26.07.2016 [News]

Success Story: The Twinning Grants

Background

Twinning has a long tradition in Europe as an efficient instrument in the capacity building process. It was successfully used in the building of the governmental capacities in the New Member States and afterwards it was inherited in many other areas (governmental institutions, municipal organisations, universities, schools etc.). Furthermore many FP7 NCP projects use twinning as an instrument to build capacities in other countries. The concept of twinning typically includes a direct exchange of experience between people, personal presence, on site consulting in the beneficiary country and it is based on trainer-trainee relationships, where one participant in the process is giving and the other is receiving expertise.

Twinning in IncoNet CA

The IncoNet CA consortium used this instrument to enhance EU-Central Asia S&T cooperation and to increase capacities on both sides. The grant scheme described below became a tool for developing sustainable EU-Central Asia cooperation among experienced partners in the realm of research.

Within IncoNet CA, an adopted 'Twinning Grants' funding instrument was implemented, which represents one of the core project activities. The main goal of the twinning action was to

  • enhance mutual learning,
  • strengthen cooperation between the EU Member States and the Central Asian countries,
  • and plant the seed for sustainable science, technology and innovation projects involving partners from both regions.

The idea was to run a call among EU and Central Asia project coordinators and project consortia, who were experienced in the the three societal challenges 'Climate Change', 'Health' and 'Energy' that had been identified as of mutual interest for both regions, and and who were also interested in the preparation of new joint proposals under Horizon 2020.

A first call for proposals for Twinning projects was launched in May 2014 as part of task 1.2 'Pilot actions' of IncoNet CA.

A second call for proposals was launched in late 2015 (as an activity of task 3.2 'Ad-hoc support to bi-regional policy dialogue', but being de-facto part of the twinning activities of task 1.2). Within this second call for proposal, the successful twinning teams were to benefit not only from the financial support but also from individual coaching by the IncoNet CA consortium regarding successful Horizon 2020 project proposal writing and consortium building.

Objectives

The specific objectives of the adopted  'Twinning Grants' instrument were to:

  • increase the participation of Central Asian countries in EU Horizon 2020 calls,
  • use synergies from already existing consortia (teams) for strengthening the participation of Central Asian countries in Horizon 2020,
  • reveal and select tandems between European and regional institutions with the strongest potential for collaboration and clustering as well as huge experience in the preparation and carrying out of EU projects,
  • support the information exchange among the partners (travel cost, staff exchange, preparation of workshops) and the concrete preparation of thematic proposals (advices on current calls, NCP), and
  • produce and widely advertise success stories demonstrated as examples of new sustainable EU-CA partnerships in research and innovation and the tools which help to reach such results.

The instrument of 'Twining Grants' was aimed at ensuring:

  • the preparation of concrete proposals for EU-funded cooperation projects,
  • the cooperation between experienced research teams and/or clusters of scientific projects and institutions (no single researchers),
  • the organisation of events, related to the specific topics and activities of the partners from research clusters and institutions and the targeted (defined by the partners themselves) involvement of further partners on spot,
  • visits to partner-organisations in order to strengthen long-term cooperation,
  • staff exchange (e.g. via visits between project teams),
  • a long-term cooperation (duration of the project: one year, not a couple of days), and
  • the targeted support of temporary staff for implementation of concrete actions (e.g. researches, data analyses, preparation of workshops etc.).

In general, the 'twinning' was open for cooperation activities tailored to the partners´ needs.

In addition to the call for Twinning Grants, in December 2015 an open call 'Grants & Coaching of EU-CA Twinning Teams' (Coached Twinning) was launched by the IncoNet CA.

The call for Coached Twinning was intended as a proactive measure to increase the number of successful applications and hence the number of successful particpants from Central Asia in Horizon 2020. To this end the main goal of this call was to identify longstanding EU and CA cooperation and ultimately to support the preparation for proposals for the Calls of the new Work Programme 2016-2017 of the Horizon 2020 EU Programmes focusing on the three societal challenges of Climate Change, Health and Energy.

Successful applicants were supported through individual coaching seminars, tailored to their respective needs – focused especially at methods of successful proposal writing in the context of Horizon 2020 calls and the development of multilateral international research consortia.

