
When a project proposal undergoes evaluation, the proposed project and the group, or consortium, of companies submitting the proposal will all be evaluated as a single whole. For example, if one of the companies in the consortium is found to be unsuitable with respect to the programme’s scope, the entire consortium will be disqualified (rather than only the unsuitable company being removed from the group).
In fact, prerequisites for carrying out EU projects and benefiting from EU funds include having a well-established R&D culture, an appropriate organisational structure, and good management. Meanwhile, the increasing number of publicly supported projects, as well as the growing number of R&D centres in recent times, promote the rapid adoption of an R&D culture in organisations. Furthermore, due to the grants and incentives being offered by the state, it is becoming easier to find resources and personnel for R&D studies. In addition, when evaluating projects, the EU also prioritises and gives greater advantages to R&D centres.
Roadmap from an Idea to a Project
First and foremost, it is an idea that forms the basis of every successful R&D project. Coming up with the idea is a process that is independent from how the idea will be developed and converted into a project, and how and with what sources the project will be funded. At the same time, an idea is also the most valuable part, that is to say, the core of any project.
After coming up with an original idea, the next step is to examine whether it is appropriate within the context of the EU, and whether there are suitable calls or requests for this idea. Once a suitable call is identified, a plan should be prepared along with a road map.
At this point, steps must be taken to form a consortium. There are two options at this stage: Either a consortium must be established from scratch, or links must be made with one that already exists. Then there is the project writing process and the application. The following stage will involve the EU’s evaluation of the project application, with a positive or negative response being communicated to the consortium depending on the evaluation results.
Why is Collaboration Necessary?
Below is a list of what must be done to build the right collaboration in EU projects:
- Investigating previous studies and success stories that are associated with the project idea.
- Identifying and contacting other companies that have worked in areas related to the project idea.
- Examining the project results published through the Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS).
- Using CORDIS to find partners,
- Tracking and becoming involved in the project market, and similar events, organised by the EU and TÜBİTAK.
What we particularly recommend in this context is that these projects should not be viewed as secondary tasks; in other words, there should be employees working full-time on these projects, as their sole assignment. Following this approach ensures that tasks, such as keeping track of announcements, examining the CORDIS in detail, contacting companies that may join the consortium, and following/participating to events, can all be performed more systematically.
Incidentally, TÜBİTAK also provides travel support in order to take part in EU meetings and events abroad, or to find foreign project partners. Furthermore, if a meeting is organised in Turkey and the organisers wish to invite foreign parties, TÜBİTAK is once again the place to go for this.
Another method that can be used to increase recognition is getting involved in events organised with EU agencies. For companies in the defence and aerospace industry, acting jointly as a group is more likely to bring results than acting alone. A clear example of this was demonstrated by companies in the food industry with guidance and consultancy from the Etkin Proje.
Full Life Cycle Support for EU Projects by Etkin Proje
Nearly one-and-a-half years ago, the EU Grants Department of Etkin Proje undertook an important initiative in relation to the EU. During this period, the EU funded more than 25 projects prepared by the department. As of the end of March, there are a total of 21 new applications that have been prepared and submitted for different programmes. And as of mid-April, 17 of these projects have been approved, while the remaining ones are currently under evaluation.
The approval rate for project proposals submitted for various EU funds is in the region of 90 percent. Factors behind this high and successful rate include a good knowledge of EU programmes and regulations, experience in writing project proposals, and establishing the right connections to build the right company partnerships. The team will not prepare an official proposal for a project it does not believe in.
One of the team’s main strengths is its ability to find the best call and best partners for a project idea. This includes examining the R&D and project history of potential project partners. During the writing phase of the project, the team assumes most of the work. However, in cases where a submitted project is rejected, the application documents are prepared once more, taking into account the evaluation results, while retaining the same subject for the application. Then the application is repeated.
Etkin Proje team’s role does not end once the project is approved. The team continues to be a part of the process by providing monitoring and reporting support throughout the project. Similarly they also develop solutions for the different needs or requirements that may emerge over time (e.g. withdrawal from the project, budget revision, etc.).
The EU applies fairly rigorous and rigid inspection procedures throughout this process. Likewise, an EU inspection may take place at any time within the two years following the completion of the project, however, the Etkin Proje team provides support to the company during this stage as well.
To summarise, the Etkin Proje supports the project owner at every stage of an EU project, all the way from the proposal preparation, to the closure and inspection of the project.
The Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) is an information-sharing environment used across the EU. The CORDIS website has been online since 1994 and is available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Polish. However, scientific content is only available in English.
The main functions of CORDIS are listed as follows:
- Monitoring EU-supported research projects and their results,
- Cost-free subscriptions to research*eu results,
- Daily tracking of news and events,
- An interactive environment for making joint searches.
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