Time travel: CORNET Kick-off Meeting in 2005

Thomas Klein and his colleague Almut Büchner from AiF e. V. had left nothing to chance during preparation for the kick-off meeting on 21 June 2005 in Cologne, Germany: they had visited the hotel personally, ordered the most professional photographer and printed out all presentations in paper – just in case. The efforts were rewarded: the meeting went well, and the representatives of 23 European ministries and funding agencies gave the starting signal for the ERA-NET project CORNET, that officially had started on 1 March 2005 with a duration of three years and was funded by the European Commission’s Sixth Framework Programme.

Objectives of the ERA-NET CORNET

Its objective was to contribute to establishing a European Research Area by providing a platform for exchange between national and regional funding schemes in the field of Collective Research. Duplication of efforts in Europe should be avoided by enabling researchers to work cross-border for the benefit of SMEs. New member states of the European Union should be supported in their efforts to introduce funding schemes for Collective Research. Another objective was to make a decision on common financing for projects. The responsible Project Officer from the European Commission, Wolfgang Wittke, who participated in the meeting, remembers the expectations he had at the time: “When we initiated the ERA-NETs, it was our clear objective to establish networks, that would become sustainable beyond the duration of the EU funding.”

Mandates for Work Packages

The list of decisions for the Council delegates at the CORNET kick-off meeting contained f. ex. mandates for the Work Package leaders responsible for Management, Dissemination and Communication, as well as the order to compare national and regional funding schemes and to write a Guide on “How to organise, manage and fund Collective Research”.

Decision to fund Pilot Projects right from the beginning

One essential decision was made early in the project: The Council approved to establish a task force “kick-start projects”, i.e. to commonly evaluate five hand-picked pilot projects and to fund those positively evaluated. Members of this task force were not only funding organisations but also the coordinators of the funded projects, to ensure immediate feedback from the applicants. Based on this pragmatic decision, the CORNET partners learned a lot about their respective national funding schemes and their similarities but also the different meanings of the words “application”, “eligibility” or “evaluation”, about time lines and decision making in national funding schemes, which finally lead to a steep learning curve by the funding organisations.

The meeting has set the course for the future

When the meeting ended, Thomas Klein and Almut Büchner were relieved. Everything went smooth, all participants seemed to be satisfied, and they could continue working on the basis of the results achieved: they had received the mandate for their management tasks, logo and website layout were approved and they had met most CORNET partners in person. At that time, they did not know, that this meeting did set the course for establishing a network, that would still exist 15 years later. Wolfgang Wittke: ”I’m pleased to see, that our goal to establish a sustainable structure has been achieved in CORNET.” Today, CORNET is a network open to all countries world-wide, with a focus on its core activity: the organisation of joint calls for proposals.

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