Pilot Cities will test and implement innovative approaches to rapid decarbonisation over a two-year programme.
Pilot Cities Programme
The Pilot Cities Programme supports European cities to test and implement innovative approaches to rapid decarbonisation over a two-year pilot programme, working across thematic areas and functional silos in support of systemic transformation.
The selection of pilots seeks to address all urban systems contributing to climate-neutrality, including mobility, energy systems and the built environment, material and resource flows, natural areas, cultural/social/financial/institutional systems, and accessible public spaces.
NetZeroCities Pilot Cities
This first cohort of 53 cities from across twenty-one European Union and Horizon 2020 Associated Countries has been selected to embark upon unprecedented climate action, through the NetZeroCities Pilot Cities Programme. Working individually or as clusters, these Pilot Cities will implement systemic and locally designed innovative actions that span multiple areas, from buildings to waste, and levers of change, including governance, finance and policy. The 53 cities are part of 25 applications that have been selected from a wide array of 103 applications involving 159 cities in total from 33 countries across the European Union and Horizon 2020 Associated Countries.
Discover the Pilot Cities profiles
You can click on each Pilot City profile picture to learn more about the activities of that specific Pilot.
Multi-City Pilot Activities
Individual Pilot Cities Activities
Pilot Cities in a nutshell
Pilot Cities will test and implement innovative solutions, or groups of solutions, at city or district level over the duration of the pilot project, surfacing explicit lessons learnt from the innovative trajectories, with knowledge, capacity and capabilities developed at city level. A clear set of innovative solutions ready to be implemented, scaled and/or replicated should be identified by the end of the pilot. This could include new business models, policy initiatives, governance innovation, funding or financing models, and replication or scaling strategies.
NetZeroCities Pilot cities will receive funding and hands-on support from City Advisors and NZC Consortium partners to refine their pilot activities before starting implementation to address compliance and feedback from the selection process. In addition, the Mission Platform will assist them in building funding and financing for full implementation and subsequent replication and scaling efforts.
September - November 2022
Open Call for Pilot Cities Programme
28 February 2023
3 May 2023
Opening of the Call for Twins
30 June 2023
Closing the Call for Twins
Results of the Call for Twins are expected by the end of September 2023
NZC Platform services and programme
City Learning Programme
The City Learning Programme is a multi-month programme that aims to transfer knowledge and build capacities across Pilot and Twin Cities engaged in the programme. Each Pilot City will be paired with two or three Twins that have a similar background as the Pilot Cities and might face similar challenges.
NetZeroCities Climate-Neutral Cities Advisors help Mission, Pilot and Twin Cities strategically advance systemic change and pursue Mission ambition.
City Expert Support Facility
A City Expert Support Facility (CESF) will be developed to support Pilot Cities with direct expert support tailored to the scope of the pilot activities.
Peer-to-Peer collaboration & Knowledge Repository (Portal)
The Mission portal includes a social network and collaboration space for interactions between users, including cities, the NetZeroCities consortium, and the wider NetZeroCities Community of Practice.
CALL DOCUMENTS AND RESOURCES
Call related documents
This document includes a detailed overview of the programme, its approach, expected outcomes, and key concepts and terminology.
This document provides information on the aim, scope and approach of the call and clarifies how to submit a proposal, budget requirements and the review mechanism and decision making process.
Pilot Cities Call budget template.
This document explains the application budget and contains the main legal and financial rules for the NZC Call for Pilot Cities.
Pilot Cities Call form template.
NZC consortium provided a series of information sessions to support and guide cities:
- 27 June 2022 – Ambition, approach, application. Watch the recording & download the presentation
- 4 July 2022 – Criteria for selection and the selection process Watch the recording & download the presentation
- 5 September 2022 – 15:00 – 16:30: Refresher on the Ambition and Approach & Technical Information Watch the recording & download the presentation
- 7 September 2022 – 15:00 -16:30: Refresher on Eligibility and Assessment Criteria Watch the recording & download the presentation
- 8 September 2022 – 15:00 – 16:30: Pilot City Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Info Session Watch the recording & download the presentation
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Pilot Cities Programme – Award Agreement Process
We strongly recommend having the Consortium Agreement signed before signing the Grant Agreement. If this is not possible, the Effective Date can be retroactive and should be aligned with the Effective Date of the Grant Agreement: 1st of June 2023-31st of May 2025.
Each Party commits to this Consortium Agreement when signing the document on its own behalf. Still the Effective Date is the same for all Parties that have signed the document and we recommend this one to be 1st of June 2023.
Does the NZC Pilot Cities Programme team provide reporting templates and further guidance to the Lead Pilot City?
Yes, the Pilot Cities Programme team will be informing the Lead Pilot City about the reporting process and templates/online forms to be completed prior to the reporting periods, not during the Grant Agreement Preparation.
No, the Lead Pilot City should use their internal timesheeting process, the timesheets are adapted to the employment contract of each individual staff and to the respective national working time legislation.
How should we look at the Article 5 from the sub award agreement related to the ownership of the results?
The sub award agreement suggests two options related to the ownership of results, depending if the retained proposal is a sole or multi-stakeholder proposal.
Please keep one or the other option: 5.2 if your proposal is a multi stakeholders proposal with partners to whom to share with. Otherwise, simply keep the sole ownership described in Article 5.1.
The consortium lead is responsible for triggering the fund received from CKIC and consolidating all expenses reports from its partners until the actual payment of the invoices. The lead city will need to get an auditor who will check the costs reported by partners in the final report.
It is the responsibility of the lead city to find an auditor as soon as possible so the auditor can analyse your financial policies and tracking/record practices and adapt them to accompany you with the financial management of the project from early stage and make sure you will be eligible to claim all costs you have budgeted.
The auditor cost is an eligible cost itself so please ensure you have budgeted for it in the final version of your budget. The price depends on the country, company fare and amount to audit. Indicatively you can estimate 1% of the amount granted. The 1% is only indicative and does not express any EC rules, be aware that final cost can be higher than this and EIT-Climate KIC cannot be responsible in such case.
How should we, as NZC Pilot Cities refer to the EU support when promoting the actions and materials?
You should add the EU flag and mention: “The project has received funding through NetZeroCities from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101036519”.
We recommend to sign the sub-award agreement before the 1st of June start date, or early June if you have a tight governance deadline, e.g. submitting to a council that meets on the 15th of June.
The effective date will remain 1st of June 2023 to 31 of May 2025 for all cities. You can report eligible costs as eligible from the 1st of June onward, no matter if you have signed the contract late May 2023 or shortly after, in June 2023.
To illustrate with quotes from the sub-award agreement:
Entry into force = signed on the 15th of June for example
This Award Agreement enters into force on the date the last of the Parties signs (the Execution Date).
1. Effective date = 1st of June 2023 and all costs are eligible from this date
The effective date is the commencement date of the project as indicated in Annex 1.
Subcontracts may cover only a limited part of the action. The General Model Grant Agreement (GMGA) does not fix any limit. However, it is generally recommended to keep subcontracting costs below 15% of the total project costs.
Subcontracting must always be awarded on the basis of best value for money and avoid conflict of interest. Also carefully note that they do not generate the 25% of indirect costs.
Specific cases of subcontracting to carefully keep under your vigilance:
- Subcontracting between beneficiaries — Is NOT allowed in the same sub award contract. All beneficiaries contribute to and are interested in the action; if one beneficiary needs the services of another in order to perform its part of the work, it is the second beneficiary who should declare the costs for that work.
- Subcontracting to affiliates — Is NOT allowed, unless they have a framework contract or the affiliate is their usual provider, and the subcontract is priced at market conditions. Otherwise, these affiliates may work in the action, but they must be identified as linked third parties under Article 14 and declare their own costs.
- Coordination tasks of the coordinator (e.g. distribution of funds, review of reports and others tasks listed under Article 41.2(b)) — Can NOT be subcontracted. Other activities of the coordinator may in principle be subcontracted.
- Framework contracts or subcontracts — Framework contracts can be used for selecting a provider if this is the usual practice of the beneficiary (e.g. for a type of service). In order to be eligible, the framework contract must (have) be(en) awarded on the basis of best-value-for-money and absence of conflict of interest. The framework contract does not necessarily have to be concluded before the start of the action.
Does the Confidentiality Article 7 apply if the national law requests to publicly share information for transparency purpose?
The sub-award agreement with selected Pilot Cities strictly replicate the obligation from Article 36 – Confidentiality from page 276 of the EU funded Grant agreement from where the EIT Climate-KIC cascades all obligations to the cities, as final recipients of H2020 funds.
