From Italy to Portugal: My experience on working on EU projects at LOBA
By reading the title, I imagine two main questions are popping into your mind: What in hell is an “EU project”? And why on Earth would an Italian guy work for a Portuguese company? Well, let’s proceed gradually.
In very short terms, an EU project is a short-term partnership among different EU organisations (for-profit, non-profit, research organisations, public authorities) established to fulfill one (or more) main objectives, and several strategic and operational objectives.
Such objectives depend on the call for proposals you are applying for, which, in turn, depend on the overall “Pillars” and “Destinations” of the funding programme you are applying for. So, if you are good enough to outstand European competition on a specific call for proposals and, therefore, get funded by the EU (bear in mind that such funds come from taxpayers’ money, so they come from the EU, not the “European Commission”) thanks to your skills in proposal writing and strength of your Consortium, you will have to implement several activities to accomplish several objectives that will bring a specific impact for the EU. This sounds quite abstract, I know. Maybe too much. So, let’s give you an example of how we work in the European Projects team at LOBA.
LOBA worked on proposal writing responding to the EU Topic BB-05-2017 - Bio-based products: Mobilisation and mutual learning action plan - and was awarded the Grant Agreement No. 774331, which lead to the establishment of the BIOVOICES project!
The project’s goal is to engage relevant stakeholders - industry players, public authorities and civil society - in a range of activities related to bioeconomy.
During the 3-year lifespan of BIOVOICES, we organised more than 70 workshops with partners all over Europe, created an online BIOArt Gallery (a collection of artistic photos representing common feedstocks from whose scraps you can make bio-based products), created the BIOVOICES platform, established the European Bioeconomy Network and, as the cherry on top, we created a flap book for children called “What’s bioeconomy”? (if you are a teacher or collaborate with educational centres, you can request LOBA a copy of the book FOR FREE!)
LOBA was behind all communication, design, online and onsite promotional activities and materials (yes, it was a lot of work, but was worth it!). You can watch a video summarizing all the outputs of the project or the brand identity of the project in our portfolio.
So, now you know what an EU project is, and how impactful it can be. People from all over Europe are coming together with a common objective in mind. And LOBA is a part of that.
So now...let’s discover why me, an Italian guy, embarked on this mission and decided to work for a Portuguese company.
It all started back in 2016, when I was working for the Interreg V-A Italy-Slovenia Cooperation Programme. At that time, I was “behind the other side of the desk”: instead of working as a proposal writer (applying for EU funding to establish EU projects), I worked for a funding programme. I had to deal with some (actually, a lot of) bureaucracy to make things work for Italian and Slovenian managing authorities, and trust me, it’s not easy. I find it difficult to make things work in my house, so you can imagine when it comes to different national interests and points of view. Besides, there were language barriers and other “not so motivating aspects”, at least for me, to deal with. In other words, paper work, paper work, and more paper work…
I needed some fresh air, new motivation, new inputs, and a different experience. One day, between cat videos, Epic Fail jokes (for those too young for that, they were the grandfather of today’s memes), and football updates (I was young, with some free time and energies) I came across an announcement of an Erasmus+ call for running an internship in an EU country on proposal writing for EU funding programmes.
The choice of Portugal was quite easy for me as the country ticked some boxes from my side: good food (check); good coffee (check); good weather (check); good wine (check); not France (check!); easy language (fail)…well, it couldn’t be all perfect after all!
My internship at LOBA lasted 6 months, during which I practiced and learned a lot about proposal writing. The EU projects team at that time was small (we were three, and now we are seven!) and the manager, Alexandre Almeida gave me the possibility to remain in the team, while working remotely from Italy after the internship was over. This way, I can say I am a frontrunner of smart working, way before COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, and all this was possible thanks to LOBA, who never missed the opportunity to make feel part of a team, even from thousands of kilometres of distance.
So...can you imagine working remotely for 5 years and never feel alone? Well, I am glad I do.