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European Funding Academy: full immersion into the Horizon 2020 world

June 22, 2017

From 13 to 16 June 2017, I had the pleasure to attend a unique event in its genre: the European Funding Academy organised yearly by Europa Media. A tradition that has become a long-awaited event and well known by researchers, consultants, public administrators and project managers. Why is it unique? It brings together under the same roof all fundamental issues you will face while dealing with EU projects from proposal development, building a consortium, drafting a budget, reporting, writing deliverables, dealing with financial issues, closing a project to potentially being audited by the European Commission.

Participants dealing with timesheets and invoices during the Financial Reporting workshop

Still doesn’t sound unique? Add the exclusivity of meeting people from all over Europe. You could have attended an event on energy efficiency and could have networked with professionals, but at such events you would meet people working in the same field. The added value of this Funding Academy is that indeed you will meet professionals working on EU projects, but coming from different universities or companies, having totally different backgrounds and working on way different topics: from health care to energy efficiency or water management and marine research. It is indeed an effective way to increase your professional network, meet future partners, get ideas for new collaborations and projects or simply get inspired by other people and their practices.

The first two days of the Academy were focused on proposal development. In the morning of the first day, we were given an overview of Horizon 2020 and the general landscape of EU research and innovation funding schemes and practical tips, examples and strategies on how to write a proposal.

The most exciting part was of course the workshop. At first, we were split into two groups of participants. The next challenge was to read a real H2020 Work Programme topic and come up with a draft of a proposal concept, objectives and potential partners by the end of the day with the help of our trainers Valentina and Ömer.

So how did we proceed? We analysed the call ourselves and had to outline the work packages by organising our work as if we were coordinating a real proposal. It was a very productive afternoon, but also very mind challenging. In the evening, as part of social programme organized by Europa Media, we went on a relaxing boat trip on the Danube to admire the city lights.

Participants during the boat trip on the Danube at sunset

Of course, a proposal concept is not enough: you need an accurate and solid work plan. This is what we did during the workshop on the second day: we established specific tasks, their timeline and the distribution of efforts between partners based on the project idea we created the previous day.

The third and the fourth day were focused on reporting and financial management of a Horizon 2020 project. It started with Krisztina explaining how to handle the technical management and periodic and final reporting. After Gabor gave a detailed understanding of the Horizon 2020 financial rules, we had to apply our fresh knowledge and prepare a financial statement for a simulated Horizon 2020 project. The most surprising part was when we were given the solutions at the end of the workshop and discovered all the mistakes we made in analysing the invoices.

Participants networking and exchanging ideas during coffee break

All in all, the event was well-rounded and gave me a good overview of the life cycle of an EU project. Does all this sound appealing to you? You can join the next European Funding Academy in June 2018. But, if you don’t like waiting and want to learn more about Horizon 2020 funding scheme and project management, feel free to join us in one of our upcoming courses organised in different cities in Europe.

By: Cosmina Bisboaca

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Learn how to save energy in the office with our new interactive game developed for the START2ACT project!

June 15, 2017

As a group of SMEs, we at Europa Media and Geonardo are well familiar with the need to apply energy saving practices in our offices. In fact, that is where we drew our inspiration for the START2ACT project. Now, as the project is in its second year, we are never short of creative ideas for engaging ways to deliver our main message – start to act and save energy at work!

Apart from our recently published Knowledge Base, listing all the tips, documents, solutions, tools and products on energy efficiency for SMEs and start-ups, we are working on the e-learning environment targeting office staff and company CEOs.

Before the launch of the e-learning course, Europa Media developed and released a teaser tool – the START2ACT Energy Saving Game.

Having tested the game last week at a networking event, Budapest Business Party, where it generated great interest from dozens of Hungarian business representatives, we are proudly presenting it to a wider audience on the START2ACT website.

Our project managers present the START2ACT project and the Energy Saving Game to visitors

The idea behind the game is to introduce, in a quick and interesting way, the practice of using several office devices that can act as the most efficient measures to cut your office utility bill this summer. We’ve made sure to create an engaging game. Therefore, players should pay special attention as we’ve included a number of tricks and potential traps. The added value of the game is the additional knowledge it conveys, as each correct/incorrect answer includes an explanation of the energy saving potential for each device chosen.

