How to know it is time to hire a consultant?
In our September article, we made sure you know all about EU policies and EU programmes, about grants and procurements. We also briefly structured the key steps to a successfully EU funded project. This time, we aim to look a bit closer to what is it that a consultant on EU funding should know and be able to tell you upfront and how much it could set you back.
What will a consultant know, that you don’t?
They will save you tens of hours of digging through the bureaucracy of the EU funding mechanisms.”
They will mainly know where to look for the specific type of funding that can serve your project or business. Furthermore, they will speak the language and be able to translate your idea or business plan into a potentially winning case. Equally important, they will know policy priorities and where to look for previous winning projects, so they can build a relevant case for you. Simply put, they will save you tens of hours of digging through the bureaucracy of the EU funding mechanisms.
Google displays about 368,000 results if you search for “Horizon 2020 calls”. Quite general of a search, indeed. It gets to only 233,000 results when you narrow it down and try to be a bit more specific, and you look for “Horizon 2020 ICT 2015”. So what do you do, if you are looking for EU funding for your ICT project for the year to come? A consultant will sit down with you and thoroughly look through the specifications of our project, will be able to direct you to the specific budgeting lines and evaluate together with you the compatibilities between your intended project outcome and the specific objectives of an EU funded action.
The Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2014-2015 on Information and Communication Technologies announced 39 calls for proposals in spring 2014. Each of these calls addresses a specific ICT sector challenge, has a pre-defined scope, sets a clear expected impact and funds particular types of action. Left alone, one could easily invest days just in pinpointing the one suitable call for proposals.
Consultancy fees and costs structures
Usually, the hourly rate gravitates around 50 euros excluding VAT.”
It is the usual practice that an EU funding consultant will either work on hourly-basis or on commission. The first option may be preferred: in collaboration with the client, the consultant will decide on the number of hours required to prepare a complete proposal, with a margin of five hours plus or minus on average.
Usually, the hourly rate gravitates around 50 euros excluding VAT. As a second option, a consultant may charge a minimum number of hours for the preparation and submission of a proposal as an upfront fixed fee, which usually amounts to the equivalent of 10 hours or 500 euros excluding VAT. Upon winning, a commission in between 5 per cent to 20 per cent is charged depending on the total budget applied for and on the experience of the consultant.
What is the alternative?
You must plan at least a six-month period before the submission deadline for the research work.”
You are always free to invest resources in building the in-house competencies you need instead. The Internet is a seemingly infinite source of information, and you can learn by doing. Yet, since you most probably won’t have a full-time dedicated employee to do the job, you must plan at least a six-month period before the submission deadline for the research work and the preparation of the project application. And you have to be ready to allocate full days to the consultation of hundreds of pages documents, from calls or procurement specifications to financial guidelines to technical specifications.
Once you have synthetised the objectives, exclusions criteria and winning criteria alike, you will be able to go back to your project idea to restructure and reframe it in line with the specific objectives identified.
Throughout the process, you may want to discuss with peers in your communities who have been through the exercise of developing an EU project, and make use of EU funds dedicated platforms such as welcomeurope.
Preparing an application for an EU-funded project is a complex job. You either have the time to invest in acquiring, structuring and digesting the necessary knowledge, or you have the money to pay a consultant to assist you through the process towards submitting a potentially successful application. Either way, it is an investment you will have to make if you want to be in the running at all.
About the author:
Madalina Serban is a mid-career switcher, an NGO founder and an aspiring social business owner. Born in Romania, she lived, worked and studied in Bucharest, Vienna and Brussels. She left her corporate international career in digital marketing in 2011 in Vienna, started her own individual coursework in social development in Kathmandu, Nepal and back to Europe she completed a master in European Studies in Brussels in 2012. She is currently working as an EU Funding consultant within the social entrepreneurship sector in Vienna.