Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - ETNA (European transport NCP alliance)

Executive Summary:

The aims of the 'European transport NCP alliance' (ETNA) project were the development and implementation of a coordination mechanism for stimulating closer cooperation among national contact points (NCPs) for the transport theme in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) by facilitating the improvement of the overall quality of NCP services across Europe in the area of transport and increasing the transparency of European Union (EU) research to ensure equal access for all.

The consortium carried out a systematic survey of the different structures, methodologies, priorities, resources and training regimes that inform the work of transport NCPs throughout Europe. The survey also collected information on perceived needs with regard to networking and characteristics of a web-based partner-search tool.

Ten training sessions were carried out, focussing on the basic principles of being an NCP; legal and financial Issues; the role of European networks; and operating an NCP service.

Eleven twinning measures between transport NCPs were undertaken.

Six NCP forum meetings were held, bringing together the European transport NCP community and providing relevant FP7 call information, including statistics and continuing professional development, as well as providing a platform for initiating cooperation with other transport networks and initiatives.

One of the central objectives of the project ETNA was the improvement of partner search methods and tools that NCPs are able to make available to the European transport research community. It was agreed to concentrate all efforts on cooperation with the Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) in its endeavours to improve its on-line partner service (PS). Whilst the latter was being developed, ETNA developed its own partner search facility, utilising pro-formas for proposals and researcher profiles. This partner search facility was made publically available on the ETNA website.

During the project, ETNA organised, supported and participated in 17 brokerage events, including those supporting the European Commission's (EC) transport info-days as well as those in collaboration with European technology platforms (ETPs), e.g. Waterborne, or regionally, e.g. Seetrans.

The ETNA website was a vital communication channel providing information about events dedicated to enhancing cooperation between members of the transport NCP network, including those described above. The partner search section of the website was continuously supplied with institutions' profiles and partner search offers during three rounds of calls for the FP7 theme transport (including aeronautics).

Networking activities were planned and carried out with the aim of fostering deeper relationships with other networks/organisations identified as relevant. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed with the TransNew project.

ETNA published 18 newsletters during the project.

Project Context and Objectives:

NCPs play a crucial role in the FP as providers of information and assistance to potential participants (applicants) of new projects and contractors in on-going projects. They reach out to the European research community in order to inform and raise awareness about the funding opportunities of the FP, to advise and assist potential applicants in the preparation, submission and follow-up of grant applications and to offer support during the execution of projects, especially with respect to the management and administrative aspects of projects. Moreover, due to its closeness to the European research community, the EC understands the NCP network as an important instrument for gathering feedback on possible problems and difficulties in the implementation of the FP.

One of the great strengths of the NCP system is its national orientation and ability to provide support to applicants in their own native language. This is carried out by experts that are not only well versed in the modalities of the FP, but as a rule also possess keen knowledge of the national research landscape in their fields.

On the other hand, this national orientation poses certain problems. The decentralised system, organised and financed nationally, has led to the development of a collection of heterogeneous structures reflecting different national traditions, working methodologies and funding schemes. As a logical consequence, no European-wide standards exist with respect to the catalogue of services offered or the quality of performance expected of NCPs. The EC's guiding principles for setting up systems of NCPs provides an indicative list of recommended services, but stops short of defining requirements.

A further challenge to maintaining a uniformly high-level of service across Europe is the fact that the NCP system is continuously subject to a steady influx of individuals with little or no experience with the FPs. The number of EU Member States (MS) and countries with associated status within the FP has undergone rapid expansion in recent years. This has led to the establishment of several new NCP offices in Europe with little or no institutional memory to fall back on. And perhaps just as significant, the national structures in all countries are subject to a natural turnover in personnel, very often leading to the employment of less-experienced individuals.

Yet another challenge for all NCPs, regardless of their level of experience, is the degree to which the FPs have grown in their complexity. In order to provide a high-level of service, NCPs must have a sound understanding of the ever-expanding number of components of the FP and related initiatives in order to be in a position to communicate this information accurately and to advise their clientele on the opportunities and implications for participation. Examples of issues which will doubtlessly play an increasingly larger role in the advisory services of NCPs in FP7 include international cooperation, basic research funded within the Ideas programme, European joint technology initiatives (JETI), ERA-Net activities (especially ERA-Net+), new funding schemes like the newly established risk-sharing finance facility (RSFF), the joint EU-Eureka funding programme Eurostars, the envisaged coordination between the FP and the structural funds and the relationship to the programme for competitiveness and innovation (CIP).

