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European Climate Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency

FAQs on EMFAF calls for proposals

Welcome to the FAQ section of the EMFAF calls for proposals

These pages are regularly updated with the answers to the most frequent questions submitted to CINEA in recent calls for proposals. This section covers questions that are of a general nature and that are applicable to all EMFAF calls.

All applicants wishing to submit a proposal under an open EMFAF call for proposals are kindly invited to consult this general FAQ section first. If you do not find the answer to your question here, or in the relevant call documents, you may send an email to the EMFAF functional mailbox.

Please note that the EMFAF has recently been integrated into the EC corporate IT system eGrants and, for most of its calls for proposals, submission is now made via the Participant Portal. A “Guide for applicants” is readily available for calls launched on eGrants to help you prepare and submit your proposal and — if successful — manage your grant.  

This general FAQ document highlights any existing differences between EMFAF calls for proposals published through eGrants and those outside eGrants. For the latter, you may also check the old FAQ document.

Background information

The European Commission has delegated to the European Climate, Innovation and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) the implementation of part of the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) under direct management, representing a budget of €340 million for the programme period 2014-2020. The EMFAF is one of the five European Structural and Investment Funds which complement each other to deliver more jobs and growth in the EU. It has an overall budget of €6 400 million for the period 2014-2020. 

CINEA supports the European Commission and notably its Directorate-General for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs (DG MARE) in developing and implementing two main policy areas within the EMFAF programme, namely the Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)
CINEA launches and manages calls for proposals and calls for tenders, as well as ad hoc grants and service requests under framework contracts in the areas of fisheries scientific advice, maritime policy and the blue economy.

Section I: General information

1. How often are EMFAF calls for proposals published? 

EMFAF calls for proposals serve to implement the EMFAF annual Work Programmes. The Work Programme is usually adopted at the end of year for the following year and is published on the European Commission website. You can find all information on EMFAF calls for proposals implemented by CINEA in the Funding opportunities section on our website, which is continuously updated. 

2. Are there EMFAF information contact points in the EU Member States?

There are no information contact points in the EU Member States for EMFAF actions implemented directly by the Commission or CINEA. This general FAQ document on EMFAF calls and the guidance provided in the call documents (e.g. “Guide for applicants”) are tools to help you with the preparation and submission of your proposal. Regarding the EMFAF actions delegated to CINEA, only the latter is authorised to answer questions about the calls for proposals it publishes (see question 3). 

3. Is it possible to have a telephone conversation to receive clarification on the call for proposals or to receive advice on our application?

This is not possible. For the sake of transparency and equal treatment of all applicants, CINEA does not provide individualised information, neither advice nor pre-screening of proposals. All questions must be sent to the EMFAF functional mailbox. These are answered in the dedicated Questions and answers section on the call for proposals’ webpage, available to all potential applicants.

4. Is there a list or examples of EMFAF funded projects that we can consult?

You can find up-to-date information on all projects funded under EMFAF calls for proposals in the EMFAF project database.

5. Where can we find further information on how projects should be implemented?

The Managing a grant section on our website provides an overview of the main steps in the implementation of EMFAF grants. It also includes templates and other useful information such as the “Toolkit for project coordinators”. For calls published through eGrants, a “Guide for applicants” is readily available to help you prepare and submit your proposal and — if successful — manage your grant. 

Section II: Who can apply

6. Are eligibility requirements the same for all EMFAF calls for proposals?

The eligibility criteria are laid down in the relevant section of all EMFAF calls for proposals and may vary from call to call. We invite all potential applicants to read that section carefully. 

7. Which countries are eligible? Are there any specific requirements for entities established in non-EU countries?

The EMFAF is generally open to applicants from all EU Member States. Eligible countries are specified in each call for proposals, following the provisions laid down in the annual Work Programme for the EMFAF programme.

The section on eligibility criteria will also indicate whether applicants from individual non-EU countries are eligible. In general, the participation of non-EU countries in EMFAF calls is linked to the Integrated Maritime Policy and its external dimension, including the Commission’s policies on sea basins and macro-regional strategies. Applicants established in non-EU countries may be eligible if the following two conditions are met: 

  1. a project activity is carried out outside the territory of the Union; 
  2. involvement of non-EU applicants is necessary considering the nature of the action and to achieve its objectives.

When applicants from non-EU countries are eligible, they participate under the same conditions as EU Member States.

8. Can a natural person participate in a proposal?

Calls for proposals under the EMFAF programme are generally open to all legal persons (legal entities) established in eligible countries as defined in the particular call. Unless a given call for proposals indicates otherwise, natural persons are not eligible to participate in a proposal. 

