From mostly reacting to partner invitations, the City of Rotterdam now transitions to approach EU opportunities with a proactive mindset first. Our intent is to utilize EU-level funding in enabling innovation and digital capabilities of the region. In this journey, Spinbase becomes a tool to empower every colleague in the municipality to take advantage of funding calls.
The story of Gemeente Rotterdam is an inspirational tale of how a region can take advantage of EU opportunities. Gemeente Rotterdam has been involved in 10 initiatives and received more than 14 M€ in EU funding in 2019 and 2020 (EC Financial Transparency System). The municipality also participated in 5 projects under Horizon 2020 Program with focus on energy transition and digitalization of urban environment and government.
Up to 2019, the municipality was mainly reacting to the opportunities that came knocking on their doors. This reactive approach usually leads to a rush in making proposals and forsakes the relevance to the city’s own strategy and partnership. It also means missing out on opportunities of strategic importance to the region.
Jochem Cooiman – founder and head of the Digital Office Europe in the Rotterdam Municipality – was the first to realize this problem and started making changes in 2019. As Innovation Officer, Jochem aims to support and enhance the innovative capacity of Rotterdam stakeholders: the municipality, civil servants, business, and institutions.
In switching from reactive to proactive, he dived into the world of EU funding and collaboration. The first step was identifying the topics of interest and key partners and joining relevant EU-level networks such as Eurocities. After intensive research, a lot of networking and interaction with strategic colleagues Jochem created a useful digital strategic focus for the Municipality of Rotterdam.
He also recognizes a problem: the breadth and depth of information on EU funding are just too time-consuming to make sense and take advantage of. There are 42 EU-direct funding programmes with hundreds of open calls at once. On top of this, the programmes have different databases and websites. Researching and reaching an understanding of strategically relevant funding calls can take days for him and his team.
This is where Spinbase comes in to help.
Efficient and time-saving way to find opportunities
Being at the center of Rotterdam’s innovation ecosystem, Jochem’s instruments are his understanding of the digital strategy and the innovative ideas he gathered from this ecosystem. Using Spinbase, he can search for the most relevant funding options in just 2 clicks.
“Spinbase is the far more efficient and easy way of finding EU funding calls and partners. I simply type in my project ideas, press enter and within seconds, a shortlist of relevant calls is presented to me. It’s like a search engine, but then specifically for EU funding.”
Jochem emphasizes that Spinbase is a worthy investment since his team can saves hours and days from researching different funding programmes.
In his role as EU coordinator for digital, he and other EU coordinators can also save and export a selected list of calls and share it with colleagues and partners for further discussion. This process has helped City of Rotterdam to map and connect their stakeholders through collaborations under a specific call for proposals.
Project search helps put proposals into wider context
A helpful feature of Spinbase is the ‘past project search’. This functionality is especially helpful when writing proposals. “You want to benchmark your proposals with what has been done before. So you can first determine how innovative your project is and secondly build on the past outcomes. In this way, your proposal will better fit the EU big picture and be more evidential rather than just writing what you want to do.”
The bottom line: being more proactive and scaling EU capabilities through useful tools like Spinbase
One challenge which Jochem encounters is to raise awareness of stakeholders about EU opportunities. Spinbase is part of Jochem’s arsenal in addressing this challenge. “Even if you don’t have yet an in-depth understanding of a specific program, you can still find the relevant calls very quickly, which enable us to better pinpoint areas of investigation in the sea of information.” Overall, because Spinbase allows such fast and comprehensive search, the city has been able to approach EU funding way more proactively and strategically.
“So far we have not been disappointed by Spinbase in any way. We were able to use it to connect to our focus areas and ambitions. Spinbase has become a part of the process of finding opportunities and partners. It has been very helpful.”
Jochem and his coworkers continue their exploration journey to be more proactive and strategic with EU funding. But tools like Spinbase are already part of the solution to empower everyone in Rotterdam’s innovation ecosystem to be an EU advocate themselves. The City of Rotterdam originally acquired a 15-user license but now aims to upgrade to the Premium plan where all employees of Rotterdam can actively find EU opportunities on Spinbase.
When asked what his future ambitions are, Jochem continues to emphasize the importance for civil servants and city developers to look beyond their immediate pool and into EU collaborations.
"EU projects can take a lot of work and effort but the more you do it, the earlier you can get into action, the easier it gets, the higher the success rate, and the bigger your dreams can become. Start small to learn the process and get a network and then scale up to bigger 20M€-sized projects. Basically, it is a maturing process.”
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