In an effort to address the weaknesses described above, the project proposal ETNA aims at the development and implementation of a coordination mechanism for stimulating closer cooperation among NCPs for the transport theme in the FP7. ETNA will facilitate the improvement of the overall quality of NCP services across Europe in the area of transport and increase the transparency of EU research to ensure equal access for all.

This will be accomplished by fulfilling the following basic objectives of the project:

1. reinforcing the network of NCPs by promoting trans-national cooperation
2. identification and promotion of best practice
3. provision of training and twinning measures tailored to the specific needs of transport NCPs
4. improvement of networking with other networks, organisations and initiatives with the ultimate goal of acquiring and disseminating information beneficial to the research community and instrumental in facilitating a higher average quality of submitted proposals
5. development of tools and practical initiatives which benefit cross-border audiences, in particular for supporting potential participants in the search for project partners.

The work plan has been carefully designed and streamlined to meet these objectives. It contains a series of auxiliary objectives defining steps necessary to achieve the super-ordinate target of the project, namely a significant improvement of NCP service throughout Europe.

The first objective was to be achieved by activities carried out within the four technical work packages (WPs) working in concert. ETNA proposes a collection of activities, which together represent a systematic endeavour to improve the coordination among NCPs, promote deeper cooperation and strengthen the sense of belonging to a larger European network with all its benefits.

The second objective was to be achieved by carrying out a systematic survey in order to construct a detailed picture of the different structures, methodologies, priorities, resources and training regimes which inform the work of transport NCPs throughout Europe. The results of this survey will be utilised to benchmark NCP activities, propose best practice and identify existing deficits requiring attention in the form of corrective measures.

The training and twinning measures foreseen in the third objective was to be designed to address the deficits identified in the benchmarking exercises of the previous objective. Special training measures will be developed which target less-experienced NCPs, paying particular attention to the needs of NCPs in the New MS (EU12). Two-day training seminars will be developed focussing on basic principles of NCP work and best practice. Moreover, a coaching and mentoring scheme will be developed within which less-experienced NCPs will be afforded the opportunity to profit from the know-how of more-experienced colleagues in hands-on, on-the-job situations. Further training will be developed and provided on topics of interest to all NCPs, regardless of their level of experience. All NCPs are faced with the challenge of keeping themselves up-to-date with respect to information relating to their fields of expertise within the FP. Topics for these training measures will be identified within the benchmarking activities and will serve the objective of synchronising knowledge within the NCP network while taking care to complement other planned project activities and avoid overlap.

The fourth objective was to be achieved through activities and measures designed to establish sustainable contacts and communication with other relevant networks, organisations and initiatives. The ultimate goal of these efforts is the acquisition of information about the activities of these various group, especially where these activities have a direct relevance to the execution of calls and the building of proposal/project consortia. The information acquired by these efforts will be aggregated, summarised and subsequently channelled to all the members of the NCP network for further dissemination in their respective national research communities. In view of the fact that the network of NCPs represents a central source of information to potential participants in the FP, it is essential that the members of the network have efficient access to information of this nature in a summarised and aggregated form. It is therefore of vital importance to establish a lasting interface between the network of NCPs and other networks, organisations and initiatives of strategic significance to the theme Transport. In recognition of the significance attached to international cooperation in FP7, efforts are also foreseen to enhance cooperation with the transport contact points in the international co-operation partner countries (ICPC).

The fifth objective was to be achieved through measures aimed primarily at the development of tools and activities for assisting NCPs in their efforts to broker partners for project proposals. Following a comprehensive analysis of existing partner search methods, concepts will be developed for a web-based partner search tool and a variety of innovative brokerage activities tailored to the specific needs of the network of transport NCPs and their clientele. In the development of the concept for the web-based tool, emphasis will be placed on the adaptation of existing tools and platforms as well as on the sustainability of the solution. The development of brokerage activities will take into account the weaknesses of traditional brokerage events while at the same time recognising the importance of the social dimension of partnering.