9. Are research and technological institutes eligible to apply?

Unless otherwise specified in the relevant section of the call for proposals, research and technological institutes can apply if they fulfil the eligibility criteria. The EMFAF programme itself is not a research programme. However, many EMFAF calls for proposals require or encourage projects to capitalise and build on results from other programmes, such as Framework Programme 7 and Horizon 2020. 

10. Are SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) eligible to apply?

Unless otherwise specified in the relevant section of the call for proposals (e.g. calls specifically targeting public authorities), SMEs can apply if they fulfil the eligibility criteria. Many EMFAF calls encourage SMEs to take part in proposals.  

11. Are newly established entities eligible to apply?

Newly established entities are eligible as long as they comply with the exclusion, selection and eligibility criteria indicated in the call for proposals. The Financial capacity section explains which specific documentation is required for the financial capacity check of newly created entities.

12. What is an international organisation?  Are national law associations with international partners considered international organisations? Are international NGOs eligible to apply?

An international organisation can only be considered as such if the following criteria are met: 

  1. it is international; 
  2. it is a public sector organisation; 
  3. it is set up by intergovernmental agreements. 

Specialised agencies set up by these organisations will also be considered international organisations. The formal proof is the intergovernmental agreement that establishes the international organisation. 

A legal entity established under national law is not considered an international organisation. Unless otherwise specified in the call for proposals, international NGOs are eligible to apply. 

Section III: Involving project partners

13. What is the definition of "applicant/participant" and "coordinator"?

An “applicant” or “participant” is an entity that submits a proposal to participate in a project under the call for proposals. In the case of consortia, its members must appoint one member to act as “coordinator” (or “lead partner”). The coordinator must submit the proposal on behalf of all applicants/participants. Please note that in the “Grant Application Form/Submission Form”, the coordinator will be referred to as “Applicant 1/Participant 1”.

After the signature of the grant agreement, all applicants/participants, including the coordinator, become “beneficiaries”. General obligations and roles of the beneficiaries and of the coordinator, who shall act as intermediary between the beneficiaries and CINEA, are defined in the grant agreement.    

14. Can a legal entity participate in more than one proposal, either as coordinator or as partner? 

Unless otherwise specified in the call for proposals, applicants may submit more than one application for different projects under the same call (and be awarded a grant for them). However, please note that according to the non-cumulative award and double funding principle, the same activity cannot be funded twice. Any given action may receive only one grant from the EU budget. Cost items cannot be declared twice under different EU actions.

15. What are the minimum requirements for establishing a project consortium? 

Please note that the minimum conditions for consortia are specified in the Eligibility criteria section of each call for proposals. If the call for proposals requires a transnational partnership, this will be specifically stipulated in that section.

Generally, the active involvement of key partners in an EMFAF project is strongly encouraged. The solidity, manageability and credibility of the consortium (in terms of partners, countries, etc.) will be assessed during the evaluation phase. It is up to the applicant to choose the most appropriate consortium structure to achieve the objectives of the proposal. 

16. How can I find potential project partners?

If you have already registered your organisation in the Participant Register for other calls, you may find partners for your project ideas among the organisations registered there. Search by geographical criteria, by types of organisation or by call topics where organisations have participated or expressed interest in participating in the future.

If you are looking for business partners, you may contact the Enterprise Europe Network. We also kindly invite you to join our LinkedIn group EU project and partners search - EASME (Is CINEA creating a similar group?)

Section IV: Financial provisions

17. What is the minimum/maximum grant amount we can apply for? Are there any requirements regarding the distribution of the budget amongst project partners? 

Unless otherwise specified in the call for proposals, there is no minimum amount of the grant. The maximum EU contribution will be the result of multiplying the total eligible costs of the project by the co-financing rate specified in the call (80%, 65% or other). Calls for proposals usually set an indicative range for the EU grant, while some calls may set a maximum grant amount per project. The actual grant request may vary based on the size and scope of the proposed project. 

There are no specific rules for the distribution of the budget among the members of the project consortium. Normally, each member of the consortium estimates its own costs based on the project activities it will undertake; and the overall project budget is agreed among the consortium members as part of their proposal. 

18. How will payments be transferred from the coordinator to the other project partners?

CINEA pays the grant amount to the coordinator. The coordinator has to distribute the amount to the partners timely and according to the agreed internal arrangements between the beneficiaries. 

19. What does 80% (or 65%) co-financing rate mean? Which are the eligible funding sources for the remaining part of the budget not covered by EU funds?

