II.2 Drafting and Submitting a Project Proposal

This chapter focuses on the most important aspects to be considered when drafting and submitting an application form. The application form has to be filled in and submitted through the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE electronic monitoring system “Jems”. More detailed guidance on how to fill in the application form is available in call-specific offline application form templates, which are included in the call-specific application packages available at the programme website. Tutorials on how to fill in the application form are also available at the programme YouTube Channel.

II.2.1 The Application Form in a Nutshell

In the application form all essential information about the project must be clearly presented as it is the basis for the quality assessment and subsequently the project selection by the programme MC (see chapter II.4 and the call-specific ToR). The application form must be filled in in all its parts and in English.

In case a project proposal is selected for funding, the approved application form becomes part of the subsidy contract and the basis against which the project is implemented by the partnership and monitored by the programme.

II.2.1.1 Structure

The Interreg CE application form builds on the harmonised template developed by the community of Interreg programmes under the umbrella of Interact.[1]

The application form is organised in five main parts and several sub-sections:

Please note: In the online application form some fields in various (sub-) sections will be automatically filled in by the system, displaying data which are inserted in other sections of the application form or which are automatically calculated.

More detailed guidance for each part of the application form is provided in the offline template of the application form in the call-specific application packages.

II.2.1.2 Project Work Plan (application form Section C.4)

The work plan must clearly show how project objectives and results will be achieved. It should demonstrate a mature and concrete plan for developing the foreseen outputs. The work plan description should focus on the main implementation steps and avoid too many details and fragmentation. This will also increase flexibility for the project during implementation and allow the partnership to adjust activities to specific needs and upcoming developments. 

Before drafting the work plan, please refer to chapter I.3 on project features and key principles of the project intervention logic. Furthermore, it is recommended to consult further guidance on work plan development, provided through applicant support measures.

The work plan has to be structured into a set of thematic work packages. It is recommended to limit the number of thematic work packages to a maximum of three. However, if needed and justified by the complexity of the project, up to a maximum of five thematic work packages can be defined. Work packages have to be broken down into activities, deliverables and outputs. A work package may include investments if these are necessary as part of a pilot action to reach project objectives.

Work Package Objectives

In each work package a project shall define one project specific objective to be achieved in the project lifetime through the implementation of planned activities and related outputs and deliverables. Please note that each work package should have a distinct project specific objective (i.e. project specific objectives should not be repeated in other work packages).

Each work package should also have at least one communication objective, and related target audiences, that contributes to the achievement of the project specific objective.

Activities, Deliverables and Outputs

Activities are necessary for achieving project specific and communication objectives set in a work package. They have to contribute to the development of the planned output(s), to their roll-out or to their up-scaling. Please note that smaller intermediate steps should be grouped into (larger) thematic activities. These are to be considered as the main implementation steps. The number of activities per work package depends on its complexity, such as the number and type of outputs to be developed. Usually no more than 4 to 6 activities per work package should be foreseen.

Please note that all projects have to implement a set of standard communication channels and activities (project website, poster, etc.), as described in chapter III.1.3. These standard communication channels and activities must not be planned in the work plan section of the application form.

However, project-specific communication activities should be included in relation to the project communication objectives and thematic activities: Communication activities should not be listed as stand-alone activities (i.e. not as one of the main implementation steps) but be included as smaller steps in the “Activity description” column of a bigger thematic activity (e.g. “Social media posts and a public event to promote the launch of a pilot action and reach target audiences xy”).

In specific cases, a communication activity may be a main implementation step for reaching a thematic objective, in which case it could be listed as a separate activity (e.g. a thorough stakeholder engagement process or a public awareness campaign across various communication channels). More guidance on how to include communication activities is available in tutorials at the programme YouTube channel.

Please note that properly branding all project thematic and communication activities will be crucial for their eligibility (see chapter I.4.4.2).

In order to document the implementation of activities, at least one deliverable should be defined per activity. Deliverables should present in an aggregated form the outcomes of intermediate (smaller) steps within a certain activity by consolidating them into meaningful clusters. A deliverable should thus be sufficiently comprehensive. Overall, it is recommended to limit the total number of deliverables per work package (e.g. not more than three deliverables per activity), also keeping in mind that project implementation will be monitored against the deliverables foreseen in the application form.

When planning outputs, please refer to the output types defined by the programme, which have to be captured by related output indicators (see chapter I.3.4). Definitions of output indicators can be found in annex 6.