We hope you will enjoy playing our game and taking part in our upcoming e-learning courses (to be released in September).

If you work or run an SME or a start-up, be sure to join START2ACT in order to stay updated on our activities and platform news.

By: Liliya Levandovska


Revolutionize your skills as an innovation intermediary with our e-learning solutions!

June 7, 2017

Listening to the needs of the innovation intermediaries, the INNO-4-AGRIFOOD project launched e-learning solutions which aim to enhance service portfolios and skills within innovation consultants in the agri-food sector.

INNO-4-AGRIFOOD is an EU-funded project set on fostering and stimulating online collaboration for innovation amongst more than 11 million SMEs active within the European Agri-food ecosystem. The project offers completely novel, innovative and free-of-charge innovation support services, tools and e-learning courses that aim to:

  • Unlock the innovation and collaboration potential of agri-food SMEs at local, national and international level; and
  • Enhance the service portfolio of innovation consultants and SME support networks, enabling them to provide even more effective support to their clients.

Within this project, Europa Media developed the e-learning platform which contains 14 modules divided under 7 training sections:

  • Agri-food industry (State of the art and emerging technologies; Emerging trends; Characteristics of the agri-food ecosystem, including EU-funding; Key features of important networks, such as TRADEIT, TRAFOON and more)
  • Support service skills (Practical approaches for identifying customer needs; Key business advisor concepts, i.e. business plans, market analyses and more; Effective communication with your SME clients)
  • Soft skills (The basics of building trust; Getting your message across)
  • Collaboration skills (Overcoming barriers in initiating international collaborations; Various tools to monitor collaboration with and of your SME client; IPR protection for innovative agri-food SMEs)
  • Innovation management skills (The concept of innovation management in the agri-food ecosystem; Work on innovation management with your clients)
  • ICT skills (Online collaboration platforms, tools and applications)
  • INNO-4-AGRIFOOD services (Introduction to the INNO-4-AGRIFOOD innovation support services)

Currently, over 100 participants are using the modules, benefiting from the content developed from the project partners and based on the feedback, a final version of the platform will be developed.

E-learning module within I4A platform

Abreast of the e-learning platform, the INNO-4-AGRIFOOD project provides additional services and tools aimed at assisting innovation consultants.  The services enable consultants to find out what collaborations they can see in order to improve their businesses, identify innovation opportunities online, and understand how to use web and mobile apps to enhance collaborations. This is an extremely useful approach for innovation consultants as it will be in the form of a free toolkit and they will be assisted by their own personal coach, every step of the way.

The INNO-4-AGRIFOOD Smart tools are a single-entry point for all relevant information about the agri-food industry, for innovation consultants and agri-food SMEs. These tools gather all the information such as current trends, state-of-the-art technologies, practical solutions and funding opportunities, thus providing users with a convenient way to be up to speed with the developments in this sector.

Can INNO-4-AGRIFOOD assist SMEs as well?

Yes, there are separate services which the SMEs can utilize. These services help SMEs to establish collaborations to improve their businesses (how to better understand the needs and characteristics of their businesses, identify partners and innovation opportunities for market success), to identify innovation opportunities online (learn how online collaboration can ease day-to-day work and finally, to use web and mobile apps to enhance collaborations (recommendations for widely-used remote collaboration applications and how to make the best use out of them).

What makes these services even more beneficial is the fact that they are free of charge, can be personalized, they will be delivered by a pool of well-trained consultants and can be accessed in person or remotely.

If you would like to gain access to and benefit from the leading-edge tools and services from INNO-4-AGRIFOOD, visit our project website and start today!

By: Frosina Ilievska

The Ocean Conference is around the corner!

May 26, 2017

From June 5th – 9th, coinciding with World Oceans Day, the United Nations will host at its headquarters in New York a high-level conference to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

The Ocean Conference aims to be the game changer that will reverse the decline in the health of our ocean for people, planet and prosperity. It will be solutions-focused with engagement from all.