Each project can receive a maximum EU contribution of 80% (65% or whichever percentage specified in the call for proposals) of its total eligible costs. Thus, the total requested EU funding cannot exceed 80% (65% or other) of the total eligible costs of the project. 

The remaining 20% (35% or other) has to be co-funded by the beneficiaries and may take the form of:

  • ­ the beneficiary's own resources;
  • ­ income generated by the action;
  • ­ financial contributions from third parties.

Beneficiaries may also rely on in-kind contributions by third parties. If against payment, they can be charged as project costs; if for free, which is not prohibited, they will be cost-neutral (i.e. cannot be declared as project costs). 

As regards the second point above, please note that EU grants may not have the purpose or effect of producing a profit within the framework of the action of the beneficiary. If the project generates income by itself, the corresponding profit will be recovered by CINEA. Profit is defined as a surplus of the receipts over the total eligible costs incurred by the beneficiary when the request for payment of the balance is made (i.e. when the final report and financial statement are submitted to CINEA). 

20. How will the financial capacity of project partners be assessed?  

The financial capacity check will be done by CINEA based on the documents requested (i.e. profit and loss account and balance sheet for the last two closed financial years, or business plan for newly created entities; audit report produced by an approved external auditor, certifying the accounts for the last closed financial year, for applicants requesting more than EUR 750 000).

The analysis will take into account elements such as dependency on EU funding and deficit and revenue in previous years. It will normally be done for all applicants, except: 

  • public bodies (entities established as public body under national law, including local, regional or national authorities) or international organisations; 
  • if the individual requested grant amount is less than EUR 60 000 (low-value grant).

For calls published through eGrants, the financial data required for the financial capacity check will be requested only to successful proposals invited to the grant agreement preparation phase.

For calls outside eGrants, the financial data is required as part of the application package, as specified in the call for proposals. 

21. Which financial ratios are used to assess the financial capacity of a private company and when is a financial guarantee required? 

EMFAF grants use the same ratios and templates for assessing the financial viability of applicants as other European Commission programmes, such as Horizon 2020 and COSME.

The following ratios are used to assess the need for a financial guarantee: liquidity, financial autonomy, profitability and solvency – with the formulas applied as seen in the Financial Viability Self-Check tool. 

If the financial capacity is not satisfactory, a pre-financing guarantee may be required. The amount will be determined by CINEA during the grant preparation phase, and will be lower or equal to the pre-financing for the grant. Such guarantee is not necessary where the amount of the pre-financing is less or equal to EUR 60 000.

22. Could you provide an example of a contribution in-kind against a payment and a contribution in-kind free of charge? 

In-kind contributions against payment

This refers to the case where one or some of the resources used by the beneficiary (personnel, equipment, consumables, etc.) belong to a third party. The third party does not carry out any part of the work; it just makes resources available to the beneficiary. These resources are directly used by the beneficiary and the work is usually performed in its premises. The resources made available are under the full and direct control, instructions and management of the beneficiary, who is the one carrying out the action. When a third party makes personnel available to a beneficiary, the part of the work carried out by these personnel for the action is attributed to the beneficiary and not to the third party. 

The costs of the in-kind contributions of a third party charged to the action by a beneficiary must be the actual costs incurred. When the beneficiary reimburses the third party for its in-kind contributions, these costs will be a cost for the beneficiary, who in turn will be able to claim it as an eligible cost. By definition then, these costs will appear in the accounts of the beneficiary, and will therefore be considered as costs incurred by the beneficiary and not as costs incurred by a third party. 

These costs are charged under the corresponding cost category of the budget and must comply with the relevant conditions of the grant agreement. 

In-kind contributions free of charge

This refers to the case where a third party makes in-kind contributions to a beneficiary, which does not reimburse the cost to the third party. These contributions are not prohibited, but they will be cost-neutral (i.e. cannot be declared as project eligible cost). 

23. What is an “affiliated entity” or “linked third party”?

An entity affiliated to a beneficiary, or linked third party, is an entity that fulfils the following conditions:

  1. in all cases, it complies with the eligibility and non-exclusion criteria applying to applicants as specified in the call for proposals;
  2. it has a structural link with a beneficiary, in particular a legal or capital link.

The legal and capital link defining the affiliation encompasses mainly two notions:

  1. control, as defined in Directive 2013/34/EU on the annual financial statements, consolidated financial statements and related reports of certain types of undertakings;
  2. membership, i.e. the beneficiary is legally defined as e.g. a network, federation, association in which the proposed affiliated entities also participate or the beneficiary participates in the same entity (e.g. network, federation, association) as the proposed affiliated entities.