Project Results:

Benchmarking

The consortium carried out a systematic survey of the different structures, methodologies, priorities, resources and training regimes that inform the work of transport NCPs throughout Europe. In addition, the survey also collected information on perceived needs with regard to networking and characteristics of a web-based tool for assisting researchers in their search for project partners.

The primary instrument for collecting this information was an extensive online questionnaire. All individuals officially responsible as contact points for the theme 'transport (including aeronautics)' were requested to complete the survey. A total of 43 NCPs responded thereby delivering a sound basis for analysis and the development of well-founded conclusions.

The survey enabled a better picture of the current state of the network of transport NCPs. The results of this survey were then utilised to benchmark NCP activities, identify good practice and spot deficits that could be addressed in training and twinning measures planned within the project.

These benchmarking activities have laid important groundwork for the concretisation of key measures planned within ETNA, most especially NCP training, the development of tools and activities for the brokering of project partners and networking with other relevant networks and organisations. For this reason, they represent a major contribution toward the achievement of all five of the objectives outlined above.

Training Activities

Ten training sessions were carried out, focussing on the following topics:

1. Basic principles of being an NCP (Budapest, 24 and 25 February 2009; Brussels, 30 June and 1 July 2009)
2. Legal and financial principles of FP7 (Paris, 23 and 24 April 2009; Athens, 8 and 9 February 2010)
3. Advanced legal and financial principles of FP7 (Bucharest, 21 and 22 September 2011; Larnaca, 3 and 4 April 2012)
4. Role of the European networks (Prague, 16 and 17 June 2011; Tel Aviv, 24 and 25 January 2012)
5. Operating an NCP service (Paris, 5 and 6 December 2011)
6. Joint-training with energy NCPs and NCP picks (Malta, 12 and 13 September 2012).

Twinning Activities

A series of twinning activities were carried out between transport NCPs, as follows:

1. CFA United Kingdom (UK) and RPF (Cyprus), December 2009
2. AV France (F) and Riga Technical University Lithuania (LT), June 2010
3. NL Agency the Netherlans (NL) / TUV Germany (D) and Ministry of transport Slovenia (SI), 2010 -2011
4. APRE Italy (IT) and GPPQ Portugal (PT), June 2010
5. TUV (D) / CFA (UK) and Ministry of transport Bulgaria (BG), August 2010
6. NL Agency (NL) and Joint Support Office (Ukraine), November 2010 and March 2011
7. TUV (D) and Ministry of transport (BG), January 2011
8. TUV (D) and Centre for Strategic Research and System Analysis of National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, January 2011
9. NL Agency (NL) / TUV (D) and Ministry of transport (SI), September 2012
10. GPPQ (PT) and ERT (F), June 2011
11. TUV (D) and Riga Technical University (LT), September 2011.

Forum Meetings

Six NCP Forum meetings were held, bringing together the European transport NCP community and providing relevant FP7 Call information, including statistics and continuing professional development, as well as providing a platform for initiating cooperation with other transport networks and initiatives, e.g. TRIP, ETPs, IPR Help Desk, TransNEW, CEN/Cenelec. The dates and locations of the meetings:

1. Cologne (D), 27 and 28 October 2008, 45 NCPs from 29 countries
2. Brussels Belgium (BE), 29 and 30 June 2009, 30 NCPs from 23 countries
3. London (UK), 8 and 9 March 2010, 40 NCPs from 29 countries
4. Ljubljana (SI), 12/13 April 2011, 18 NCPs from 14 countries
5. Tallinn Estonia (EE), 09 and 10 May 2012, 21 NCPs from 21 countries
6. Krakow Poland (PL), 10 to 12 October 2012, 21 NCPs from 18 countries.

Partner Search Tool

One of the central objectives of the project ETNA was the improvement of partner search methods and tools that NCPs are able to make available to the European transport research community.

