Results of 4th call lead applicant survey
In January 2012 the INTERREG IVC programme conducted a survey among all fourth call lead applicants, to receive feedback on the assistance the Joint Technical Secretariat and Information Points provided during the INTERREG IVC fourth call of proposals (1 December 2011 – 1 April 2012).
The results of the survey are now published online. These will be used to assess and improve the services provided to lead applicants. As the survey was anonymous, the programme staff has also taken the opportunity to answer to some lead applicant comments here below.
Profile of respondents
On 9 January, a link to the electronic survey was sent to all 355 lead applicants of the INTERREG IVC fourth call. 155 answers were received by 30 January, giving a response rate of 44%.
About half of the 155 responses received (78) came from the programme’s South area, representing 37% of all South area lead applicants who participated in the fourth call. They were followed by 40 respondents from the West area (60% of all West area lead applicants), 21 from the North area (54% of all North area lead applicants) and 16 from the East area (46% of all East area lead applicants).
Success rate of respondents
Out of the 155 respondents, 85 applied for the INTERREG IVC funding for the first time. 70 lead applicants had already applied to the programme in previous calls. A total of 89 (57%) had their application approved, while 66 (43%) received a negative decision from the Monitoring Committee.
The success rate of the application did not seem to be influenced by whether the lead applicant had previous experience in applying to IVC. Out of the 85 first-time applicants, 44.7% (38) had their application approved. Out of the 70 lead applicants who admitted that this was not their first time to submit a proposal to the INTERREG IVC programme, 40% (28) received an approval.
Out of 155 respondents, almost a half (73; or 47%) said that they had not implemented INTERREG IVC or IIIC projects before. The newcomers’ rate was highest in the East area (68% of respondents), followed by the West area (57% of respondents), the North area (42% of respondents) and South area (38% of respondents). Every third respondent (49; or 32%) said that they had implemented INTERREG IVC projects before and two out of five (64; or 41%) had experience with implementing INTERREG IIIC projects. It should also be noted that every fifth respondent (29; or 19%) had experience in both INTERREG IIIC and INTERREG IVC.
It can however be noticed that lead applicants with experience in implementing INTERREG IVC projects were more successful with getting their applications approved. 53% of lead applicants who had already implemented INTERREG IVC projects were also successful in the fourth call. Somewhat surprisingly, lead applicants with experience neither in IIIC or IVC were in general more successful (42% approved) than lead applicants with experience in INTERREG IIIC (37% approved).
Quality of information and assistance
Only five of the 155 respondents indicated that the information about the programme and the fourth call for proposals was not easily available. In particular, they noted that application documents and country-specific information were not easy to find on the programme website.
The respondents also evaluated the assistance received at the Lead Applicant Seminars, National Information Days and individual project consultations. In addition, scores were given to the assistance received from the Information Points by phone and email (including feedback on Project Assistance Forms) as well as to the assistance provided by National Contact Points.
Out of the assistance possibilities, highest scores were given to individual project consultations – 71% of respondents assessed these as ‘very good’ or ‘good’. Similarly high scores – 70% ‘very good’ or ‘good’ – were given to Lead Applicant Seminars.
Comments from applicantsThe lead applicants were also given a possibility to comment the call for proposals, assistance received and assessment of applications as well as to provide suggestions for improvements.
A number of comments were submitted regarding the application form and the general application process. Several of the respondents commented on the inflexibility of the protected Excel application form, which is seen as difficult to work with.
Programme response: The programme is aware of the shortcomings due to the use of Excel forms. This is one of the main reasons why the programme has just started using online forms for project monitoring. For the successor programme of INTERREG IVC, it is likely that applications would be submitted online. On the other hand, it should be highlighted that the choice of Excel had many advantages in the previous and current interregional cooperation programmes. In particular, it allows an equal treatment of applicants which had identical text limit to describe their proposal.
In addition, three respondents proposed to implement two-step application procedures in the future programme, mainly to speed up the evaluation process.
Programme response: A situation where there is more than six months between the submission of applications and the approval decisions it also not desirable for the programme. Therefore, a two-step approach in the qualitative analysis may be envisaged in the future. Good practices from other programmes will also be looked at when preparing the future programming period.
Many comments were related to the assessment of applications. Some respondents were not fully satisfied with the quality of the assessment, feeling that the assessors had partly misunderstood their project.
Programme response: A reminder on the way the assessment of applications is carried out may be useful here. The evaluation procedures are as rigorous and professional as possible. Each fourth call application was assessed by a minimum of three different persons. First, an application was assessed by a pair of assessors. Then, this first assessment was fully rechecked by a reviewer. The most ‘difficult’ main assessments (those with an average score above 2.33) were rechecked only by the most experienced reviewers. Before working within the JTS, all these reviewers had significant previous experience in working as regional development practitioners (i.e. directly within local public authorities or within bodies financed by these authorities). This ‘six-eye’ principle does not only ensure a better quality of the final assessment, it also guarantees that the evaluation procedures are as neutral as possible. It should also be highlighted that these procedures are fully transparent. All details of the evaluations procedures are provided in the programme manual.
One of the core principles of the assessment procedure is to ensure equal treatment of all applicants. This principle has two main consequences:
Two lead applicants were not satisfied with the critique of multiple involvement of partner organisations in the fourth call for proposals.
Programme response: The paragraph on multiple involvement of certain partners was automatically included if any of the partners was involved in five or more application. The purpose of this paragraph is to draw attention to certain risk factors which are higher when the same partner is involved in multiple applications. Since the Lead Partner cannot be held responsible for the high number of applications in which some partners are involved, the increased risk factors mentioned did not have an impact on the score for criterion 5. All projects that were finally approved had to treat these questions at the conditions stage.
Several other suggestions for improvements were made regarding the organisation of webinars and call conferences during the call for proposals, avoiding a call during the holiday season and keeping it open for a longer period, providing information on programme events more in advance, and avoiding extra rules for different calls (e.g. geographical criteria).
The INTERREG IVC staff would again like to thank all fourth call lead applicants for their invaluable input. All these and other comments will be taken on board when preparing for the next programming period.
The programme would also be happy to answer any specific questions of fourth call lead applicants regarding the assessment of applications. However, as the survey was anonymous, lead applicants that are interested in getting further information are kindly asked to send their questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.