The structural link referred to in point 2 is neither limited to the action nor established for the sole purpose of its implementation. This means that the link would exist independently of the award of the grant; it should exist before the call for proposals has been published and remain valid after the end of the action.

24. Which project tasks may be subcontracted?

Subcontracting of action tasks is subject to special rules:

  1. it may only cover the implementation of a limited part of the action;
  2. it must be justified as regards to the nature of the action and what is necessary for its implementation;
  3. it must be clearly stated in the proposal;
  4. the beneficiaries must ensure the best value for money and avoid any conflict of interest.

Core tasks of the project may not be subcontracted. The coordinator may not subcontract, or delegate to the other beneficiaries, any part of its tasks (including project management tasks); they may, however, be performed by a linked third party of the coordinator. Expected subcontracting costs must be included in the proposal’s estimated budget, but subcontractors’ names are not required at submission stage.

25. What are indirect costs and what is the indirect costs rate?

Indirect costs are general administrative costs – overhead costs incurred in connection with the eligible direct costs of the action. Overheads are all the structural and support costs of an administrative, technical and logistical nature, which are crosscutting for the operation of the beneficiary's various activities. They cannot be booked in full to the project for which the grant is awarded because this grant is only one part of those activities. 

Indirect costs are limited to a maximum flat-rate of 7% of the total eligible direct costs for the action. The percentage is determined in the estimated budget and will be indicated in the grant agreement. These can include maintenance, stationery, photocopying, mailing postage, telephone and fax costs, heating, electricity or other forms of energy, water, office furniture, insurance and any other expenditure necessary for the successful completion of the project.

If the accepted budget includes a provision for flat-rate funding in relation to indirect costs, such costs do not need to be supported by accounting documents. Indirect costs are not eligible for an action where the beneficiary already receives an operating grant from the EU budget during the period in question.

26. Should budgeted costs include or exclude VAT? 

Non-deductible VAT is eligible and may be included in the budget of the proposal. Deductible VAT is not eligible. 

Please note that new rules are in place since 2013 for public entities, i.e. VAT paid by beneficiaries that are public bodies acting as public authority is not eligible.

27. Are the salaries of civil servants eligible expenditures?

Public administration personnel costs are eligible to the extent that they relate to the costs of activities which the relevant public authorities would not carry out if the project was not undertaken.

28. Are the costs of SME owners eligible under the EMFAF programme? 

The costs of owners of beneficiaries that are small and medium-sized enterprises (“SME owners”), who are working on the action and do not receive a salary, are eligible personnel costs. These should correspond to the amount per unit set out in Annex 2a of the model grant agreement multiplied by the number of actual hours worked on the action. The same applies for beneficiaries that are natural persons and do not receive a salary. 

The Commission Decision on this was adopted on 7 May 2018 and applies to all EMFAF calls published as of that date. 

29. Can the costs of an external consultant who collaborates regularly with our organisation be considered as eligible personnel costs?

The costs of external consultants may be considered as eligible personnel costs if they fulfil the following conditions:

  1. the beneficiary has a contract to engage a physical/natural person to work for it and some of that work involves tasks to be carried out under the action;
  2. the physical person must work under the instructions of the beneficiary (i.e. the work is decided, designed and supervised by the beneficiary);
  3. the result of the work of the person belongs to the beneficiary;
  4. the costs of employing the consultant are not significantly different from the personnel costs of employees of the same category working under labour law contract for the beneficiary;
  5. the remuneration is based on working hours rather than on the delivering of specific outputs/products and should be recorded in the accounts of the beneficiary.

If the external consultant is engaged through an intermediate legal entity, the costs may be claimed as subcontracting costs.

30. Can purchased, leased or rented equipment be considered as eligible costs?

As mentioned under the costs eligibility rules in the Financial provisions section of the call for proposals, only the depreciation costs of equipment (new or second-hand) used for the project are eligible.

The costs of rental or lease of equipment or other assets are also eligible, provided that these costs do not exceed the depreciation costs of similar equipment or assets and are exclusive of any finance fee. Rent/lease equipment can be accepted as eligible under the "other costs" cost category if their use is necessary for the implementation of the project. 

Please note that only the portion of the equipment's depreciation rental or lease costs corresponding to the duration of the action/project, and the rate of actual use for the purposes of the action, may be taken into account. 

31. Are audit certificates mandatory? 

A certificate on the financial statements for each beneficiary and for each affiliated entity or linked third party is required, when:

  1. it requests €325,000 or more as reimbursement of actual costs; and
  2. the maximum grant amount indicated for that beneficiary and its affiliated entities in the estimated budget as reimbursement of actual costs is €750,000 or more.