The Conference shall comprise in its programme plenary meetings, partnership dialogues and a special event commemorating World Oceans Day. Furthermore, the Conference shall adopt by consensus a concise, focused, intergovernmentally agreed declaration in the form of a “Call for Action” to support the implementation of Goal 14 and a report containing the co-chairs’ summaries of the partnership dialogues, as well as a list of voluntary commitments (initiatives voluntarily undertaken by Governments, the UN system, other intergovernmental organizations, international and regional financial institutions, non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations, academic and research institutions, the scientific community, the private sector, philanthropic organizations and other actors – individually or in partnership – that aim to contribute to the implementation of SDG 14) to be announced at the Conference.

The importance of this conference was stressed by the President of the General Assembly:

“The Ocean Conference represents humanity’s best opportunity to remedy the woes we have placed upon the ocean. Those woes are extensive: from marine pollution to overfishing and destructive fishing practices; from harmful fisheries subsidies to lack of high seas governance; from rising levels of ocean acidity to rising ocean temperatures. If the cycle of decline that accumulated human activity has brought upon the ocean is not reversed, the implications for us all cannot be good”. 

You can follow the Ocean Conference live through SDG Media Zone website and social platforms, and keep up with news at the Conference website.

Geonardo follows closely the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — adopted by world leaders in September 2015 — and furthermore, through our projects, we are joining the global wave to take action and help address the Global Goals.

Our Research and Innovation actions have targeted so far SDG #7 on affordable and clean energy through Start2Act and TASIO, SDG #12 on responsible consumption and production through the project PlasCarb, and SDG #9 on industry, innovation and infrastructure with our projects FORBIO and FISSAC.  Keep tuned to find out about our new ideas to address other of the SDGs.

By: Mariana Mata Lara

EU Blue Growth in Action & European Maritime Day

May 18, 2017

The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) funded 15 new blue growth projects that will help enhance career opportunities, stimulate the creativity of young researchers and bring research results faster to the market.

With 84 partners from 17 countries, the new BG projects will join the European Maritime Day (EMD), the key annual meeting point for Europe’s maritime community to network, discuss and forge joint action. This year, the EMD 2017 “The Future of our Seas” conference and exhibition will take place from 18-19 May 2017 in Poole, in the UK, with up to 1000 participants expected.

Out of all the projects, three projects have been selected to present during the EMD plenary session on 19th May – these are:

If you want to read more about the other 12 blue careers, labs and technology projects, you can check EASME’s site. And if you will not be able to go to Poole, you can also check the list with the 27 EMD events across the EU to spot an event near you to celebrate the 10th European Maritime Day!

By: Mariana Mata Lara

Passing on the START2ACT strategy to support European young SMEs and startups

May 2, 2017

Our H2020 project START2ACT has now completed the first of its three years. This past period was all about preparing the START2ACT support programme on Energy Efficiency to people at young SMEs and startups – all public outcomes of this period have been collected and provided here.

The upcoming project period has been launched with an event of major importance for the START2ACT members: The Training of Trainers on the 28. – 30.03.2017 in London.

All 11 partner companies of the consortium met in the British capital and spent three days together to receive training sessions from our START2ACT Energy Experts Carbon Trust, our startup ecosystem insiders startups.be and finally on the third day to close the meeting days with a general project assembly.

The Training of Trainers concept

The two Training of Trainers sessions aimed at educating the project partners in rolling out two of the START2ACT Energy Efficiency activities, namely on-site consultancy for SMEs and mentoring for startups, in the nine participating START2ACT countries. As the partners are all energy agencies and consultancy companies active in the energy efficiency field, they are now well prepared to support the two START2ACT target groups, young SMEs and startups.

Lucy Hunt, Paul McKinney and the team from the Carbon Trust delivered the first day Training of Trainers for the Energy Efficiency support to young SMEs. Within the START2ACT consultancy programme, the national partners will provide a free of charge, tailor-made support programme to young SMEs in order to understand and increase energy efficiency, and thereby help boost the companies’ potential to save energy and costs.

Diana Pati from Startups.be provided on the second day the Training of Trainers for the Energy Efficiency support programme to startups. One of the often-emphasised points during this training session was that startups often have very limited resources for additional topics outside of their original business scope. However, if once embraced an energy conscious company mindset and put this statement at the outset of their value proposition, any startup may boost its position to enter the market. Thus, the START2ACT startup mentoring programme will employ an innovative and lean structure to support startups in energy efficiency.