Referring to Article 36, the confidentiality obligations no longer apply only if:
(a) the disclosing party agrees to release the other party;
(b) the information was already known by the recipient or is given to him without obligation of
confidentiality by a third party that was not bound by any obligation of confidentiality;
(c) the recipient proves that the information was developed without the use of confidential information;
(d) the information becomes generally and publicly available, without breaching any confidentiality
(e) the disclosure of the information is required by EU or national law
Although national authorities are bound by disclosure of the information, the national law cannot be referred for the interpretations of the provisions of the Grant Agreement, in particular the definitions emanating from the Agreement.
As indicated in Article 57 of the Model Grant Agreement for the Horizon 2020 Research Framework Programme, “the Agreement is governed by the applicable EU law, supplemented if necessary by the law of Belgium”. Pursuant to the principle of primacy of EU law, the provisions of the Grant Agreement – which implement those of the EU Financial Regulation and the Regulation on the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme – prevail over those of national law.
Therefore, the interpretation of what constitutes “confidential information” in the context of the Grant Agreement must be done in accordance with Article 36, eventually complemented by other interpretations that may emanate from other instruments of EU law (and where necessary, by interpretation from Belgian law).
In this regard, Article 36 of the Grant Agreement provides for a derogation from the duties of confidentiality if “the disclosure of the information is required by EU or national law”. In sum, the current wording of Article 36 allows the granting of access to third parties following a specific mandate from the national legislation.
Does the Due Diligence Questionnaire have to be filled in and signed only by the lead city? Or do the other city partners need to sign the questionnaire as well?
Only the Lead City (Lead Partner), as the recipient of the grant, is required to complete the Due Diligence questionnaire and provide the PIC number, in return to the communication email received. Nevertheless, we reserve the right to ask for extra information and conduct additional checks in the course of the due diligence process.
Proposals – and their activities and tasks – can be refined prior to the signing of the Award Agreement as a result of your Boot Camp experience. Post award, any changes that you request will need to be reviewed by the PCP and CKIC Grant Management teams. A formal agreement amendment might be needed.
Please note that changes cannot result in a timeline extension or an increase in the grant award amount; and should not substantially change the overall scope as originally defined in your application.
The grant budget cannot be increased. Adjustments within the same budget line can be done without formal approval or amendment. Other adjustments will need to be discussed with the granting authority and may require a formal contract amendment.
All budget rules can be found from page 25 section Article 4 – Estimated Budget and Budget Transfers.
Yes, a stakeholder offering support can always be added, as long as there is no attribution of budget and their inclusion does not result in any need for extension of the project timeline.
The inclusion of new partners in the consortium with allocated grant budget is in most cases prohibited. If the inclusion of a new consortium partner is to replace an organisation that withdraws, then this will be subject to approval by the granting authority.
The inclusion of consortium partner(s) that do not receive grant budget but are substantially involved in the activities is possible and can be managed via a separate cooperation agreement which is independent from the award agreement.
See question above ‘Can new partners be included in the Consortium?’
Can you send us a document on what the Grant Agreement will look like? Who is entitled to sign the GA: Coordinator & NZC or each beneficiary & NZC? If the first option is the right one, would it be necessary to sign a Consortium Agreement among the beneficiaries?
The intention is that only the lead Pilot City signs the grant agreement on behalf of the consortium. The list of partners forming the consortium will be listed in Annex I of the Award Agreement. Lead City and consortium partners will be jointly responsible for the technical implementation and individually responsible for their budgets. A consortium agreement is strongly recommended as it can help clarify roles and responsibilities, liability, dispute settlements. You can use DESCA model reference, should this help, provided in the award agreement communication.
During the implementation of the Pilot Cities activities, the consortium will receive consistent guidance for all the steps needed to follow from kick off meeting to final reporting. These guidance will include recommendations on expenditure justification, following the Horizon 2020 rules.
For more details, please check the rules on eligibility to record obligations detailed online in Article 6 – Eligible and Ineligible Costs from Page 36 and further information in Section 2 Rights and Obligations Related to the Grant Administration – Article 18 — Keeping Records — Supporting Documentation from page 173 of the Annotated Model Grant Agreement.
How will the money be distributed? Who will receive it, each partner of the Consortium, or one partner per city?
The lead city and signatory of the Award Agreement will be the sole recipient of the grant financing, and should organise to cascade the funding to the other consortium partners and arrange the distribution schedule and requirements. This may be substantively managed via a consortium agreement, a recommended EU public model (DESCA model) was shared as an example in the communication email on Due Diligence and Award Agreement process.
Regarding the project reporting, will it follow an actual cost (reporting time-sheets or travel invoices) or a lump sum model (reporting via technical deliverables and publications)?
The actual costs method will be applied.
The PCP Programme takes a uniform approach to deliverables throughout the Programme. All Pilot Cities will be required to submit at both Interim and Final Reporting stages: i) Technical Report (inclusive of Learning and Insights report); ii) Financial Report.
Will there be a list of mandatory KPIs? In our proposal we presented a list of KPI adapted to each Pilot City objectives
During implementation you will report against your bespoke Impact Frameworks with relevant indicators – validated in the Boot Camp process, and attached to your award agreement.
How should we report on activities performed before the contract is signed? Can they be reimbursed using the project's budget if they were indicated in the budget but implemented before signing?
The eligibility of costs will start from the project start date as indicated in Annex I of the Award Agreement (i.e. your final proposal), which is foreseen to be 1 June 2023.
Applicable public procurement rules in place at city level will apply. However, we encourage green and innovative procurement approaches. A general rule is that when concluding external contracts in order to implement the action, the beneficiary must seek competitive tenders from potential contractors and award the contract to the bid offering the best value for money, i.e. the best price-quality ratio. In doing so, the beneficiary shall observe the principles of transparency and equal treatment of potential contractors and shall take care to avoid any conflict of interests.
How shall the costs under the Personnel category be paid? Can it be a direct contract with an individual delivering the tasks?
The general rule is : The costs of staff (permanent or temporary staff employed by your orgnisation or members of your consortium) assigned to the implementation of the action, comprising actual salaries plus social security charges and other statutory costs included in the remuneration, are eligibleand should be reported under personnel cost.
Personnel costs should be recorded via timesheet and payslip, pro rata of total costs (brut salary employer tax included). At reporting time when submitting the request for final payment, the beneficiary may have to provide pay slips and timesheets justifying the actual staff costs declared.
External consultants, that may only cover the execution of a limited part of the action, need to be registered with a domestic tax office and VAT registration. Sole individual company are eligible costs, you cannot make direct payment to an individual without a contract.
Consultant costs do not fall under personnel staff expense lines. The cost of any work to be performed by external consultants by means of subcontracting must not be included in staff costs but under services.
What does Equipment in the budget mean? The explanation in the form says: Equipment covers depreciation costs or costs for renting or leasing equipment. Equipment is normally capitalised over its useful life, but only the portion of costs related to the project and for the duration of the project can be depreciated and is eligible. It is not clear whether we can buy any equipment, like energy meters, etc.
For more details around cost eligibility, please check Horizon 2020 rules in Article 6 – Eligible and Ineligible Costs from page 36 of the Annotated Model Grant Agreement.
As an exemple, electronic devices are depreciated in 5 years so under this grant you can depreciate only 2 years of use in the best case scenario if you buy it from the very start of the project. That is to say, a best practice and full claimable costs alternative would be to rent the material needed or contract a company conducting the activity with the material you need, from the 1st of June 2023, as the starting date of your activities, thus of incurred costs.
Which supporting documents will we need to provide for direct and indirect costs at the reporting stage?
Please see Administration – Article 18 — Keeping Records — Supporting Documentation, page 173 of the Annotated Model Grant Agreement.
We are slightly concerned about the gap between the first year and the second tranche. It is 3 months (2 for reporting + 1 for checking reports). If we submit the report earlier, is it possible to have it checked earlier?
You will have up to 60 days after the end of the reporting period to submit your report. If you can submit your report quicker, please do. We will have up to 90 days from receipt of your report to review and make the payment. If a clarification round is needed, this period may be extended. So if you aim to submit your report early, make sure nothing is missing.
What are the requirements for the audit? Is it possible to find the potential auditor already and consult with them during the implementation to make sure we have a smooth audit process afterwards?
For audits please consult article 22 of the H2020 Annotated Grant Agreement.
You will be requested a Certificate on Financial Statements with your last report. Guidelines on this can be found here.
