National Contact Points (NCPs) play a crucial role in the Framework Programme (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 Framework Programme, 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 European Commission understands the NCP Network as an important instrument for gathering feedback on possible problems and difficulties in the implementation of the Framework Programme.
However NCPs organised and financed nationally have led to the development of a collection of heterogeneous structures reflecting different national traditions and working methodologies which in consequence does not necessarily provide European-wide standards of services offered by them but required to the good implementation of EU Framework Programmes. Therefore maintaining a uniformly high-level of service across Europe is a challenge for NCP system as a whole regardless of the level of experience of each particular NCP expert as well as complexity of EU FPs.
In an effort to address the above, the project European Transport NCP Alliance (ETNA) aims at the development and implementation of a coordination mechanism for stimulating closer cooperation among National Contact Points for the theme 'Transport' in the Seventh Framework Programme. 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:
- Reinforcing the network of NCPs by promoting trans-national cooperation
- Identification and promotion of best practice
- Provision of training and twinning measures tailored to the specific needs of transport NCPs
- 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
- Development of tools and practical initiatives which benefit cross-border audiences; in particular for supporting potential participants in the search for project partners
Project and Partner Search activities are currently being performed by Transport NCPs in different ways, with a large variation in level of detail, related work-load and efficiency. Most searches involve some kind of electronic exchange of information (online questionnaires, e-mails and others).
ETNA partners will collect specific information on Partner Search Tools. This will be accomplished through questionnaires sent to all Transport NCPs and also by gathering specific information on PS tools from other NCP networks. Those activities will support ETNA partners in definition of user's needs and requirements for such Partner Search Tool.
Once those activities are completed, project partners will decide decide among one of the following options:
- To implement an existing PS tool directly by project partners with their own resources.
- To implement an existing PS tool with the support of external providers.
- If implementation of PS will not be possible in frames of ETNA, a proper report will be created, making recommendations for further developments outside the project.
The ETNA project has developed and implemented a coordination mechanism for stimulating closer cooperation among National Contact Points (NPCs) for the theme 'Transport' in FP7. In this way, ETNA has facilitated the improvement of the overall quality of NCP services across Europe in the area of transport. Furthermore, the project has increased the transparency of EU research to ensure equal access for all.
Innovating for the future (technology and behaviour): A European Transport Research and Innovation Policy