How could you strengthen the quality of your European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) bids?

Post by Marie Pandolfo –EDC’s new Project Development Manager

The development of a robust full application is an important element of any project, essential for the approval of funding and as an evolving tool to measure, control and evaluate delivery.
Before you start reading the full article, one key element you must know is that a bid is the very last step of a project development process. A successful bid never comes from a project which is still being thought through and discussed. This is especially true for European funds, as the key appraisal points do not permit any approximate answers.
Here are some key recommendations for developing and submitting a successful ERDF application form:

To understand the context of the current European policies for going in the right direction towards a successful bid.
The recent economic crisis had no precedent in our generation: the EU GDP felt by 4% in 2009, 23 million people were unemployed. The European Union is implementing a strategy to come out stronger from the crisis: Europe 2020, in order to face the challenge of recovery.
The Cohesion Policy is the key investment framework to deliver Europe 2020 objectives. It is currently being reformed for 2014-2020. It makes available €351.8 billion in Europe’s regions, cities and the real economy (€10 billion for the UK).
The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is one of the five main funds of the Cohesion policy. It is intended to help to redress the main regional imbalances in the Union, by supporting two major goals:
– the Jobs & Growth goal [ESIF]: investments on research and innovation, information and communication technologies, small and medium-sized enterprises and promoting a low-carbon economy.
– The European Territorial Cooperation goal [INTERREG A, B or C]: cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation.
Both goals have their own regulation, which are currently being developed and their Operational Programmes should be released in coming months.

To know the 10 key appraisal points of an ERDF application form.
1. VISION: a clear statement of the project aspirations backed by clear targets and outputs.
2. EVIDENCE AND ANALYSIS OF THE SITUATION: the current situation, the trends and the possible futures. The drivers and the causes of the project. An existing market failure.
3. EFFICIENT PROJECT MANAGEMENT: a sound management for the delivery of the results and any activities.
4. EFFECTIVENESS: a significant impact on the target group(s). Innovative products or services that will directly benefit the citizens. Value for money.
5. RELEVANCE: a specific problem is tackled and measurable outputs are demonstrated. Analyse the needs and the demand for the project and show evidence that beneficiaries will use the service/product.
6. STAKEHOLDERS: appreciation of their views and concerns, their involvement and effective collaboration.
7. SUSTAINABILITY: a clear exit strategy, with a lasting effect.
8. CONTRIBUTION TO CROSS-CUTTING ISSUES: gender balance, equity, environmental and social concerns in the project design and delivery.
9. PUBLICITY REQUIREMENTS: compliance with the European publicity requirements. Presenting a communication strategy to disseminate the results of the project is an asset.
10. CLEAR ADDITIONALITY: The need of the ERDF support and the leverage of external funds from other national or local public funders and private match funders.

To submit a bid which emphasizes the following characteristics:
The managing authorities of the ESIF and INTERREG Operational Programmes are expecting successful projects to:
– Meet the essential criteria of the relevant Operational Programme and its priority objectives.
– Include an interdisciplinary team that involves external, public and private groups. Putting a bid together with external partner organisations is proved to be an asset.
– Show an effective governance structure including any contractual requirements between the lead partner and any delivery partners.
– Have a clear, unmet and proven need and target a specific group(s).
– Have a realistic timescale and objectives and is achievable within the given timeframe.
– Be costed correctly with all expenditure planned within the project timescale.
– Show a clear ERDF additionality: Why should the project be funded by the ERDF? What is preventing the private sector from solving this problem / exploiting this opportunity?
– Demonstrate value for money in terms of outputs and results returned on the investment.
– Include a clear strategy for monitoring any outcomes/impacts/outputs, as well as an exit strategy.

If you want to know more about the ERDF or if you have a project idea, please contact the Enterprise and Commercial Department (ECD) for support on your project development as well as your bid submission.

Five Top Tips for Knockout Bid Submissions

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Five Top Tips for Knockout Bid Submissions

  • Appoint one person whose only job is to make sure everyone else does theirs! – It is vitally important for there to be someone who is ultimately responsible for the bid, through whom every action flows. A good bid leader will drive the bid forward and coordinate a submission delivered on time and on target. Pick a good organiser and a popular team member to whom people will respond.
  • Ensure you have the right partners that will add value to the bid and have the right skills! – It’s rare for an individual to put together a large bid completely on their own. Utilise your team to build a wide-ranging team of specialists and your proposal will be completed with time to spare and resounding with confidence and knowledge
  • Brief well and set clear deadlines! – There is a period of time at the start of a bid submission where you will brief your collaborators on what is required of them and how long they have to do it. Handle this well and it will pay dividends later! Sometimes it can be difficult to know how to divide the workload. I suggest that you begin by reading the invitation documents in detail and assigning each question, section or task to a department or individual. One way to kick-start an effective and well-informed working team is to hold a group session where everyone can be briefed together, and ideas and suggestions can be shared among you.
  • Start a library (and keep it in good shape)! – Other than people a well written and well-tended content library is your greatest ally in preparing winning bids. BUT a bid comprising entirely of pre-written text is an impersonal and careless approach. A good content library if kept up to date with new and revised material, can contribute to as much as 80% of your bid, providing you and your team with more time to work on the essential and unique content that lies at the heart of every good submission.
  • Don’t count the days. Make the days count! – Channel your energies at the right time. Your energy, enthusiasm, clarity and creativity will all fluctuate wildly during the bid writing process. If you use this natural ebb and flow to maximise your most productive periods, your bid will be better for it.  Become adept at the art of timing and pacing and you’ll float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, not the other way round.

Keep an eye on progress and don’t be reluctant to send polite BUT persistent reminders as deadlines loom because when the bell goes your time is up, ready or not!

If you require bid writing support for commercial bids then please contact me at  or if you require support for research bids including Horizon2020 then contact the external projects team at