The European Union’s new funding framework for culture and media, Creative Europe, is now open to proposals from organisations across the continent. Here, industry insiders give their exclusive insight on the EU’s shift in focus, and unique tips on how hopeful applicants can give themselves the edge
View from the EU
Although the overall EU budget suffered its first ever reduction last year, culture actually experienced a rise in funds by nine per cent, taking the total culture budget to €1.46bn available between 2014-20. While that is good news for arts professionals, the new Creative Europe framework makes some considerable changes to the previous funding model, both in terms of criteria, and the way projects are funded. Head of culture at the European Commission, Karel Bartak, gives his insight on this new direction.
Following two years of analysis of the previous programmes [Culture, MEDIA, and MEDIA MUNDUS], we concluded that whilst they were quite successful in terms of the number of applications and the demand for funding, there were some challenges we needed to address in the new programme. The first was the fragmentation of the culture market in Europe: it’s very difficult for cultural operators to cross borders and address audiences in other countries. Circulation beyond national markets is very limited. Secondly, we found that there were significant barriers to finding credit and private financing for small, medium and also micro enterprises.
Thirdly, there was the question of the digital shift. The way culture is produced and consumed is changing rapidly from one year to another, and it’s quite difficult for smaller companies to keep apace. Another challenge is the lack of reliable data about culture and its devolution at the European level.
The new priorities
Although we wanted the new model to remain focused on transnational mobility as it had in previous years, we decided to introduce some new priorities to address the challenges: finding new audiences; and capacity-building, particularly through digital technology.
We’ve also improved access to finance through the financial guarantee scheme, a new facility where organisations will have the opportunity to apply for loans which will be guaranteed by the European Investment Fund. If for some reason they cannot pay the loans back, the EU will do so instead. Normally banks are very cautious when loaning money to cultural organisations, so this way there is less risk from their perspective.
We want the framework to benefit operators who come up with new, fresh ideas. We want to prioritise new, interesting projects that are perhaps a little out of the ordinary.
The digitialisation of culture
Whilst we don’t expect all projects to include one, we are looking to support projects with a digital dimension. Many professionals involved in culture need to master these technologies to be able to have an impact on the market, and very often they do not have the means to do so. It’s important that work is created with these new technologies in mind, and also that the programme does not appear old-fashioned. That’s not to say traditional projects won’t be supported, but ones that incorporate this new dimension will take priority.
A pool of independent experts from across the member states and cultural sectors will assess applications after training and a full briefing from the EC. Two experts assess each proposal; one can be from the country involved in the application, but the other must be from a different country. The experts score the proposals against the relevant criteria. If they disagree, a third expert is brought in. Successful evaluations are then passed on to the Commission for final approval.
A word of advice
We want the framework to benefit operators who come up with new, fresh ideas. Of course they must meet all of the priorities, but we don’t want to see a repetition of similar projects. Operators who are used to preparing a good proposal often receive funding over and over again to do the same things. But from now on it’s going to be much more difficult for those who think it’s just ‘business as usual’. We want to prioritise new, interesting projects that are perhaps a little out of the ordinary.
Back to basics
The seemingly endless reams of guidelines, criteria and online literature may seem daunting for companies and organisations new to EU funding, but help and advice are available through the Creative Europe Desks (formerly the Cultural Contact Points) in each member state. It’s important to note that applications are open to ‘cultural operators’ only – not individuals. Benita Lipps, executive director of the DaVinci Institute and the founder of support network Creatives’ Europe, offers her expert advice on how to submit a proposal.
- Be sure to cover all the points mentioned in the award criteria, and ensure that your project description reflects their relative importance
- Write in clear, short sentences.
- Back up your claims with examples and evidence. For instance, photos and visual elements in the project description will help evaluators to understand your ideas. Not all evaluators will be native speakers and some may not be familiar with your field
- Ensure that you have all necessary documents ready to submit at least two working days before the deadline. This is particularly important for official auditor reports, official financial or legal documents, and documents from your partners with original signatures. Register in time for the Commission portal(s) to avoid times of high traffic or compatibility issues
- Talk to colleagues who have already successfully managed an EU project in your field. Not only can they give you invaluable feedback on your proposal, but they also know the key factors for a successful implementation, should your project be funded