Increased impact through public private partnerships and co-financing

Co-financing of projects

Co-financing is not compulsory for research projects, but is often desirable and sometimes required. Partnering with various parties, including private parties, is encouraged in order to guarantee implementation, but also to make use of available expertise, knowledge and networks. Public Private Partnerships, or PPPs, are therefore becoming increasingly common in ZonMw projects. This involves effective cooperation between at least two independent parties, as defined below. Private co-financing is requested in case of PPPs, which constitutes a contribution with private funds. Private funds are considered to be any funds – in kind or in cash – that are not state funds. Public funds are, by definition, state funds.

Co-financing for grant programmes

ZonMw sometimes executes certain grant programmes, also called grant instruments, in cooperation with other financiers. Examples include the Translational Research Programme, for which nine health funds and the Top Sector Life Sciences & Health are co-financiers, or the Personalised Medicine Programme, for which health insurer Zilveren Kruis co-finances in addition to health funds. Cooperation on programmes creates focus and mass.

Effective cooperation covers various legal and financial aspects. Please refer to the sub pages Legal aspects and Financial aspects for more information about what ZonMw expects of you and what it monitors for.
Please see below for ZonMw's definitions of co-financing and PPP.

Definition of Research Organisation

An entity (such as universities or research institutes, technology transfer agencies, innovation intermediaries, research-oriented physical or virtual collaborative entities), irrespective of its legal status (organised under public or private law) or way of financing, whose primary goal is to independently conduct fundamental research, industrial research or experimental development or to widely disseminate the results of such activities by way of teaching, publication or knowledge transfer. Where such entity also pursues economic activities, the financ¬ing, the costs and the revenues of those economic activities must be accounted for separately. Undertakings that can exert a decisive influence upon such an entity, for example in the quality of shareholders or members, may not enjoy a preferential access to the results generated by it.1

Definition of Undertaking

Any entity engaged in an economic activity, irrespective of the legal status of the entity and the way in which it is financed. Economic activity is understood to mean any activity consisting of offering products or services on a given market. Whether or not an enterprise seeks to make profit is irrelevant.
Examples of enterprises include healthcare institutions, SMEs that develop certain applications or interventions, health insurers, sports clubs, etc.

Furthermore, the EU Court of Justice has established that entities controlled, by law or in fact, by the same entity are to be considered as a single enterprise.

In certain calls for grants, a distinction is made between enterprises of different sizes. In this context, large enterprises may be asked to provide proportionally more co-financing.

  • Small enterprise2: fewer than fifty employees and an annual turnover or balance sheet not exceeding €10 million.
  • Medium-sized enterprise3: fewer than 250 employees and an annual turnover not exceeding €50 million or a balance sheet not exceeding €43 million.
  • Large enterprise: other enterprises.

Definition of Effective Cooperation

A project is considered to be carried out through effective collaboration where at least two independent parties pursue a common objective based on the division of labour and jointly define its scope, participate in its design, contribute to its implementation and share its financial, technological, scientific and other risks, as well as its results. One or several parties may bear the full costs of the project and thus relieve other parties of its financial risks. The terms and conditions of a collaboration project, in particular as regards contributions to its costs, the sharing of risks and results, the dissemination of results, access to and rules for allocation of IPR, must be concluded prior to the start of the project. This does not include definite agreements on the market value of resulting intellectual property rights and the value of contributions to the project. Contract research and provision of research services are not considered to be forms of collaboration.4

Definition of Co-financing

Co-financing may involve a contribution from public or private funds. A contribution from public funds is defined as: a contribution – in cash or in kind – to a programme or project financed by ZonMw that is financed directly or indirectly by state funds.
State funds include all public sector funds, including funds from decentralised, devolved, federal, regional or other levels of government and, under certain conditions, funds from private entities.5
Private funds are therefore considered to be any funds – in kind or in cash – that are not state funds. An example of private funds are health fund resources.

Types of agreements

Letter of commitment, to be presented together with the grant application
In a Letter of Commitment, co-applicants and potential sponsors legally commit themselves to the amounts promised for co-financing. When presenting a fully developed application , ZonMw will demand a Letter of Commitment from each of the sponsors/co-financiers. In the event of approval, the consortium and/or sponsorship agreement can subsequently be requested.

Consortium/Cooperation agreement; presentation after approval
In a consortium agreement or project agreement (interchangeable terms for the same type of agreement), the project partners, also referred to as the project group, lay down the conditions under which they will carry out the project jointly. A consortium includes all partners who actively contribute to the implementation of the project. These partners are referred to as the project partners and thus effectively cooperate with each other. The project partners are often mentioned as co-applicants in grant applications with ZonMw.

Sponsorship agreement; presentation after approval
In addition to participating in a consortium, organisations may decide to contribute to a project only financially and not to participate actively in its implementation. Such organisations are considered sponsors or co-financiers. Sponsors often enter into a separate agreement with the main applicant/project leader in which the conditions under which the sponsor makes a financial contribution to the project are laid down. Sponsorship agreements may include arrangements regarding ownership of project results. This is one of the aspects for which ZonMw monitors the agreement.

1) Communication from the EU Commission, Framework for State Aid for Research and Development and Innovation, 2014/C 198/01.
2) Recommendation by the EU Commission of 6 May 2003 concerning the definition of small, medium-sized and micro enterprises; notified under document number C 2003 1422; Text with EEA relevance; 2003/361/EC.
3) Recommendation by the EU Commission of 6 May 2003 concerning the definition of small, medium-sized and micro enterprises; notified under document number C 2003, 1422, Text with EEA relevance, 2003/361/EC.
4) Communication from the EU Commission, Framework for State Aid for Research and Development and Innovation, 2014/C 198/01.
5) Communication from the Commission on the concept of State Aid within the meaning of Article 107,1, of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, 2016/C 262/01.


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