During the project, the ETNA consortium carried out an analysis of existing partner search tools and compiled information on user requirements for a web-based system. In order to determine user requirements, separate surveys were carried out among the transport NCPs and potential users. Based on the results of these exercises, a concept was developed for an optimised web-based partner search tool.

In a next step, the consortium assessed the feasibility and practicality of implementing this concept under differing sets of circumstances (e.g. within the scope and budget of the project, outside of the project; making use of own technical expertise, subcontracting software development). The assessment process led to a general consensus within the consortium that an investment of resources on the development of a new partner search system tailored to the European transport research landscape would not be practical - due in particular to the fact that an independent system would be difficult to sustain beyond the end of the project without some sort of follow-up financing.

As an alternative, it was agreed to concentrate all further efforts in this area on cooperation with CORDIS in its endeavours to improve its on-line PS (http://cordis.europa.eu/partners-service/). Consequently, ETNA has been an active member in the CORDIS partner search working group, an EC initiative that aims at involving NCPs in the improvement process.

The CORDIS partner search tool was endorsed by the whole ETNA consortium in its active promotion among NCPs, stimulating CORDIS participation in two ETNA forums. In addition, an article about the CORDIS PS tool was published in the ETNA newsletter.

An ETNA CORDIS group was also created in order to bring together the transport NCPs in order to circulate relevant information, files and event notices among the community. The ETNA Group on CORDIS consisted of 19 NCPs and was mainly used to promote relevant events and initiatives, add entries on transport-related topics, through the blog and keep the whole community updated with the latest major trends and news in the sector.

Brokerage Activities

During the duration of the project, ETNA organised, supported and participated in a number of brokerage events, as follows:

1. Delft maritime research and development (R&D) days, 23 and 24 September 2009, Delft (NL)
2. EC transport info days 2010, 28 and 29 September 2009, Brussels (BE)
3. FP7 information days on research public-private partnerships (PPPs), 9 July 2010, Brussels (BE)
4. EC transport info days 2011, 22 and 23 July 2010, Brussels (BE)
5. Aerodays 2011, 30 March - 01 April 2011, Madrid Spain (ES)
6. ERA-Net+ electromobility information and brokerage event, 13 January 2011, Cologne (D)
7. Seetrans 2011, 12 and 13 April 2011, Ljubljana (SI)
8. FP7 information days on research PPPs, 11 and 12 July 2011, Brussels (BE)
9. EC transport info days 2011, 18 and 19 July 2011, Brussels (BE)
10. FP7 maritime transport brokerage event, 7 and 8 September 2011, London (UK)
11. Trans national PPP brokerage event, 12 June 2012, Lyon (F)
12. Maritime innovation and brokerage event (MIBE), 20 and 21 June 2012, Santiago de Compostela (ES)
13. Rail brokerage event (RailBE) 2012, 26 and 27 June 2012, Warsaw (PL)
14. FP7 information days on research PPPs, 9 and 10 July 2012, Brussels (BE)
15. EC transport research information Days, 18 and 19 July 2012, Brussels (BE)
16. Seetrans 2012, 24 and 25 September 2012, Ljubljana (SI).

Website

The ETNA website was one of the vital communication channels providing information about events dedicated to enhancing cooperation between members of the transport NCP network. Information about every event organised and co-organised by ETNA was published on the website along with the information package for entities interested in participating. This included: trainings, forums, brokerage events, NCP meetings and others.

Following the review of the first year of ETNA activities, a suggestion of the reviewers was to refresh and professionalise the overall look of the project's website. Consequently, a new version was implemented in the period of June/July 2010. Along with the change of layout, the existing content management system was upgraded. This was first implemented at the brokerage event organised by ETNA in parallel to the official EC fourth call information days (July 2010).

The partner search section of the website was continuously supplied with institutions' profiles and partner search offers during three rounds of transport including aeronautics calls.

The website was used to support all subsequent calls and brokerage events. ETNA provided the registration and information facility gathering all information important for participants of those events. After each event, a short summary was published containing basic event statistics and links to presentation from the brokerage part of the info-days. All profile and project idea forms submitted for the events were incorporated in the partner search section of the website.