Influence the future business landscape – replicable strategy across Europe

Moreover, START2ACT seeks at transferring its amassed knowledge to other parties in Europe and beyond who might also be interested in assisting young SMEs and startups in adopting a more energy efficient behaviour. For this reason, the training kits (curriculum for the training) as well as manuals (instructions for the trainer) and handbooks (step-by-step guidance to roll out the support programmes) both for SMEs and startups have been published in the Results and downloads section of the START2ACT web page.

At START2ACT we are dedicated to supporting the players of our future European business landscape towards becoming more energy efficient – we are happy to hear your opinions and try and answer your questions no matter if you are coming from a young SME, a startup or wanting to adopt the training strategy.

By: Daniel Frohnmaier

Horizon 2020 project website – the anchor of your online presence

April 28, 2017

Your proposal is finally becoming a project? Congratulations! As part of the project implementation, you will need to build and continuously strengthen your online presence.

Where to start from? Building a website is usually a good starting point, but do not limit yourself to a standard website just for the sake of having one: before being a deliverable, a website is the online image of your project, the main anchor for all the social media channels and the key tool to attract an audience. So you’d better awake visitors’ curiosity for seeking more information about the project.

What key points to consider when building it? We have some suggestions for you, check them out:

1. What are the aims of the project? Make sure you give a clear overview of the project in an easy and understandable way. Do not use a language that is too specific and scientific, as your broader audience most likely does not need to understand the technical parts, but rather the final aim of the project. Then, present the problem or issue that you identified and clarify how your project is going to deal or solve it without forgetting to highlight the improvements your project will bring to the society.

2. Show that you are not alone. You spent all that time looking for the right partners and aligning all those different points of view, so I bet you do not want to keep them for yourself now. Proudly introduce your partners, one of the key strengths of your project, and the added value and contribution each of them will make. Present them one by one, with their logo and website, so that people can check more information on them.

3. Publish the findings and outcomes of your project step by step. Every time you produce a new report, product or service it is good practice to upload the relevant documents on your website to show your audience the continuous progress of your work or even to receive some input for additional research directions or interesting perspectives. Creating an archive with the results is also a good idea, especially because some deliverables are set as public by the European Commission. In order to make it more appealing, you should avoid keeping simply the official name of the deliverable (such as D1.1) , as people may be scared off and it could sound boring. Go for titles that fully reflect the content. Let’s say that you could name a deliverable Report on mapping the CEE start-up ecosystems instead of D1.1.

4. Keep it updated! It might be difficult as you have other priorities, but a website section with 8 months old news might give a wrong impression on the whole project. So dedicate it more time and promote regularly your activities, opportunities (conferences, funding) or meetings with the partners. People will see how active the project is and will feel more engaged as they can follow the entire process.

5. Visual identity. The project has its own brand so try to coordinate all the visual elements under the same colour, shapes and style so that people will recognize it when they see it elsewhere.  Remember always to keep in mind what you want to communicate with its identity and whom you are communicating to. A start-up project working with students should not look nor feel similar to a project targeting the scientific community. The visual elements, especially the logo, will appear on all social media channels, video, events and official documents so make sure that it is done by a professional and that it fits the project’s needs.

6. Introduce yourself! Visitors of the site will want to know who you are and they will expect a contact person to be in touch with in case they want to cooperate or just want to ask for further information. Finally, do not forget to show where you are based. It is true that we live in a digital era, but showing your location will make people feel reassured.

7. Let’s be social!  Earlier we mentioned the importance of social media channels, but which ones to use? For EU projects we strongly recommend Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. It’s important to create icons in the site to redirect people to these channels so that your audience can stay in touch with you in an even easier way commenting or asking you questions directly.

Easier said than done! But hey, these are the things that will truly make your project stand out. Here we showed you examples of our projects PlasCarb, BILAT USA 4.0 and PLANHEAT.

Do you have a cool website for you project? Don’t be shy and show us!

By: Cosmina Bisboaca