Interview: Colombe Warin – Policy Officer at the European Commission in DG Research and Innovation
Colombe Warin is Policy Officer at the European Commission in DG Research and Innovation. She is the Project Officer of ENSEA and manages a portfolio of FP7 projects from the two Programmes “Research Potential” and “Regions of Knowledge” and coordinates all Communication activities within the Directorate ‘Innovation Union and European Research Area’.
What is the role of a project officer and what kind of projects are you involved in?
The role of a Project Officer of the European Commission is to monitor the project, and to be the main contact for the project’s coordinator. This should lead to a good implementation of the project, respecting the financing rules of the European Commission and following the milestones as agreed at the moment of the signature of the contract (i.e. main deliverables and work packages).
What are your responsibilities towards the European Commission and the coordinators of projects?
The first responsibility is to make sure that the grant of the European Commission is well spent respecting the decision made at the moment of the award decision. The result of such a contribution was a tough competition (in the case of the Regions of Knowledge of the 7th Framework Programme the success rate is between 6 to 14 % only). The other responsibilities are to set-up a good and transparent relationship between the Project Officer and the coordinator, in order for the Project Officer to be warned in advance of any deviation(s) from the agreed implementation (the so-called Description of Work). Although this may happen at different stages of the project, the assessment by the Project Officer is to make sure that these deviations do not affect the overall strategy of the project, as this particular project was chosen among others due to its specificities.
The intention to have both a strong scientific background and a good regional cooperation is a great strength of the ENSEA-project.
What do you need from the coordinators / project team to make things easier?
A Project Officer expects from a coordinator some regular updates on the project, not only for the reporting periods of when a Deliverable has to be submitted. Moreover, the coordinator should work to give more visibility to its project towards the scientific community, the media, the political and regional authorities. The European Commission’s grant can be “used” as a guarantee of excellence to broader showcase the project.
What does the project team need to keep in mind for the end of the project, what are the major issues to deal with?
Most projects from the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Innovation last 36 or 42 months. But the project should certainly not end with the European Commission’s grant. During the timeframe of the project, the coordinator should “use” his/her contacts with other international partners and conferences to design and conclude new projects at regional, national or European level. Regions of Knowledge is indeed a path towards concrete projects for the future.
How did you experience the ENSEA event in June in Brussels and what would you like to share with our readers about it?
The June event was an excellent occasion to showcase the results of ENSEA in Brussels to a broader audience. The EUSEW (European Union – Sustainable Energy Week) was the occasion to put ENSEA higher on the political agenda and to show its alignment with the EU energy targets for 2020. It was also a good occasion for ENSEA’s coordinator and partners to meet some potential new partners in order to build projects for the future.
What makes, in your eyes, for ENSEA the unique selling point other projects can learn from?
ENSEA has shown a strong willingness to establish collectively a well-recognised North West European energy system integration network. This intention to have both a strong scientific background and a good regional cooperation is a great strength of the project.
Any other things you would like to add?
I wish ENSEA could grow during this second half of its implementation regarding results and visibility and also –if possible- develop further European partnerships.