Implementation

Methods

In May 2014, the first call for proposals for Twinning projects was launched. The call was open until autumn 2015. The second call ('Coached Twinning') was launched in mid-December 2015 and closed in mid-January 2016.

For both calls, specific 'terms of reference' documents were developed. These documents contained general introduction, background information, objectives, call budget and modalities and information about eligible applicants. Further, the 'terms of reference' described the requirements for project consortia, which were to comprise at least three partner organisations forming a twinning team of which one partner was necessarily from an EU member state and one from a Central Asian country. Finally, the 'terms of reference' defined the criteria for evaluation and funding, rules for funding and procedure of submitting proposals.

For the first call, twinning teams were supported with up to 10.000 Euro each. In the second call, twinning teams were supported with up to 8.000 Euro each.

The twinning projects – 1st call

Within the first call, 11 proposals were submitted and found eligible for funding. Of these 11 proposals, the following eight projects were funded (sorted by start date):

Topic (Energy, Health, Climate Change)  Countries involved  Duration of the twinning projects
Climate Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Poland Apr 2015 - Mar 2016
Energy Tajikistan, Germany Sep 2015 - Aug 2016
Health Uzbekistan, Poland  Jul 2015 - Jul 2016
Climate Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Germany  Sep 2015 - Aug 2016
Climate Kazakhstan, Germany  Aug 2015 - May2016
Energy Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Germany  Sep 2015 - Apr 2016
Health Uzbekistan, Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain, United Kingdom Oct 2015 - Jul 2016
Health Tajikistan, Germany Jan 2016 - Aug 2016



With the exception of Turkmenistan, each Central Asian country was represented in at least one twinning project, with partners from Uzbekistan participating in 5 projects, partners from Kazakhstan participating in 3 projects, partners from Tajikistan participating in 2 projects, and partners from Kyrgyzstan participating in 1 project.

With regards to their thematic focus, the Twinning Grants were evenly split between the three thematic fields. Three projects each focused on Climate Change and Health and two projects on Energy.

The twinning projects – 2nd call

Within the second call, five eligible proposals were submitted. Of these, the following three projects were funded:

Topic (Energy, Health, Climate Change)  Countries involved Duration of the twinning projects
Energy Uzbekistan, Italy Mar 2016 - Jun 2016
Health Kazakhstan, Italy, France Mar 2016 - Jun 2016
Health Uzbekistan, France Mar 2016 - Jun 2016



Thus, two twinning projects were supported in the field of health and one in the field of energy. In total more than 100.000 € were or are still being spent on these Grants.

Success

On a strategic level the Twinning Grants have been a clear success. In several cases standing consortia between European research institutes took the Grants as an incentive to try and include partners from Central Asia into their research projects. At least two of these enlarged consortia in the meantime successfully applied for Grants from bilateral funding.

Conclusions

It has become clear that the planned results were met by the achievements of these calls:

  • The Grants proved to be an incentive for international research consortia to include partners from Central Asia. Thereby a number of research institutes from Central Asia with at times limited access to the international scientific community received the opportunity to actively participate in international research consortia which allowed for capacity building in the field of application writing and Horizon 2020 participation. The call for Coached Twinning was an exceptionally helpful tool to this end.
  • Continuous communication and exchange between scientists and project coordinators of the EU Member States/Associated Countries and the countries of the Central Asia was achieved. Opportunities to meet in the framework of the twinning process lead to the deepening of scientific partnerships.
  • The international networking of the twinning teams with partners form the target region was enhanced.
  • Research institutes with strong potential for and interest in cooperation with partners from the EU Member States/Associated Countries were revealed in all (with the exception of Turkmenistan) countries of Central Asia.
  • The Twinning Grant proved to produce multiple synergies especially with bilateral calls from the EU Member States/Associated Countries. Several research consortia that were founded in the context of the Twinning Grant have in the meantime successfully applied to bilateral calls in European countries. Given that only two projects have filed a report so far, it is too early yet, to assess the outcome with regards to calls in the frame of Horizon 2020.

Source: Hendrik Meurs | DLR