The budget that was sent as an Excel file with our application: is it approved as such? Or will we have to review it with you?
The budget will be reviewed prior to the issuance of the Award Agreement, especially if/where changes have been introduced as a result of the Award Agreement process and Boot Camp.
Grant payment procedure: do you know if you will transfer payments to the project coordinator (who will then distribute it to partners)? Or will you pay individually each partner of all pilot cities projects? It is an important aspect to know if we need to prepare internal procedures for payment ventilation and partnership agreement
The payment will be transferred to the lead Pilot City who will then distribute it to partners. A consortium agreement is recommended to arrange for the cascade funding accordingly.
Beneficiaries of the grant are required to mention clearly the fact that they have received European funding in any publication and/or in other materials, or in the occasion of activities (conferences or seminars, etc.), for which the grant is used. The logo of the EU should also be visible.
Any communication or publication by the beneficiary, in any form and medium, including the Internet, shall indicate that sole responsibility lies with the author and that the Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein. Kindly refer to Article 38 — Promoting the Action — Visibility of EU Funding from page 280 of the Annotated Grant Agreement for full guidelines.
Grant applicants must include a detailed estimated budget presented in Euro (see application form). Applicants established in countries outside the Eurozone must use the conversion rates published in the OJ of the European Community or, failing that, the monthly accounting rate established by the Commission and published on its website.
Applicants should be aware that they fully carry the exchange rate risk. The EC offers an online euro calculator that you should use as a reference. Concretely if you paid an invoice in August 2023 in local currency please use this tool for euros equivalence at this time of payment.
Problems accessing the project platform (enters user name and password correctly, but does not have access)
The Grant Management System (AmpImpact) is open and accessible to all cities. To access, you will need to login with your username. Your username will be the first part of your email up to and including the ‘@’ symbol with CKIC.IMPACT at the end. For example: if you email is email@example.com your portal log in should be firstname.lastname@example.org.
To reset a password, you need to enter the username, not the email address.
Are there any specific adjustments the city should be making to its proposal? Are there any specific aspects of the cities' proposals that should be changed?
Overall, there are no specific changes that the NetZeroCities Pilot Cities Programme team is requesting the Lead Pilot Cities make. The Lead Pilot City, in collaboration with the consortium members, is invited to include any elements that could be improved based on the advice of various experts, conversations with the NetZeroCities consortium members through the Bootcamp process, and anything else considered relevant to add in recent months since the submission of the application in this process.
Can I reshuffle responsibilities and tasks at the refinement proposal stage after the lessons learnt from the bootcamp?
The Lead Pilot City can reshuffle the tasks between partners in the refined proposal process depending on the nature of the tasks and responsibilities. There is a clear restriction regarding delegation of authorities and contract/fund management and reporting, notably –> the Lead Pilot City is the only recipient of the funds and remains responsible within the project for administrative and financial management of the award agreement. The overall operational management of the grant award contract cannot be delegated by the Lead Pilot City to any other partner or party.
In the Risk Assessment file what does 'risk register' and 'category' mean. Are they generated by the system or by the city?
As part of your original proposal submission in the proposal submission portal, you credited the Risk Registry and corresponding Risks, which can be seen in the excel sheet we provided to you. A Risk Register represents a collection of similar Risks, and you can create as many Risk Registers as you need for your project. For example, a Risk Register titled “Macroeconomic Risks” can be used to define all of the risks that a project may face as a result of macroeconomic changes such as: changes in government regulations. The category represents the type of risk registered within the risk registers. Using the “Macroeconomic Risks” example, the Category would be ‘Macroeconomic’. As a result, these Risk Registers and Categories are entirely up to you. When making changes to your Risks, keep in mind whether these changes will fit into your current risk registers or if you will need to create new ones. Please contact us know if you have any further questions or need any additional information.
A Certificate on the Financial Statements (CFS) is mandatory for all beneficiaries who request a contribution reaching or exceeding the threshold of 325,000 euros as reimbursement for “actual costs” and “unit costs” (see article 20.4 of the Annotated Grant Agreement) – this CFS is an eligible cost so, as the Lead City Pilot please make sure this appears in your budget allocation so you can claim the reimbursement of this compulsory CFS.
The CFS only applies to the coordinator/Lead Pilot City, this being the sole beneficiary signing the Grant Agreement with EIT Climate-KIC, within the NetZeroCities Programme. The consortium lead will need to get an auditor who will check the costs reported by partners in the final report.
During the refinement process the Lead Pilot City has the chance to resubmit an improved version of the budget. On this occasion, elements that could be adjusted are:
- To include the cost of the compulsory CFS (Certificate of Financial Statement), if not listed already – see related question above;
- Adapt your personal costs considering the updated salary band or hiring process outcomes, especially for countries with a compulsory inflation indexation (if not done already);
- Cost forecast could be more precise and updated, if there has already been a launched procurement processed.
Further, particular attention should be directed to the procurement and subcontracting restrictions, see AGMA for more precise details.
Upon final confirmation from CINEA, the NetZeroCities Pilot Cities Programme will be processing the payment schedule as follows: 35% – 35% – up to 30% based on eligible costs reported under H2020 rules.
The first payment of 35% of the awarded amount is released 1 month after signature of the sub-award agreement and expected end of June 2023.
The 2nd payment is released after approval of the interim report on the period M+12. The Lead City Pilot has 2 months to report against the first year of the project, with a revision back and forth. The payment should be expected 3 months after report version 1 has been submitted and, conditionally, that the pre-financing payment has been spent significantly.
The last tranche will be adjusted to actual costs reported in the final report.
Does the Lead Pilot City need to open a separate bank account dedicated to the project's cashflow and expenses?
The Lead Pilot City does not have to open a new bank account. The financial support needs to be recorded in a separate accounting ledger, so that it is clearly identifiable in the case of checks, reviews, and audits. The funding costs recorded in this separate ledge should be related to the project only.
Only the proposal refinement document and corresponding materials (i.e refined Budget and Impact Framework) are due for submission on 15th May 2023. Once all materials have been gathered and finalised, they will be checked by the NetZeroCities Pilot Cities Programme Team where upon finalisation they will be included in the grant agreement’s annex, which will then be signed.
Pilot Cities Programme – Additional questions
How will research and innovation activities be incorporated?
We anticipate the entirety of scope to fall within what is considered research and innovation under Horizon 2020. In general, this is as much about ‘how cities work to overcome barriers to climate neutrality’ as specific innovations in policy, finance, or deployment.
What kind of activities are expected for this call? Will there be general and specific objectives provided, which need to be fulfilled?
Eligible activities, as well as what we are calling for in the “call to action”, are included in the Call Guidelines, and further, illustrative information is available in the Pilot Cities Programme Guidebook.
What are the major differences between a Mission City and a Pilot City?
There are 112 Mission Cities that have been selected through an Expression of Interest (EoI) process. Pilot Cities will be identified by a separate (this)call for proposals. The Pilot Cities Programme is a two-year, grant funded programme supporting piloting activities to implement systems-innovation led approaches to decarbonising and transforming specified city emissions domains. It runs alongside, and will inform, the Mission programme (i.e. development of Climate City Contracts). In this regard, the Pilot Cities, whether or not they are Mission Cities, will contribute to the overall aims and objectives of the Mission, where learning from systems innovation approaches and the deployment of R&I solutions in practice will accelerate learning and adoption across the EU and H2020 Associated Countries. As noted, non-Mission Cities may be included in the selection; and there will be a direct overlap with some Pilot Cities being Mission Cities.
Will TRL level will be required at the end of the piloting?
No – there are no technology readiness level (TRL) requirements for this call or the (innovative) solutions deployed through the pilot activities.
Is the Pilot Cities Programme’s intention to approach an issue that the city thinks is the most challenging, where they are still not on track or that presents as a significant barrier, i.e., can it be about, for example, engagement of inhabitants, the ones who are not interested in climate issues?
Yes, focussing on the issues that you find most challenging and connecting such complex issues (like engagement of citizens) to other levers of change (governance & decision making, for example) will be very relevant as a starting point for your application.
What is the duration of the Pilot Cities Programme?
The call specifies 2 years for the scope and budget. However, we anticipate the work of the pilot activities to continue, in the context of cities’ wider transformation and decarbonisation efforts.
When will the application be available/open?
The call will be launched on September 5 and will be open for two months. The Call Guidelines have been published in draft form and will be finalised by this same date.
What is the foreseen duration of the Pilot Cities Programme activities?