During the round of calls for the 2012 work programme, a total of 69 project idea forms, including 48 sustainable surface transport (SST) and 21 aeronautics and air transport (AAT) and 242 profile forms (182 SST and 60 AAT) were published on the project's partner search platform. For the call associated with Work Programme 2013, a total of 48 project idea forms (36 SST and 12 AAT) and 178 profile forms (129 SST and 49 AAT) were made available.

Networking

Networking activities concentrated on fostering deeper relationships with other networks/organisations identified as relevant. Responsibilities for supervising the cooperation with specific entities were reallocated within the consortium and the list of entities was expanded. The forum meetings were utilised as a platform for initiating cooperation with entities identified as having particularly strong significance for NCP work. Cooperation also included the exchange of contributions to publications and information on partner searches.

A MoU was signed with the TransNew project. A number of joint meetings were held and this increased the opportunity to support NCPs within the EU-12, as well as help support the participation of the transport research community in those MS.

Raising Awareness of NCP Activities

ETNA continued to publish and distribute a quarterly newsletter containing information about events, activities and information relevant for the daily work of transport NCPs. Eighteen newsletters were published during the project.

In addition, the project webpage was continually updated to ensure provision of accurate, current information and materials.

Potential Impact:

The project ETNA successfully developed and implemented an effective coordination mechanism for stimulating closer cooperation among NCPs for the theme 'Transport' in the FP7. Within the framework of this closer cooperation, transport NCPs worked together to effect a substantial improvement in the overall quality of NCP services across Europe in the field of transport. The positive effect of these efforts was not limited to the NCP network alone. The European transport research community ultimately benefited from the heightened level of service offered by the network. Individual researchers profited from higher quality services and information and the establishment of a more consistent level of NCP services across Europe contributed to greater transparency of EU transport research funding thereby facilitating equal opportunities to access the FP for all.

The objectives of the project corresponded directly to the goals formulated within the FP7 work programme 2007 - cooperation - theme seven - transport (including aeronautics) for the topic 'Trans-national cooperation among NCPs':

1. an improved NCP service across Europe, therefore helping simplify access to FP7 calls, lowering the entry barriers for newcomers and raising the average quality of submitted proposals.
2. A more consistent level of NCP support services across Europe.

The project ETNA has represented an important step toward the achievement of these expected impacts. The concept described in detail in the previous pages sharpened the skills of NCPs and placed strategic information and effective tools at their disposal.

ETNA brought about broad dissemination and adoption of best practice identified within the framework of extensive benchmarking exercises undertaken in WP1. In a second step, the development and implementation of the training measures, on the one hand, served as an effective instrument for spreading best practice while at the same time facilitating targeted attention to concrete deficits which became apparent in the network. The systematic approach followed in ETNA to identify existing strengths and weaknesses and to rapidly develop and implement training programmes aimed at fortifying and widening the reach of the strengths while at the same time eradicating the weaknesses brought about a significant improvement in the skills and competencies of the transport NCPs.

ETNA also facilitated a rapid expansion and improvement of the knowledge transport NCPs have at their disposal about the nature and activities of the most significant stakeholder organisations, networks and other relevant initiatives active in the European transport research community. The value of information of this nature for the consultation services offered by NCPs cannot be overestimated. A lack of access to such information represents a major hurdle to participation - especially for newcomers to the FP. Securing this knowledge is an on-going process and can only be achieved effectively through a direct, systematic exchange of information with the relevant organisations, networks and initiatives. Placing this information at the disposal of the individual NCPs for further dissemination within their respective national research communities has contributed significantly to improving the transparency of FP7 and has led to more equal access to FP7 calls by contributing to the creation of a more level playing field.

ETNA has made a significant contribution to improving the search for partners for project proposals in the programme transport. The conceptualisation and implementation of a centralised partner search tool and joint brokerage activities marked the first time this topic has been addressed systematically at the network level. Similar to the other impacts described above, the ability to offer the transport research community effective tools and activities providing support in the search for partners has the double advantage of supplying the research community with an important, useful new service while at the same time enhancing the profile of transport NCPs as competent brokers of information and partners. These services have been particularly helpful to newcomers to the FP. It has helped them to gain access to the programme by opening doors to potential partners which would otherwise likely have remained closed.