Please pay attention also to a realistic timing of activities, deliverables and outputs. Project implementation will have to report project implementation by submitting the deliverables and outputs according to the delivery dates set in the application form (see chapter III.2.3.1 on continuous reporting).

Investments (if applicable)

Investments are only to be foreseen if they are necessary for the implementation of project activities linked to pilot actions. Investments shall have a demonstrative character. Programme requirements for investments are described in chapter I.3.3.3. Please note that for investments in infrastructure with an expected lifespan of at least five years, the expected impacts of climate change and, if applicable, mitigation measures for increasing climate resilience need to be described in order to demonstrate how climate proofing will be ensured.

For each investment exceeding EUR 25.000 total cost a clear and concise description needs to be provided. This shall include a justification of the investment, its physical location, information on its environmental sustainability and risks, technical and legal requirements and ownership. For determining the total amount of the investment, only items falling under cost categories 5 (Equipment) and 6 (Infrastructure and works) should be considered.

Investments equal to or below EUR 25.000 total costs only have to be briefly described under the related activity and to be specified in the concerned partner budget.

The following figure provides a visualisation of the general structure of the work plan. It also shows the link to the project overall objective and the expected results which are defined at project level.

Please note: The work plan includes only thematic work packages and there are no separate work packages for project management and communication in the application form. The overall approach to project management and communication has to be described in section C.7 of the application form (see below).

Communication supports the achievement and capitalisation of project outputs and results.To this end, external communication is closely linked to thematic work packages. Communication objectives and activities have to be directly planned and integrated in thematic work packages.

Project management activities are to be considered as horizontal tasks and are therefore not to be described in the project work plan. Instead, a sound project management concept has to be presented in section C.7 of the application form (see below). Costs of management activities have anyway to be foreseen and included in the project budget.

II.2.1.3 Project Management and Communication (application form Section C.7)

Projects need to establish a clear management concept including a decision-making structure. This allows them to steer and monitor project progress and, in case of unforeseen situations or risks, to adjust project implementation and find adequate mitigation measures. Such a management structure should comprise, among others, a project steering committee (see chapter III.1.1 on project start up) that should meet with an adequate frequency (e.g. twice per year). JS staff shall be invited to such meetings.

Furthermore, projects should set clear provisions for quality management (including evaluation, if relevant), internal communication as well as reporting procedures at the level of partners towards the LP.

The general approach to communication should describe how communication objectives and activities as defined in the individual work packages across the work plan will help to achieve the project’s overall result(s). In this section of the application form it should become clear which role communication plays in the project and how it is approached by the partnership. The description should explain which channels will be used by whom in which way for what reason. It is recommended to define this general approach before defining concrete communication objectives and activities in the thematic work packages.

II.2.1.4 Additional Documents

The following additional documents have to be uploaded to Jems as scans in the “Application annexes” section of the application form:

  • Lead partner declaration, filled in and signed by the legal representative (or delegated person) of the lead applicant organisation;
  • Partner declaration of each project partner, filled in and signed by the respective legal representative (or delegated person).

Lead partner and partner declarations may also be signed digitally with a qualified electronic signature compliant with the eIDAS Regulation (Regulation (EU) No. 910/2014).

In case of signature by delegated persons, each affected declaration must be accompanied by a document confirming the validity of such delegation.

The templates of lead partner and partner declarations are available at the programme website.[2] They are provided both as editable PDFs documents (compatible with the most recent version of Adobe Reader) and as protected MS Word documents.

Please note that if the lead partner declaration is not signed, the application becomes non-eligible and is rejected. For further information on the formal and administrative requirements to be observed when submitting the application form please refer to chapter II.4.1.

Private lead applicants shall also submit the following documents in Jems in the “Application annexes” section of the application form:

  • Interreg CE simplified financial statement (included in the call-specific application package available at the programme website). The document has to be filled in by private lead applicants transcribing – under their responsibility – the financial data that is officially available in financial documents of the last two financial years. The simplified financial statement includes two sheets (one for every financial year) and both must be completely filled in and uploaded to Jems as an MS Excel file.
  • Balance sheets and profit and loss accounts of the last two financial years. If a private lead applicant does not have these documents because the organisation was only recently created, then the institution cannot apply as a lead applicant but can only participate as a project partner (see chapter I.3.1.1). As an exception, new legal entities deriving from an extraordinary merger between two or more entities, or from an incorporation, can provide the balance sheets and profit and loss accounts of the last two financial years of the merged or incorporated entity with the majority shareholding. Documents have to be uploaded to Jems as a scanned PDF file.
  • Audit report issued by an approved external auditor. The audit report shall certify the accounts of the private lead applicant for the last financial year. This document is to be delivered by a professionally qualified auditor who is independent from the applicant’s organisation and who is listed in the official auditor registers of the respective Member States. The audit report must be uploaded in Jems as a scanned PDF file.
  • In the case that the private lead applicant is not able to obtain the audit report,itcan alternatively provide a reference letter from the bank where the private lead applicant holds an account. The letter should be provided on the official letterhead of the bank and make reference to the customer (i.e. the private lead applicant institution). The letter should state that the institution is a customer, the duration of the banking relationship and confirm that the customer, up to date, has met its commitments and made bank transactions regularly thus concluding that the customer is favourably known because it has adequate solvency requirements. The letter has to be uploaded to Jems as a scanned PDF file.

II.2.2 Creating and Submitting Project Proposals through Jems

Project proposals can only be created and submitted through the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE Jems (https://jems.interreg-central.eu).

After registration in Jems, a user can create a project proposal when there is an open call for proposals. The project proposal can be developed and saved gradually. In order to make sure that information inserted is not lost, the user should ensure that information is saved regularly. Pre-submission checks in Jems help applicants to see missing or wrongly filled in parts of the application form. These should be run timely before the deadline of a call becuase a project proposal can only be submitted once all pre-submission checks are passed successfully.

All obligatory documents required in addition to the application form have to be uploaded to Jems in the “Application annexes” section of the application form before submission of the project proposal.

The project proposal can only be submitted by the user that created the project proposal, who should be the lead applicant, or a user assigned to the project application as collaborators and granted the “manage” privilege in the “Project privileges” section.

Project proposals have to be submitted before the deadline stated in the call-specific ToRs.

Further guidance on the different sections and features is available through the Jems help function “helpdesk” (“?” button in the menu) at jems.interreg-central.eu.

II.2.3 Tips for Developing a Good Project Proposal

The preparation of a project proposal is a challenging process, especially in a transnational cooperation context, and the competition for funding is high. This chapter presents some key features of a good project proposal:

  • A good project has a clear and relevant intervention logic

Each project has to clearly address the territorial challenges and needs of the programme area and especially of the regions involved and to contribute to achieving one of the programme SOs, outlined in the IP. If applicable, a thematic focus of the SOs has to be considered if specified in the ToR of the respective call for proposals. Projects need to specify which particular project objectives and results they want to achieve, in particular specifying the intended territorial effects and change. Project objectives and results should be as concrete as possible, quantifiable and their achievement shall be measurable.

Project proposals not clearly contributing to programme objectives and results and not demonstrating their need and relevance for the involved cities and regions are not supported by the Interreg CE Programme.

  • A good project shows clear added value of transnational cooperation

Transnational cooperation has to be at the heart of every Interreg CE project. This means that the project approach and work plan have to demonstrate that the challenges addressed cannot be solved efficiently by individual regions or countries alone. Project outputs need to be developed in a transnational, joint approach that goes beyond the mere combination of existing outputs and results. All partners have to work together and to contribute with their competences, in order to achieve the planned results. Cooperation in the project should bring a clear transnational added value compared to regional, national or cross-border approaches. A project is not considered as transnational if it foresees only local actions that are just vaguely linked through a common topic or an exchange of experiences.

Project proposals not addressing a challenge of transnational relevance or covering only issues fundable by regional, national or cross-border programmes are not supported by the Interreg CE Programme.

  • A good project is innovative and builds on available knowledge

Interreg CE projects have to clearly demonstrate their innovativeness. They have to apply novel or innovative approaches that go beyond the state of the art in a specific sector or in the involved regions. Innovation could cover, for example, technological, social, and process innovation or eco-innovation. Innovative approaches could result from, for example: the testing and demonstration of novel tools and solutions within different (regional or sectoral) contexts; the experimental piloting of new methods or services for future mainstreaming or policy integration; the capitalisation of available and state-of-the-art knowledge.

At the same time, projects should build on previous achievements and available knowledge, which should be adapted, valorised and further improved or extended. Applicants should therefore be aware of recent developments and results achieved in the sector or areas concerned. Projects should demonstrate the added-value compared to past or on-going initiatives and make use of potential synergies, but avoid overlaps and duplication of activities and results.