The Pilot Cities programme’s grants will run for a maximum duration of two years from the signing of the grant agreement. We anticipate notifying successful applicants by 28 February 2023, after which we enter a phase of refinement and grant agreement development, with a view to issuing and signing these by no later than the end of May 2023. Therefore, we would ask that you plan for a two-year implementation period (under the grant) from a suitable time after notification of selection.
Will a full Horizon Europe application forms/process be required or something lighter?
This call is under Horizon 2020 and not Horizon Europe. The call form is being designed and will be bespoke to the parameters of the call, and the eligibility, assessment, and selection criteria as outlined in the Call Guidelines.
What happens to a Mission City if it does not participate in the call?
There is no obligation for Mission Cities to participate in this call.
Can Mission Cities use their designated Climate Neutral City Advisor to develop a bid for this pilot call?
No. Neither Climate Neutral City Advisors nor any other employee of organisations that are NZC Consortium partners can provide support for the proposal, though they will help selected Pilot Cities with the implementation of their pilot activities and capacity building.
Should cities propose their pilot solution in the application form, or will a solution be created and implemented according to their needs?
The application form will ask about your current orientation to solutions, in alignment with the specific emissions domains and levers of change you will be targeting. The NZC Consortium will then provide various types of support to identify relevant solutions and interventions, in the early stages of your pilot activities.
Does the application need to be written in English or can it be another EU language?
The application needs to be written in English. Supporting documents (uploaded as part of the application process) may be in a country’s native language, though an English summary of the document and its contents should be provided alongside.
Do the character limit in the application include spaces?
On page 16 of the Call Guidelines, the reference to “Future financing/ financial sustainability…Estimated person months for this activity during the Pilot Cities programme is 8 to 10 person months”: Is that per consortium partner, or per consortium?
This would be per consortium, but made up of relevant parties in that consortium (i.e. including person months from the city/ies administrations).
On page 5 of the Call Guidelines, what do you mean by City Guides?
City Guides are now referred to as City Advisors – this is older terminology and had not been picked up in the publication of the latest Guidelines. For more information on the role of City Advisors (one of whom will be assigned to support each Pilot City) see the Pilot City Programme Guidebook, section 3.2.
Could you please clarify the difference between the application’s form requirement for current orientation to solutions and the call form requirements for well scoped solutions detailing the workplan, deliverables and activities?
The application is the opportunity for you to present what you intend to do, how you think it will help you to overcome the barriers you articulate, and what that might look like in practice (aligned to a theory of change/impact logic) – including what your current thinking is in terms of relevant solutions to deploy. As mentioned in the webinars, if your application were to be successful there will be time following selection where the NZC consortium partners will work with those Pilot Cities to interrogate, develop, refine those activities (including prospective solutions) and impact logics/pathways, before you begin implementing in earnest. In order to be able to assess the proposals received and the thinking put in to, and preparedness for, implementing genuinely systemic innovation activities (bound within the parameters of the pilot’s focus area), we are keen to see how you understand the barriers to transformation in your city, and how you would intend to overcome them in and through the pilot activities, underpinned by an articulated theory of change/impact logic.
We would emphasise that we are looking for proposals from cities that have undertaken robust thinking along the lines of the set criteria in order to make the best of the programme and its opportunities to pilot systems innovation in practice.
The emphasis is on systemic way of thinking and acting, therefore, can you confirm we do not need to exclusively specify e.g., the technology we want to test to achieve the planned goals and impacts, but rather we need to be holistic, because the 2 years of implementation aims to establish and test the most appropriate technologies/solutions, which can be used effectively to overcome the identified barriers?
Your understanding is correct – though you will be proposing relevant solutions in your application, which will be assessed by the external reviewers: this is to assess your understanding of the problems and the potential (combined) solutions to overcoming these. Following selection, the NZC Consortium will work with the Pilot Cities to review their proposed activities and any proposed solutions to be implemented, as part of a refinement process.
Are we able to subcontract an expert already involved in the NZC consortium?
Directly subcontracting NZC Consortium partners – whether in the application process (named subcontractor) or through a subsequent procurement process – this would constitute cumulative award for the NZC Consortium partner(s) in question, whereby the remuneration under the subcontract would ultimately stem from same funds awarded to the Consortium in the first place under the NZC grant agreement. This is partially why the CESF exists: to allow provision for NZC Consortium members to directly support pilot activities within the purview of their expertise areas through an ‘unallocated’ fund in the NZC grant agreement which is allocated via a submission, review, and allocation process. Funds (PMs and/or other costs related to the delivery of expertise) would be allocated to the relevant NZC Consortium members within the existing GA (via amendment) to support the cities directly, rather than be written into the cascading grant (agreement) of the cities’ own pilot activities.
Should the main applicant city summarise the answers for all cities in the template? Or is every City of the consortium getting an own template to answer the different questions?
There is indeed only one application form and therefore it should contain all responses as relevant for the involved cities. This may of course vary in detail in relation to the exact role that each city is playing in the activities – i.e. the more actively involved in implementation, vs potentially a more limited implementation or observation role; it depends on how you are intending to structure the activities.
However, please note that the assessment criteria will be applied singularly to the proposal (and not per city) and this also holds for the Impact section – this is why it is important that it is well articulated why the cities are grouping together around the proposal pilot activities, and this articulation/rationale should be visible too in the impact framework: whether a per-city approach is taken and is then drawn together at the proposal level; or a more generalised (rather than disaggregated by city) approach is taken.
The additional cities besides the lead city will take over several parts of our project idea in the implementation phase and they come from different starting levels. Should they answer the questions (if every city should answer all questions) related to their impact or if not, should the lead city give an overview of the different roles of the cities?
The roles of each city (consortium partner) should be specified in the proposal (see Proposal Overview).
Is there an ‘ideal’ number of consortium members?
There is no guidance on any ideal or less ideal number of cities (and/or other consortium organisations) in a proposal: what is important is the rationale behind the inclusion of each individual organisation and, if there are several cities, the reason why your pilot activities are enhanced and make sense being implemented in and across several cities and these cities in particular.
Does an applicant need to have prior experience with Horizon 2020 programme to apply for the grant?
An applicant does not need to have any prior experience with the Horizon 2020 programme in order to apply for a grant.
How are the NZC Pilot Call for proposals related to the Green Deal Selected proposals, notably the NZC programme (mentioned at page 4)?
These projects refer to the European Green Deal, under which NetZeroCities sits – NZC is one of the seventy-three projects selected under the European Green Deal. This call (PIlot Cities Programme) is funded via the NZC project itself.
Is there any measurement of i.e. GHG emissions requested?
In the impact framework you will be asked to put in proposed targets for the line of the pilot activities (the two years). We will work with you to refine these if selected. These targets may include, depending on your pilot activities, GHG emissions reductions – it would therefore be sensible to conclude that you will need to be able to track this target over the course of the pilot activities.
Do we need to have up to 30 innovative solutions or groups already ready to start with implementation, or can we describe the outcomes broadly in the proposal and come to the final solution by the end of the Programme?
We ask that you have some ideas about solutions to test in your pilot activities, but we do not expect these to be finalised and/or ready to immediately implement: the purpose of the programme is to test as much the approach to tackling systemic barriers – in collaboration with stakeholders, partners, citizens, etc. – and what you learn from doing this (that may inform wider city decarbonisation programming towards 2030 and beyond) as it is about testing out solutions in context. We will work with selected Pilot Cities to review and refine activities, including proposed solutions to test, in the early stages of the activities.
Do we need to have the explicit lessons learnt from innovative trajectories, with knowledge, capacity and capabilities developed at city level ready to start?
This is very much at the core of the programme as a whole: the journey we will be going on with each of the Pilot Cities, and indeed as a cohort (with Twinned cities, too), is one of substantive learning, capability, and capacity building, in the context of how to approach complex, systemic change in particular contexts (not all cities are the same). The programme aims as much, if not more so, at the “how” rather than merely the “what” of innovation.
Will it be enough to have a broader topic or should there be specific, already known steps/concrete projects that will be made or can we come to the final solution during the 2 year Programme?
As an outcome for the programme, we will learn from the cities’ pilot activities the solutions that can be replicated, transferred, scaled, within those cities and across Europe. This is why we ask you to reflect, in the application form, on the potential transferability and replication of the proposed pilot activities, as well as the scalability beyond the life of the two-year programme.
Is there a consortium within the NZC network that is looking for a partner, that you may know off?