Improved trans-national coordination among transport NCPs has led to a more structured dialogue between the transport NCP network and the EC. ETNA has contributed to a general improvement in the communication between EC and the network. Moreover, it has served as a suitable platform for supplying feedback to the EC on problems and difficulties associated with the implementation and participation in the FP - one of the recommended tasks highlighted in the guiding principles for setting up systems of NCPs.

The efforts of ETNA to strengthen cooperation with contact points in the ICPC has improved the chances of researchers in these countries of participating in the FP and has thereby helped EC to achieve its objectives with regard to international cooperation.

Finally, ETNA has strengthened the sense among individual NCPs of being a member in a powerful network. This seemingly naïve idea should, however, not be underestimated. An understanding of the benefits of being able to profit from the strengths of others in the network is a prerequisite for actively seeking them out and making use of them.

In summary, the project ETNA has succeeded in strengthening coordination and cooperation among transport NCPs through the organisation and implementation of joint activities, peer training and twinning schemes and the exchange of experience and best practice. All of these efforts have contributed to achieving greater coherence of approach to NCP work and to the achievement of a high level of service in all countries. This - along with the efforts to strengthen contacts and communication with other key networks, organisations and initiatives - have constituted a significant contribution to the realisation of the European Research Area (ERA), one objective of supporting the trans-national networking of NCPs as expressed by the EC in the Guiding Principles for setting up systems of NCPs.

ETNA created a variety of instruments for spreading excellence, exploiting results and disseminating knowledge. Core objectives of the project which required a strong element of dissemination include:

1. improving the performance of transport NCPs and
2. achievement of a more consistent level of NCP support services across Europe.

A central component of the project was the identification of best practice and the subsequent dissemination and promotion of these procedures within the network of transport NCPs. The primary instrument of dissemination employed here were the training courses and twinning measures. A total of ten training seminars were carried out in ETNA. The chief target group for these training seminars was made up of less-experienced NCPs. In addition to the promotion and dissemination of best practice, these seminars also addressed weaknesses identified within the framework of the benchmarking activities.

A twinning scheme was also implemented within ETNA whereby less-experienced NCPs were matched with experienced NCPs active in the core consortium. Here, a close relationship between the paired NCPs was fostered and the teams worked closely together on hands-on training and the transfer of knowledge and experience in an on-the-job environment.

In the spirit of continuing professional training, further training session were developed and provided during the ETNA Forum meetings on topics of interest to all NCPs - regardless of their level of experience. All NCPs are faced with the challenge of keeping themselves u-to-date with respect to information relating to their fields of expertise within the FP. Topics of these training sessions were identified within the benchmarking activities and served the objective of synchronising knowledge within the NCP network.

ETNA created a total of eighteen quarterly electronic newsletters for distribution to the transport NCPs and other interested parties. These newsletters contained information on calls for proposals, partner searches, project workshops and brokerage activities and national and international conferences in the field of transport research. All transport NCPs had the opportunity to contribute information for dissemination in this newsletter.

A project website was established as a further important means of dissemination. In addition to raising awareness within the transport research community about the existence of a European-wide network of contact points, the website served as a gateway to the individual NCPs. Moreover, the website served as a platform for the network's web-based partner search tool. The ETNA web presence also served as an important tool for disseminating information on other relevant initiatives in a central, concise manner. In addition to these aspects of external communication, the webpage also served as an important tool for the internal communication of the ETNA consortium. A secure area on the site was created for this purpose.

List of Websites:

http://www.transport-ncps.net/

Contact:

ETNA Coordinator:

Mr David Doerr

TÜV Rheinland Consulting GmbH

Am Grauen Stein 33, 51105 Cologne, Germany

David.Doerr@de.tuv.com

Phone: +49-221-8064156

Fax: +49-221-8063496

ETNA website administrator:

Mr Mikolaj Pyczak

NCP for research programmes of the EU

IPPT PAN

34 Krzywickiego Street

02-078 Warsaw, Poland

mikolaj.pyczak@kpk.gov.pl

Phone: +48-228-287483

Related information

Reported by

TUEV RHEINLAND CONSULTING GMBH
KOELN
Germany
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