Such audit certificate must be produced by an approved auditor or, in case of public bodies, by a competent and independent public officer. It must be drawn up in accordance with the specific model ("Model for the certificate on the financial statement") readily available.

Section V: Application documents and submission

32. Do I need a PIC number to apply for the call? 

The PIC (Participant Identification Code) number is a reference code used in a number of EU funding programmes using a dedicated submission platform (the Participant Portal). 

As of October 2018, your organisation must be registered in the Participant Register and have a PIC number to apply for calls launched through eGrants. Please check whether your organisation is already registered. The PIC is required to start drafting a proposal in the submission system and all participants in the proposal need to have a PIC. The submission process is explained in the Participant Portal Online Manual (together with detailed instructions for using the IT tool).

For calls outside eGrants, there is no need to have a PIC number. 

33. Can other participants be added after submitting the application? Can applicants submit additional material to their proposal after the deadline for submission? 

A proposal cannot be modified after the deadline for submission, in view of transparency and equal treatment to all applicants. That is, after submission of the application, other participants cannot be added to the project’s consortium and additional information cannot be provided.

The only exception to this is if CINEA requests any additional information in order to correct clerical errors or to clarify certain aspects during the evaluation procedure. This, however, does not allow applicants to modify their originally submitted proposal. The evaluation will be based exclusively on the information received by the submission deadline.

34. In which language can the application be completed? 

You can submit your proposal in any official EU language. However, for reasons of efficiency, we strongly advise you to use English. Proposals submitted in a non-EU language will be rejected.

35. Where can I find the templates to be used to submit the proposal?

Information on templates and steps to follow to submit a proposal are detailed in the call for proposals How to submit an application/Procedure for the submission of a proposal section. We invite all potential applicants to read that section carefully.

For calls launched through eGrants, all applications must be submitted electronically via the Participant Portal Electronic Submission System (accessible via the Call Topic page in the Funding opportunities section). The submission process is explained in the Participant Portal Online Manual (together with detailed instructions for using the IT tool). You may also consult the Participant Portal FAQ section.

For calls outside eGrants, there is paper submission. Please see Section V on Submission in the legacy EMFF FAQ document

Section VI: Evaluation and next steps

36. What is the minimum score to be selected for funding?

The quality of eligible proposals will be assessed based on the award criteria and their weighting established in the relevant section of the call for proposals. The minimum overall score required to pass the quality threshold can vary from call to call. Please check the call document for the call you are applying to for further details. 

A proposal may pass the score thresholds and not get funded. The number of proposals selected for funding will depend on the budget available for that call for proposals. If many proposals are received for a given call/topic, only those ranked highest within the limits of the available budget will be proposed for funding. 

37. How will the available funds be shared among projects? 

Always within the available budget for the call/topic, funds are allocated to the highest scoring projects in descending order following evaluation based on the award criteria.

38. When will we be notified if our proposal has been selected for funding?

An indicative timetable for communicating the results of the evaluation is included in the call for proposals. Selection results are normally notified within 6 months from the submission deadline. Depending on the number of applications received, it may take longer or shorter to finalise the selection and inform applicants. We inform coordinators of the results with a letter (sent by e-mail for calls outside eGrants or via the Participant Portal for calls managed through eGrants). 

39. Can we be asked to modify the proposal once it has been selected for funding?

Once a proposal is selected for funding, the grant preparation phase will start. During this phase, CINEA may ask for an adjustment of a proposal. Adjustments are limited in scope and aim at fine-tuning a proposal or modifying some minor (technical or financial) parts of the proposal. The suggested modifications will never affect proposed objectives or core aspects of the proposal. They might concern minor specific aspects of the project identified in the evaluation phase (e.g. dates for deliverables) and corrections to ensure compliance with legal and financial rules (e.g. corrections in the budget). 

40. What is the “grant agreement”?

“Grant agreement” is the official name of the contract that you will be invited to sign if your project is selected for funding. It lays down the rights and obligations of both contracting parties (CINEA and the beneficiaries). You can find a model grant agreement attached to the call for proposals. Please note that the clauses of the grant agreement are standard, applicable to all beneficiaries, and not subject to negotiation.

41. How will we have to report on the use of the grant? 

Information on reporting is available in the sub-section on Reporting and payment arrangements/Reporting requirements in the call for proposals and in the grant agreement. There are three types of reports: progress reports, interim reports and final reports. Progress reports include a technical report on project progress. Interim and final reports comprise a technical and a financial report.

Useful links

For calls published through eGrants, you may find the templates for reports here

For calls outside eGrants, you may find the templates for reports here.  

Find this text in a PDF version here.