If you mean NZC Consortium Partners looking for partners (i.e. one or more of the 33 NZC Partners), please note NZC consortium partners are prohibited from engaging directly in proposals/consortia for Pilot Cities, but would instead support selected pilot cities during implementation via other mechanisms/programmatic components.
Could you give us an example of a successful proposal/project from the previous open calls?
This is the first call of its kind that we have launched – and, in any case, we are unable to advise on examples to follow; not to mention the fact that what works in one city may not work in another. That said, we would advise looking at the Pilot Cities Guidebook which provides some useful examples and resources to support the development of your ideas.
Can we be involved in this project lead applicant and partner at the same time?
The Lead Applicant is by definition one of the consortium partners – the city needs to be the lead and substantively describe how they will lead the activity, including which departments of the city would be involved, and how they will work with stakeholders/consortium partners.
Carbon-neutrality commitment: are all other participating cities required to commit to a certain target?
All participating cities including Mission Cities have to provide formalised evidence of their commitment to carbon neutrality. As per Criterion ” Net zero carbon ambitions” in the Mandate to Act criteria grouping, 5 points will be awarded for demonstrated, formalised 2030 ambition; 2 points for formalised ambition 2031-2050; 0 points for non-formalised ambition, or beyond 2050).
Consortium members and roles – the roles are coordinator of beneficiary?
Yes, there should be one coordinator and the other consortium partners listed as beneficiaries. In the system, please do outline what the specific role of each consortium member would be, in relation to the implementation of pilot activities.
Is the reporting done quarterly?
Reporting periods will be defined the grant agreement. You should expect a formal interim (mid-term) reporting milestone, and a final reporting one (linked to grant disbursements). However, we suggest you consider a project evaluation cycle (as linked to your impact framework targets) at a pace that corresponds to your activities.
What is expected to describe in the proposal, in terms of emissions inventory? Also, what is expected to be achieved during the project, in terms of emissions reduction?
Where relevant, emission reduction targets should be set to be able to monitor progress and evaluate the pilot activities. These should be in addition, and complementary, to supportive changes essential to anticipated outcomes, such as organisational, behavioural, policy, knowledge/capability, citizen engagement, etc.
What is the expected project’s start date?
The expected project start date will be in May/June 2023.
Is there a template for the signed letter from the Mayor?
There is no template for the signed letter from the Mayor. Please refer to the Call Guidelines, where we outline what the letter must include:
• Applicant’s official document header/template;
• Signed and dated by a city/district official mandated to signed on the city/mayor/city council’s behalf;
• The name and code of the Call;
• Unambiguous commitment of the city/district authority to the NZC Pilot Cities Programme and declaration of learning exploitation.
What are the differences between the expectation to complete these 2 questions ‘Please outline how the pilot activities connect to city budgeting and financing’ and ‘Please outline how the pilot activities connect to complementary city programming activities, i.e. the multi-annual financial perspective for the city, linked with an investment plan’?
The first relates to the direct relationship between the pilot activities and the city’s budget; and the second refers to complementary/supporting activities that are programmed by the city, during the time of the pilot cities programme implementation.
Are these correct? – deliverables as physical evidence of activities carried out (report, meeting, publication etc.), but a deliverable could also be an output with this definition – activity as an action carried out to reach results (evaluation, digital tool development, communication campaign etc.). -outcomes as the results of activities, which will then lead to long-term impacts (behaviour change, improvement of public policies etc.) and co-benefits.
Yes, indeed the definition of outcomes and activities is correct. In our context, a deliverable is the substantive delivery of a component of the work (plan) and may indeed result in something physical, but not necessarily (i.e. not a report for a report’s sake). In this regard, it could also be called an output.
Do you have a solution except using Microsoft Excel?
Rather than using the macro/refresh button, you should be able to refresh each of the pivot tables individually. Please do let us know if this does not work – and we would also recommend speaking with any relevant IT department. Alternatively, setting up your own equivalent calculating tables using whatever functionality Open Office does support, would suffice.
The duration of the project should be 2 years / 24 months, do you have any specific expectations regarding start date?
We anticipate projects to start no later than the end of May 2023, following contract negotiation period after selection communication (running through March and into April where required).
Would it be okay to choose the testing districts of our idea open at this stage if we clearly explain the method?
Pilot activities are not expected to be fully defined in the project proposal. Describing the methodology and strategic importance of selecting the districts and setting up the cross-departmental coordination would therefore be considered sufficient. However, you might want to add a list of potential districts and key aspects to be considered in the selection.
If we submit a proposal with a group of municipalities, should we add other type of partner, as an environmental agency or a SME?
If you submit a proposal with a group of municipalities, additional partners are not required if not relevant to your pilot activities.
What level of support the Expert Support Facility would be able to provide? How much of that should we write directly into the bid as a subcontract, and how much could the expert support facility provide (in hours or person months)?
The City Expert Support Facility is the primary mechanism by which NZC Consortium partners would be engaged as experts in the delivery of pilot activities – a separate mechanism will be developed for the start of the programme where cities can articulate their needs and the consortium will support with an allocation of PMs either within the Consortium or out with. Please note: NZC Consortium partners cannot be included in any of the applications to this call as consortium partners, nor can they be involved / engaged in any development work or advice giving for cities preparing bids (for fairness and transparency purposes).
With regard to the amount of support available via the Facility, this is not something we can fully anticipate as it relies entirely upon the number of requests for support we will receive and both the capacity and capability of the NZC Consortium partners to deliver against the requests (or else go out to external experts, which the consortium would coordinate). We would advise to budget according to subcontracting the expertise you require to deliver specific actions and if/where a proportion of that is then covered by future use of the CESF, this amount could then likely be reallocated.
The call guide states the following: The city is committed to climate neutrality by 2030 and has formalised evidence of this commitment …What exactly does it mean formalized? Is it enough to have the final version of the document (eg a Climate Action Plan)?
Formalised would indicate a level of official approval and/or adoption by the city/district, in and/or through a relevant authority.
We have the following scenario. The project consortium consists of more than 2 partners, including universities, NGOs, etc. The leader is the city. Can the project include, as one of the partners, the county council or is it considered to be territorial double-funding? Please, therefore, tell us if the following option is eligible: The project is coordinated by the city, but one of its partners is the county council. The county council, as a partner, also has a budget in the project.
In this scenario, the county council would be eligible and it does not constitute double-funding: if the county council were to appear in an entirely different proposal, then the prospective of double funding would come in to play – hence we have indicated that a city/district may submit/appear in only one proposal; and that authorities in the same city/district/region should appear in the same proposal and not separate.
Is the grant agreement signed by all partners (as is the case with Horizon Europe)?
The grant agreement will indeed be signed by all participating beneficiaries in the consortium – please note that this call is funded under Horizon 2020 and not Horizon Europe.
Are there any required work plan themes that we should cover?
There are no required work plan themes or number of work packages to structure your work plan. The different examples – governance, financing, citizen engagement, MEL and co-design – were given as these are different aspects of the pilot activities that are expected to be covered in the proposal. However, how you address them in the work plan and how you structure your content and activities in the various work packages is entirely up to you.
Could we include several dimensions in one working plan because our proposal has two main components?
If you would prefer to designate two ‘groupings’ of work packages then this is up to you – and also it is up to you how you represent any cross-cutting themes/activities within these two ‘groupings’. Please refer to the assessment criteria to be clear on what experts will be asked to assess, as this should be your principal ‘guide’ for structuring your submission.
What is an intervention? It it supposed to correspond exactly to the activities described in the work plan, are we supposed / allowed to list here only operational activities, or regroup several activities into 1 intervention… ?
An intervention represents substantive content activity/activities (rather than administrative activities) that you will implement that relate to your proposed impact pathway/theory of change. Therefore, it does not need to fully correspond to all of the individual activities but may, as you indicate, group some together (where relevant) and omit others (where they are operational and may not have any bearing on the impact pathway). As described in the webinar: see the Impact Framework as your ‘canvas’ for describing and visualising the theory of change/impact pathway you will be exploring in the pilot activities.
What expected life of project target means and what kind of answer you expect to see here ?
From a grant management point of view, we are asking you to define targets (related to your indicators) that you can track and report against over the two years of the Pilot Cities programme. Clearly, activities will continue beyond the life of the programme, particularly if/where scaling takes place, and so you would perhaps be thinking now about indicators and targets more broadly and many years into the future: but for the PCP programme, which is implemented over two years, we want to know what indicators you will monitor and what your targets might be for these, during this time.
Is it not possible to add other emissions domains to the form?