Project proposals not demonstrating their added value compared to state-of-the-art solutions or showing overlaps with other projects or initiatives are not supported by the Interreg CE Programme.

  • A good project is well focused with a sound approach and a mature work plan

Projects need to apply a sound methodological approach which is suitable and realistic for reaching the project specific objectives and expected results. This has to be reflected in the work plan in a logic and consistent way. The work plan needs to be transparent and straightforward. It has to provide a good overview of the intended workflow (through activities and relevant deliverables) and a clear definition of the outputs to be achieved. The work plan should demonstrate the concrete implementation process of the project and concentrate on the most important implementation steps. It should focus only on relevant activities and deliverables which are directly leading to the planned project outputs and their roll-out or upscaling, thus contributing to the achievement of the project objectives and results (for work plan development please refer also to chapter II.2.1.2).

  • A good project has a relevant, competent and committed partnership

In order to effectively achieve the project objectives and ensure the sustainability of project results, it is crucial to have the right partners on board. Therefore, when setting up the partnership, the required thematic competences and expertise, geographical coverage as well as institutional relevance and capacity have to be considered. Depending on the goals and thematic scope of the project, this can imply the involvement of different governance levels (national, regional and local authorities) as well as other organisations such as research institutions, agencies, enterprises or relevant stakeholders and end-users. Partnerships should also be multi-disciplinary and cross-sectoral, thus combining different experiences and skills in order to allow integrated approaches and achieve best results in the involved regions.

However, partnerships do not necessarily have to be large. They should remain focussed and manageable, with each partner having a specific role to play. All partners have to be actively involved in a way that demonstrates the joint implementation and transnational cooperation character of the project (for partnership requirements please refer also to chapter I.3.1.1).

Project proposals with partnerships not showing sufficient competencies, implementation capacities or transnationality are not supported by the Interreg CE Programme.

  • A good project has a strong management that ensures high quality outputs and results and mitigates risks in coordination with partners

The implementation of a transnational cooperation project with partners from several countries, different institutional backgrounds and working cultures can be challenging. Therefore, an effective project management structure with clear decision-making procedures as well as clear definition and distribution of roles is essential. Provisions for a sound project management should foresee, among others, a good information flow and coordination within the partnership in order to ensure smooth implementation of the project activities. Quality controls and internal reviews (at thematic and management level) as well as risk management should be integral parts of project management practices in order to be able to mitigate implementation risks and ensure a successful accomplishment of the project outputs and results.

  • A good project has a strong communication manager who coordinates all communication activities across the partnership and work packages

External communication that is driven and coordinated by an experienced communication manager is essential for a successful project. Well-defined communication objectives support the achievement of thematic objectives and communication activities complement thematic activities. If done well, communication raises the necessary awareness and provides information on thematic activities. It might even help to change the attitude of relevant stakeholders towards the changes aimed for by the project. Communication activities furthermore contribute to the capitalisation of achieved project outputs and results and aim at their roll out into broader policies, strategies and action plans (see above).

  • A good project delivers value for money

Projects need to demonstrate value for money. The project budget needs to reflect the work plan and must be in line with the principles of adequacy of costs and sound financial management (i.e. economy, efficiency and effectiveness).

Sound planning of financial and human resources is essential to ensure the successful implementation of a project. In terms of human resources, enough staff capacity needs to be available to implement the planned activities (both at the lead partner and partner institutions) right from the beginning.

Project proposals not showing a good value for money are not supported by the Interreg CE Programme.

  • A good project ensures the uptake of its results generating a long-lasting change and benefits for its target groups and the regions involved

Interreg CE projects are expected to take a strategic perspective to achieve tangible and sustainable results that are taken up by the relevant institutions. Projects have to clearly set whom they will target and who will benefit from the project results. It is therefore essential that the needs and institutional contexts of key stakeholders are considered and that they are actively involved in the project design and implementation. Transnational cooperation projects thereby often have a seeding function: they are supposed to kick-off further developments (e.g. leverage of larger investments, improvement of policies). The uptake and transfer of results, the deployment at a larger scale and the mainstreaming are therefore a crucial success factor. In this context, communication plays an essential role to raise awareness and knowledge about project outputs and results and to motivate relevant stakeholders to take them up (see tip above).

[1] For more information on the Harmonised Implementation Tools (HIT) initiative organised by the Interact Programme, please visit: www.interact-eu.net/#o=hit-2021-2027.

[2] Please note that for international organisations acting under international law there is a dedicated template of partner declaration.