Contact points strengthen support to North Sea Region applicants and projects

Four of the six North Sea Region Programme contact points relax after a recent Interwork event in The Hague. From left: Vanessa Pilley/UK, Louise Edgren/Sweden, Maike Horn/Germany, and Albin Hunia/the Netherlands.

One of the cornerstones of applicant and project support in the North Sea Region Programme is our network of national contact points (NCP). Our programme is fortunate to have one national contact point in each of our member countries, except Denmark where the Joint Secretariat carries out that role for the Danish project community.

NCPs function as experts on national rules, help applicants find partners for their projects, advise them on the development of applications, and provide support once projects have started with implementation. In effect, they act as liaisons between the programme administration and management and the project community.

But who are our national contact points, in which organisation is each based, and what would they like our project community to know about the support they provide? We asked our contact points to provide answers to these questions…

Who the national contact points are

Sandra Vandewiele (Flanders)
Home organisation – Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship
New to the job started February 2019
Prior to becoming NCP  – worked seven months for the Flemish Government’s Strategic Advisory Council on Spatial Planning and Immovable Heritage, preceded by nearly 10 years for the environmental and nature policy department for the province of Antwerp 
Free time interests – hiking in nature, zumba and photography

Maike Horn (Germany)
Home organisation – Senate Chancellery of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg
NCP since 2012
Prior to becoming NCP – civil servant; has held several different jobs in the ministries of Hamburg, including posts within the Hamburg Finanzbehörde, the Hamburg Court of Audit, and the European Policy Unit of the State Office, where she is currently based
Free time interests – being in nature, playing the flute, listening to music and dancing, working in the garden, reading, knitting, decorating, meeting friends, going to concerts

Albin Hunia (The Netherlands)
Home organisation – or ‘Netherlands Enterprise Agency’
NCP since 2017
Prior to becoming NCP – worked for the Dutch Government Service for Land and Water Management (DLG) running projects on re-wilding agricultural land, Natura2000 management planning and international cooperation. Fun fact: coordinated the end of a IIIB North Sea Region project for DLG in 2006, so knew the INTERREG family and traditions when he applied as NCP
Free time interests – running, Tai Chi, photography, collecting jazz records, occasional bird watching

Kate Clarke (Norway)
Home organisation – Council of Western Norway/regional government of Hordaland
NCP since 2007
Prior to becoming NCP – worked for the county in the European office on technology transfer and communications with business networks and municipalities
Free time interests – playing the flute and piccolo in two wind orchestras, going to the gym, swimming in the salt water outdoor pool in Bergen, spending time with family, and walking in the local mountains

Louise Edgren (Sweden)
Home organisation – Region Västra Götaland
NCP since 2018
Prior to becoming NCP – worked mainly with the international organisations that Region Västra Götaland is engaged in in order to improve the infrastructure in the region and along the stretch from Oslo to Hamburg, both the Oslo-Gothenburg cooperation and the STRING-network
Free time interests – spending time with family and friends, going to the gym, cooking, and skiing in Sweden, Norway or Italy

Please note: as of March 2019, Andreas Catoni has taken over the role of Swedish NCP temporarily, as Louise left the job in February for another opportunity. You can find Andreas’ contact details on the North Sea Region website.

Vanessa Pilley (United Kingdom)
Home organization – Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
NCP since 2017
Prior to becoming NCP – worked on environmental issues related to nuclear activity in the Ministry of Defence, and then moved to Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) to manage the UK climate programme, delivered by the Met Office. Currently on secondment from Defra.
Free time interests – speaking with the public about environmental issues as a volunteer for Bristol Zoo, patchwork quilting for new babies, wine-tasting, and traveling

What the national contact points do

As a group, the National Contact Points support projects in myriad ways. These include:

  • Reviewing applications with applicants to tighten the ‘intervention logic’, especially the proposed results
  • Suggesting ways to improve the transnational partnership and helping find relevant partners
  • Joining up Interreg with other Government stakeholders
  • Participating in project development and implementation events with the Joint Secretariat
  • Organising and hosting FLC seminars
  • Running capacity checks on private sector project partners
  • Answering questions on programme rules, especially insofar as how they are affected by national regulations
  • Running the respective country’s subcommittee, which makes recommendations on application approvals and rejections
  • Communicating with relevant regional stakeholders to engage organisations in Interreg project-building.

NCPs’ advice to applicants

The NCPs have, among them, a great deal of experience helping project applicants and assisting projects funded by the programme. Here are their top tips:


  1. Think about the actual results of your project. Answer ‘what is the benefit of what you are going to do for your target audience? How will things improve for them as a result of this project, specifically during the project lifetime?’
  2. Consider carefully the triangle of need-demand-baseline. In other words, ‘What is the need for this project? Where is the demand for this project? What evidence do you have for those two things?’
  3. Leave more time than you think you’ll need to prepare your application – speak to the joint secretariat, speak to the contact points – share drafts, call me up, invite me to a prep meeting. Bottom line: get some external eyes to look at the concepts, the text, the details and get feedback before submitting.


  1. Write your application for anyone to understand it – even your grandfather.
  2. List the benefits of your project idea for the whole of the North Sea Region.
  3. Make sure you have a well-established partnership at an early stage!


  1. Build the right partnership for what you want to achieve. Be critical about who you take on board and check their track record in previous projects if you can.
  2. Think carefully about involving the private sector. These are often high risk partners, although they can also add a lot of value. So check and understand their motivation and be sure they will be able to deliver. Make sure that the project has relevant goals for their involvement.
  3. Don’t rush into a project. Make sure the project fits with your goals and strategies. It’s better to miss a project application deadline than rush into something that is not properly aligned with your organisation’s other priorities. Otherwise you will have problems fulfilling your commitment.


  1. Join an Interreg project if you really feel that working transnationally will benefit your work and bring it further. Use the programme to talk and exchange with a larger and diverse group of experts and likeminded innovators.
  2. Join an Interreg project with the core activities that you were planning to do at some point anyway! Use the cooperation to speed up implementation, create urgency within your organisation, and use the opportunity to communicate widely about your activities.
  3. Be prepared to go from your own strong ideas, knowledge and activities towards tackling a broader ‘North Sea Region’ problem or opportunity. That ‘paradigm shift’ proves to be the most difficult one in creating an Interreg project and, in the end, the most rewarding one.


Please use all the help offered by the programme (the Joint Secretariat, contact points, networks, websites, meetings, workshops, conferences, events). There are NO silly or stupid questions – NEVER EVER. We are family – which means that we work together to find answers to your questions and solutions to your challenges.

To get in touch with the national contact points, please use their contact details provided on the North Sea Region Programme website.

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