The emissions domains are already specified; these are based on the EU Cities Infokit and JRC recommendations. However, we know that these will not necessarily map 100% to all cities and their situations. We would advise choosing those most closely related to your activities and, in the relevant question field where you describe the domains you will be looking to address, elaborate further and provide context for your city.
Can cities from the same country apply together or do they need to be from different countries?
Cities from the same country, or different countries, may apply together.
Does the consortium need to include partners from 3 different European countries?
No. Cities may apply individually or with a multi-city application containing cities from the same country or different countries. There are no restrictions in this regard, except where city eligibility is concerned (i.e. from an EU Member State or Horizon 2020 Associated Country).
Is there a requirement of geographical balance?
Not expressly as it relates to individual applications to the Pilot Cities Programme, . However, we will seek geographic diversity in the selection of Pilot Cities and the profile of their pilot activities, in order to foster accelerated learning through diverse approaches and contexts.
Are you mainly looking for local coalitions within cities (with one city + local stakeholders) or coalitions between 2 or more cities?
It can be either, depending on how you choose to apply: as a single city (with consortium partner(s)) or a group of cities (and any other, relevant, consortium partner(s)).
Can an Association of Cities, representing several cities from one country participate as a partner?
Yes, however they would participate as an individual legal entity, and the proposal would still require a city to lead it (and any other cities as relevant, if a multi-city application is being considered).
Is the call and support system also open to cities in non-EU countries?
No. The Call is limited to cities in EU Member State and Horizon 2020 Associated Countries only.
Can a community with a population of less than 50,000 inhabitants participate in the NetZeroCities project or should it be a city?
The threshold for number of inhabitants for a single city/district application is over 50,000. However, if the country in which your district/city is located has fewer than 5 cities with >100,000 inhabitants (i.e. smaller countries) then you could apply with a city/district with over 10,000 rather than over 50,000, however only IF you apply with one or more other cities/districts to ensure the total proposal’s inhabitants coverage is >50,000.
If your country does have at least 5 cities with over 100,000 inhabitants then, strictly speaking, a population of less than 50k would not be eligible to be included in an application.
We are a city of less than 50,000 inhabitants in a country with big cities, are we eligible to apply?
Unfortunately, as a city within a country with more than 5 cities of over 100,000 inhabitants, your city would not be eligible where it does not meet the >50,000 inhabitants criterion.
Can a city having a population of i.e. 168.000 inhabitants apply without any co-applicant?
Yes, with a population of 168,000 inhabitants is already eligible on this criterion and would not be required to apply with any other city/district if you so wished.
Can we submit a proposal in consortium with more cities that are currently in the NetZero Cities Mission, when our city has less than 50,000 inhabitants?
Your city is not eligible for the NZC Pilots call, but instead you can check out for the Call for Twin Cities – a peer learning programme where 2-3 cities will be ‘twinned’ with selected Pilot Cities. This is in design and will be launched next year, following the conclusion of the NZC Pilot Cities Call.
Can a city be part of more than one proposal?
No. One of the eligibility criterion is that a city/district may only appear in one application. Furthermore, there shall be no territorial authority double-funding; therefore, a higher level of administration should not appear in a separate application to that of a constituent, lower-level administration (e.g. district). For example, a city should not appear in a different application to that of a constituent district of that city (or a greater city region/metropole should not appear in a separate application to a constituent city/district of that greater city region/metropole).
Can a metropolitan municipality apply to the Pilots call?
Yes, a Metropolitan municipality is eligible to apply, provided it is aligned to the eligibility criterion (and associated footnote on “city”) in the Call Guidelines: ‘defined as a Local Administrative Unit (LAU), or a “greater city” or metropolitan region’. This is to ensure alignment with the Commission’s call for Mission Cities.
Can a partner (that is not a city or a district) be part of several proposals?
Yes. Please note that the partners have to be relevant for the pilot activities.
Is it possible for a city to lead a consortium that includes local companies or external consultants?
Yes. Consortium partners may include local partners (research institutions/universities, SMEs, NGOs/associations, citizen groups or other relevant stakeholders).
Is there any restriction in terms of consortium partners? Specifically, can a non-SME (large company) with a municipal minority stake be involved in the project?
There is no restriction to the size of any organisation that might be included in the consortium – it is rather about the relevance of their inclusion to the pilot activities and the role that they will play.
Is a 100% city-owned non-profit consultancy company, responsible for – among other things, the preparation and management of all national and international EU tenders related to the city, and the development of all climate- neutral urban strategies and promotion of sustainable development efforts – as a legal entity with relevant and necessary expertise, able to take on project management and coordination tasks as a member of the consortium?
Yes. They should be present in the proposal as a consortium member in their own right, if/where they are a separate legal entity, however the city itself should still be presented as the lead for the project. Please note that, if such a non-profit consultancy or other form of organisation is not a separate legal entity from the city, then another consortium member should be present in order to satisfy the criterion of there being at least two separate legal entities in the consortium.
If several cities are making application together, does the consortium still need to include other, legally separate organizations within the cities?
No – the eligibility criterion is for at least two separate legal entities. Beyond the eligibility criterion, please also ensure to refer to assessment criteria that relate to collaboration and stakeholder engagement.
Can a city in Kosovo apply to the Call for Pilot Cities?
Unfortunately, Kosovo is not designated in this call as an eligible country: the Call Guidelines specifies EU Member States and Horizon 2020 Associated Countries as eligible, neither of which describes Kosovo’s relationship to Horizon 2020.
However, we would encourage cities in Kosovo to look out for any future calls under the Cities Mission (and other EU Missions) that are funded through the Horizon Europe framework, which succeeds the Horizon 2020 framework, and to which Kosovo are already Associated.
Can cities in non-associated non-EU countries take part in this call and access grant funding? This official document, EU Grants: List of participating countries, gives a list of non-associated non-EU countries that can participate in most Horizon Europe calls with funding.
Unfortunately, cities that are neither in European Union Member States nor countries that are Associated to Horizon 2020 are eligible for this call. Furthermore, the link you have provided is to the Horizon Europe framework, rather than Horizon 2020, under which this call is implemented.
Can cities with no previous Horizon project experience apply for this grant?
There is not requirement for a city to have previous experience of grants under Horizon 2020 in order to apply for this call.
Can greater administrative units, like for example, a province, apply for this call?
It is difficult to be able to give a definitive response without knowing more about your specific circumstances and what you are intending to do. In fact, we would say that the question is: what is it your intending to work on (systems; emissions domains; levers) and where does authority lay in being able to implement this (and have a mandate for doing so)? Are you the lowest-level authority in charge of, or having the adequate competencies to deliver, the activities you wish to propose, within the city/district/province boundaries? If the province/greater administrative unit has the authority then it is eligible, but we would propose that you consider combining your pilot activities with relevant authorities, and with the relevant competencies, to support implementation.
Does an SME have to be registered in the same district / city as the lead partner (district / city administration)?
It isn’t a requirement for an SME/Collaborating partner to be registered in the same district/city as the implementation city/ies – the relevance to an organisation’s participation, which may include their intimate understanding of the local context and/or past activities and relationship, should be described in the application form.
For a consortium led by a city with several local partners, can we also have in the consortium a non-local entity, for example a network with a national scope, which is not established in the candidate city?
A ‘non-local’ partner would be eligible if it is critical to tackle a local barrier then their involvement is relevant, clearly stated in the proposal.
Can private companies be involved in this project as a partner?
Yes, private companies can be included in the consortium – the important point is the relevance of including that/those particular partner(s) in the activities.
Is it possible for one of our partners to be our subsidiary company and the other to be an independent institution (a company, NGO etc.)?
If the subsidiary is a separate legal entity then you should include them as a consortium partner; if they are not a separate legal entity then they should be included, and budgeted, under the city administration itself.
Can large companies be consortium partners?
There is no restriction to the size of any organisation that might be included in the consortium – it is rather about the relevance of their inclusion to the pilot activities and the role that they will play. The proposal itself must be led by a city/district authority, and must contain at least two separate legal entities (with the city/district authority as lead).
A municipality which is a part of a city-region listed among the 100 cities, is eligible to apply as a lead partner in the pilot call?
Provided this municipality has an administrative authority and mandate to lead and undertake the pilot activities, then it would be eligible.
Can a city from Ukraine apply for this call, seeing also the different risk and challenges for the present and the future?
As Ukraine is a H2020 Associated Country, we welcome any applications from Ukrainian cities.
