European funding: Making the case for investment and assessing project success

Although European Structural and Investment Funds will shortly be coming to an end, the run up to the closure of the programmes continues to provide a strong workstream for the ekosgen team and funding opportunities for our clients. In recent months our team has been busy both preparing funding applications for clients and undertaking summative assessments (ERDF terminology for monitoring and evaluation) for a wide range of project interventions.

Making the case for investment…

ERDF requires applicants to complete a two stage application process – an outline application followed by a full application for those projects that are invited to proceed to the next stage. Having someone to guide you through the process – including understanding ERDF terminology – can be of value with ekosgen able to work with clients to both draft applications and provide a review and advice function for applicant led submissions.   

Our recent project development workload has focused on a series of research, development and innovation schemes. Working for universities and local authorities across the UK, we have prepared a series of outline applications over the past six months for projects including university innovation facilities and local authority innovation centres and support services.  The team is now working on full applications for three innovation projects (comprising both capital and revenue activity) in the north of England.

Current projects build on ekosgen’s extensive bid writing experience built over the last 15+ years including securing funding for the National Graphene Institute (£23m ERDF), Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (£5m ERDF), The Sharp Project (£3m ERDF), Space Studios (£4m ERDF), Somerset Enterprise Centres (£1m ERDF) and Chorley Digital Office Park (£4m ERDF).

If you are interested in securing funding through the final funding calls, click here https://www.gov.uk/european-structural-investment-funds?fund_state%5B%5D=open for details of live calls for projects and details of how to apply. Opportunities to secure funding through a reserves fund are also expected to be advertised later this year with a number of Local Enterprise Partnerships encouraging potential applicants to consider projects that could come forward for funding and be deliverable within programme timescales (with activity to conclude by the end of June 2023).

…and reflecting on project achievements and good practice

Under the current programme, ERDF grant funding agreements place a requirement on all grant recipients to complete a summative assessment. The guidance requires assessments to consider five themes:

  • The continued relevance and consistency of the project;
  • Progress against contracted targets;
  • Experience of delivering and managing the project;
  • The economic impact attributable to the project; and
  • Cost-effectiveness and value for money.

Clients have an important decision to make about the timing of a summative assessment appointment. Do you appoint a contractor to work with you from the early stage of a project – providing support to prepare the summative assessment plan and establish appropriate monitoring systems – or appoint them towards the end of the delivery period to solely look back on project achievements?

Whilst meeting the funder’s requirements is a key consideration, ekosgen’s approach is also to consider how the assessment can add value for the client. For example, how has activity supported progress against the applicant’s own objectives? What lessons are there for the way future activities are delivered and managed internally?

Our recent experience includes completing summative assessments for all of Lancaster University’s ERDF projects funded under the 2014-20 programme (including business support programmes, innovation schemes and low carbon activities) and the North East Process Industries Cluster’s SME Growth Programme. The team has also recently been appointed to complete summative assessments of the University of Sheffield’s Translational Energy Research Centre (a project that will see us working with the team for over three years) and the North East Technical Assistance project.

If ekosgen can be of any assistance in preparing funding bids and/or completing summative assessments for existing project activities please contact Kirsten Powell on 0845 644 3023 or Kirsten.powell@ekosgen.co.uk