We understand the difficulties and major challenges you are facing and would therefore suggest that you provide information on the specific risks to the implementation of activities (such as the fluctuating exchange rate) and, where possible, propose mitigation and/or contingency measures in the risks section.
Can a statutory body act as the proposal lead?
Unfortunately, the criterion is quite clear about the need for the city administration (or a relevant district, municipality, or greater city regional authority) to lead the Pilot Cities activities and therefore be the proposal lead too. Of course, a statutory body can act as a member of the consortium partner and lead on the development of the proposal, and then be part of implementation with a central and substantive role; but you’ll also see from the assessment criteria and related questions in the proposal form that the city/authority’s administrative leadership and engagement is fundamental to the programme (i.e., cross-departmental collaboration; relationship to / with city programming and budgeting, etc.) hence the need for their needing to formally lead the proposal and any subsequent implementation. Additionally, for you to be aware, the system will only let the proposal lead technically submit the proposal.
Are partners from EU Member states and Associated Countries eligible to participate as partners to the consortium or the group of cities and partners should base solely in one EU MS?
Yes, cities and consortium partners may be in different MS or ACs – they do not need to be based in only one. However, the coming together of different cities (whether in the same country or across several) should be meaningful and relevant in the context of what it is you want to do and what barriers you would wish to collectively overcome. A group of cities within one or across several countries is not in itself advantageous, without it being genuinely meaningful and justified.
Are private companies being eligible for funding, and if yes, do they fall under the same criteria of funding with the categories of persons which receive financial support?
All beneficiaries (cities and consortium partners) have the same grant conditions, if selected. This is 100% funded, with no requirement for co-funding/co-financing.
Is there any upper limit to the partners of the consortium?
No, there is no upper limit on the number of cities and/or consortium partners: again, it is principally about the relevance of their inclusion.
Are there any restrictions in terms of consortium partners – whether the city can have a stake in the company, or not?
Organisations that the city have a stake in and/or wholly own can be included in the consortium. However, please note that in the instance that just one other organisation is included in the consortium (alongside the city) that is wholly or partially owned by the city, it will still need to be identified as a separate legal entity from the city (to satisfy the eligibility criterion of having at least two legal entities in the consortium, one of which being the city).
Can there be a union of two cities?
If your city/district were to fall within the category of needing only >10,000 inhabitants then you would need to then apply with one or more other cities to ensure the proposal’s total inhabitants is covering over 50,000. For example, your city/district with 40,000 inhabitants with two others of 20,000 and 15,000 would have a total of 75,000, which is comfortably over the 50,000 required for the proposal as a whole.
Are all cities treated with no difference in this open call, or is there a difference in being a Mission City or having (unsuccessfully) applied for the 100 Climate Neutral and Smart Cities?
This is an open call to which all cities in EU Member States and Horizon 2020 Associated Countries may apply. There is no formal advantage to being a selected Mission City in this call – this is on account of the need for the call to be open and transparent as per Horizon 2020 rules and regulations.
Who will be reviewing the proposals?
H2020 requires external reviewers, who will provide assessment of individual proposals (in Stage 2 of the process) which will determine if they move to Stage 3 on the basis of a score-threshold as outlined in the Call Guidelines. These assessments will also provide input to the selection committee in Stage 3.
Does the application get a higher rate if there are several cities collaborating?
No. Applications will be evaluated equally, independent of the number of cities involved.
How will the points count if a consortium of cities submits an application, and where each of the cities must document the ambition of their city. What if some show an ambition of neutrality by 2030, others between 2031 and 2050, and others commit to 2050?
Considering that the focus of the Mission for Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities, and therefore of NetZeroCities, is on climate-neutrality by 2030, you should expect there to be scoring implications where ambition is presented as mixed across the participating cities – in line with the specified scoring in the assessment criterion.
Is the “maturity” of activities, that is how detailed/ready/close to implementation they are (technically, organisationally etc) a thing that has strong impact on the scoring? In another way, is realising there is need for flexibility and open-end activities a risk versus getting good scores?
There is indeed a tension in the application process – and the thinking you will be required to put into the developing of the application and proposed activities and impact pathway – and the nature of implementation that incorporates learning and iteration. The application is the opportunity for you to present what you intend to do, how you think it will help you to overcome the barriers you articulate, and what that might look like in practice (aligned to a theory of change/impact logic). As mentioned in the webinars, if your application were to be successful, there will be time following selection where the NZC consortium partners will work with those Pilot Cities to interrogate, develop, refine those activities and impact logics/pathways, before you begin implementing in earnest. Furthermore, as featured in the documentation and information sessions, the programme will support Pilot Cities in their learning journeys and sensemaking/reflection processes that would lead to iteration and inform decision making – both within the pilot activities’ timeframe, and looking beyond.
If selected, there would be time and attention paid in the GA negotiation to prepare for the reporting requirements and so we would advise up front thinking about what your proposed impact pathway would unlock in future and how this would ultimately lead to GHG emissions reductions in the city/city’s emissions domain(s).
Ultimately, as per the guidance and the questions we have included in the Call Form, you will need to explain the barriers these activities would seek to unlock and how this would enable GHG emissions reductions – and be illustrated in your impact logic/ToC.
Will there be requirements for co-funding? Do cities need to have allocated local funding to support our pilots?
There are no co-funding requirements for this call.
What percentage of the expenditure is covered by the grant and what are the eligible expenses?
More information on eligible costs is available in the Call Guidelines. Eligible costs are covered at 100% by the grant, up to the maximum grant awarded.
What percentage of the expenditure is covered by the grant and what are the eligible expenses?
More information on eligible costs is available in the Call Guidelines. Eligible costs are covered at 100% by the grant, up to the maximum grant awarded.
The investment and financing needed to achieve climate neutrality will require a learning and development process also within the financial sector. Will pilot cities need to do this locally or will they receive support from the NZC consortium?
We will be supporting the collaboration with the financial sector as well.
What kind of costs will be eligible? Operating and investment costs? Or only operating costs? Will it be for instance possible to finance technical equipment or other investments?
Eligible direct costs include costs actually incurred, identifiable and verifiable, recorded in the accounts, etc. personnel, travel and subsistence, equipment, other goods and services (purchase costs); and subcontracting. Further information is provided in published financial guidelines.
When is a financial audit required (threshold 430.000 euro)?
If funding claimed by one partner is 430.000 EUR or above, they will be required to carry out a financial audit by an external auditor and submit the certificate.
Are cities required to select the size of their grant or will this be allocated based on the merits of the application?
Cities can select the size of the requested grant (0.5, 1.0, 1.5 million EUR) in the application form. However, the granted funding may vary from the requested funding in the proposal.
Can proposals with another amount (e.g. 2 MEUR) also be proposed and selected, if well argued?
No. Only three sizes of grants as outlined in the Call Guidelines are available to cities.
On page 14 of the Call Guidelines, regarding “the requested grant allocation per legal entity shall be not more than two-thirds of the total grant requested”, does this mean that NZC Pilot Cities Programme has a co-funding rate of two- thirds of total eligible costs, or that a single entity can’t be allocated more than 66% of the total grant allocation for the consortium?
The latter is correct: no one organisation in the consortium can be allocated more than two-thirds of the total grant requested. There is no co-funding requirement for this call – it is grant funded at 100%.
On page 16 of the Call Guidelines, the reference to “Communications and media activities”: what does “pass-through grant requirement for thirds parties” mean? Who are “third parties” in the frame of this call?
Third parties here refer to the eventual beneficiaries of the grants – i.e. the cities/districts and their consortium partners.
Will the consortium members have separate budgets, or will it be centralised?
The consortium members will have separate budgets, please refer to the Financial Guidelines and Call Guidelines (specifically, section 7), for further information.
Will the grant be received directly by all members or via the main beneficiary?
EIT Climate-KIC is in conversion with CINEA on this and the payment flow will be defined in the agreement signed between the beneficiaries and CKIC.
Can you confirm that private companies receive 100% funding?
All beneficiaries (cities and consortium partners) have the same grant conditions, if selected. This is 100% funded, with no requirement for co-funding/co-financing.
How can we better structure the budget proposal when there is a group of applications?
The template provided for multiple organisations, and the sheet that shows the various pilot tables allows you to see allocations per organisation/city; per cost category; per work package etc.
To be clear, whether there are multiple cities or just one, only one proposal/application should be created in the system and submitted: you should not create multiple proposals/applications for one Pilot City application.
Are there limitations for the internal ratios? As indicated, “subcontracting may only cover a limited part of the project action”, is there a limit specified here?
There are no internal ratios for the budget distribution. The organisations participating in the call need to have the operational capacity to implement the project, and subcontracting should be used to complement the work on the project where there is no internal capacity.
With regards to competitive selection procedures, what if in-house procurement is the “best value for money” procurement option for a certain service? Would it be eligible during the implementation of the project?
Goods and services procured in house should be costed under “Purchase costs: Other goods and services.” Evidence of the costs sustained will be needed at implementation stage (e.g. internal invoice).
Is the purchase of equipment which is strictly necessary for the implementation of the planned interventions eligible? If the useful life is 5 years, only the depreciation for 2 years (project duration time) can be considered eligible?
For equipment, only the portion of costs related to the project and for the duration of the project can be depreciated and is eligible. For instance, if equipment is bought and used from Month 3 of the project, depreciation will be eligible from Month 3 to Month 24. If the equipment is used exclusively for the project, 100% of the depreciation can be charged. If the equipment is used for other purposes, only the portion used for the project can be charged.
Is a consortium member restricted to have a planned individual budget exceeding 2/3 of the total planned budget?
No single entity can retain more than two-thirds of the total planned budget for the pilot activities (i.e. for a grant request of 1.5M EUR, no single organisation may have >1M allocated to them).
Regarding the integration of stakeholders, are we allowed to use freely a part of our grant to finance their activities or should we follow the sub-contracting rules of Horizon 2020 programmes?
For any purchase of goods and services, the beneficiaries will have to follow their usual practices (e.g. for public authorities, public procedures). The same applies for sub-contracting. You may include the stakeholders directly as consortium partners and they would therefore be grant beneficiaries – if they are already identified and working with you. In this case, no subcontracting would be required as they would be included in the grant agreement and be a beneficiary also.
Generally, what are the subcontracting rules applying to the programme Pilot Cities?
Please see the Financial Guidelines (which also refer to the Horizon 2020 rules) on this page.
In case we are selected and receive a grant for this call, how would the money transfer between the programme and beneficiaries work?
It is not yet confirmed how the distribution of the grant will take place. We will be having a single grant agreement (rather than one per consortium organisation) but it has not yet been decided whether disbursement will be via the coordinator or directly to each consortium partner.
How to integrate in the budget the future financing activities?
Budget for supporting future financing relates to activities you would undertake to develop the capabilities and capacity to put in place future financing strategies, processes, etc. to support the activities beyond the grant, including (though perhaps not limited to) the scaling of successful implementation outcomes/solutions, and/or wider decarbonisation programming. It doesn’t refer to actually including in the budget the future financing needs/implementation costs for such scaling (as an example). As stated in the budget list in the Call Guidelines, this is not a future budget that you have to plan for but person-months to work on this topic as part of you pilot activities. To be clear, you should include in your proposed activities (and commensurate budget) only what you would do in the two-years of the pilot activities (which may include planning for future financing/funding needs). The number of years would depend on the activities/solutions/implementation requirements, but this would be a feature of the planning you would do.
How is Value added tax (VAT) assessed as eligible?
VAT is an eligible cost when not deductible. VAT deductions depend on the applicable National legislation, so each organisation participating in the NZC project should be aware of their VAT status. Invoicing has to follow the usual policies and practices of the organisation. Services can be bought externally, and the organisations have to follow their usual procedures (they also depend on the type of organisation: SMEs; Public Authorities). The costs have to be budgeted either under the “purchase costs” or “sub-contracting costs” categories. This link may help with understanding the VAT https://taxation-customs.ec.europa.eu/vat-deductions_en
Is there a technical assistance budget available in the proposal writing stage to aid with the writing of the application for this pilot programme?
Unfortunately no, there is not a technical assistance budget to support the writing of the proposal.
We would, however, suggest that (if you haven’t already) you look through the application form and other elements of the submission – the form and process has been designed with a “building blocks” approach and logic, asking questions that directly relate to the way we wish to see these projects being set-up – as such, to develop an application is to go some distance to develop the foundations for the subsequent programme.
Can we apply for a project to take 1.5M Euro or is there any limit for the cities or countries?
You can apply for either 1.5M, 1.0M or 0.5M – these are the only options available, and you must choose one, commensurate with your total assumed costs for implementing the activities you wish to undertake.
Can you please specify what items are considered small scale research infrastructure? What costs can be eligible as (small scale) research infrastructure? Is there a limit for those costs?
Infrastructure costs (directly named and allocated) are out of scope for this call. Please review the Financial Guidelines and associated documentation (H2020 AMGA) with regard to cost categories that are in scope for this call to see if/where the costs/activities you are anticipated may be eligible under any of these.
Would tendering by the city council be considered subcontracting or subgranting?
Subcontracting is an eligible cost category, whereas sub-granting is not, in this call. We would refer you to the Horizon 2020 Annotated Model Grant Agreement to see the definitions and provisions for both, and therefore the differences. Should the process you would normally undertake (tendering) align to the procedures and requirements for subcontracting, then this would be eligible. If you it would instead align to sub-granting, then it would not be eligible.
The funding will be awarded as the Horizon2020 projects?
Yes, this funding is provided under the aegis of the Horizon2020 framework but the Pilot Cities projects themselves aren’t Horizon 2020 projects. NetZeroCities is a Horizon 2020 project, which holds a cascading grant budget to support the pilot activities. The grant agreements that will be developed and signed with selected beneficiaries/projects will reflect many Horizon 2020 provisions, as passed down from the NetZeroCities project and its grant agreement with the European Commission/CINEA.
Calculating personnel costs, should we consider individual annual gross salary + social charges/employer charges or only individual annual gross salary? Depending on this choice, amounts selected can substantially vary.
This category covers costs for personnel working under an employment contract for the beneficiary, including in-house consultants having a contract directly with the beneficiary, and personnel seconded to the beneficiary by a third party against payment. The personnel have to be assigned to the grant and their time working on the grant needs to be documented through a time-recording system (e.g. timesheets), in order to claim the costs. Daily rates will apply and will be based on a fixed number of 215 working days per calendar year:
– Daily Rate = Actual annual personnel costs for the person divided by (÷) 215
– Personnel Costs = Daily rate x days worked on the NZC grant
Is there an unexpected event budget line planned in the budget (External crisis that could affect the pilot delivery such as energy crisis, political event, climate event)?
All the budget required needs to be justified. In case of unexpected event beyond the control of the beneficiaries (Force Majeure), it is possible to revise activities and budget through an amendment. It would be advisable to note this in the risk register, where you may identify risks that may be more likely rather than simply unexpected (such as political change). Please note that there will be opportunity to undertake an amendment during the course of the pilot programme, following the first reporting milestone, which can also cater for changes to the landscape in which implementation is taking place.
What does limited part mean in the subcontracting cost definition (Subcontracting may only cover A LIMITED PART of the project action)? What does limited part mean? What is the percentage that subcontracting costs can cover in the entire budget?
Subcontracting is indeed an eligible cost category. Please refer to the Financial Guidelines, which you can see here: https://netzerocities.eu/call-for-pilot-cities/
There are no internal ratios for the budget distribution. The organisations participating in the call need to have the operational capacity to implement the project, and subcontracting should be used to complement the work on the project where there is no internal capacity.
When we submit the project application, do we have to attach offers and supporting documents for the substantiation of the budget, in order to show the cost justification for the expenses that we want to include in the budget?
There is a budget template that you are required to fill out, which includes the definition of types of costs, a description of them, and to which organisation they relate. Please see the template at the website mentioned above. This is submitted in the appication portal under the “Files” section.
Do we choose our Twin cities in the call application or are they selected for us?
The Twin cities will be selected in a separate call that will be launched in June 2023.
If one city applies as a Pilot City but does not get selected, can it apply as a twin city later on?
Yes, if it meets the eligibility criteria for the call for twin cities (City Learning Programme).
Will the content of the successful Pilot Cities applications (and the profile of their activities) be used to match them with twin cities?
The criteria for selection and matching will be published with the call for the City Learning Programme – however, it is anticipated the content of successful proposals and the profile of their pilot activities will contribute to matching process.
The Twin City does not have to be specifically integrated/specified yet, since there is a separate call for it in 2023?
A separate call process will identify Twin cities and match them with Pilot Cities, in 2023.
I have a complaint or would like to appeal the decision made about my application to the Pilot Cities Programme
If you have a complaint or would like to appeal the decision made about your application to the Pilot Cities Programme, please click here for our Complaints and Appeal Policy.
If you have any additional questions you can reach out to us via email!