EUREKA, Erasmus+, and AAL: Nina van der Vaart Brings Experience with International Grants

Malaga

Nina van der Vaart (her last name translates as “On Course”) lives up to her name. She has only been employed with us since 1 March, but already she is doing her (and our) thing, which is wonderful to see.

Nina lived in Spain for a long time, but has since been living in the Netherlands, together with her partner and their two daughters. “I did my internship in Málaga at the Euro Info Centre to study International Relations. During this internship, I advised companies on European grant programmes and tenders. During this period, I met my partner, with whom I lived in Málaga for the next six years.”

And then on to work in Spain?

“Indeed. However, it is difficult to find a good job in Spain. There is a lot of unemployment. So after a few temporary jobs, I got my first serious job at a research centre in ICT, where I worked in the Technology Transfer Office. I was the link between the researchers of the centre on the one hand, and the European Commission and European partners on the other. I supervised many grant applications for European programmes, such as EUREKA, the 7th Framework Programme (FP7), and the Active Assisted Living programme (AAL). I was involved in both the writing of the proposals and the start-up of the project, as well as part of the dissemination, communication, and project management activities.”

 

“Elderly care is facing an enormous challenge.”

 

You have been our colleague since 1 March 2021. What did you do before that?

“After my time in Spain, I worked for the National Foundation for Elderly for eight years as project manager research and innovation. During this period, I worked on all kinds of projects related to enabling elderly people to live at home longer and healthy ageing, often with the support of digital solutions and with the help of funding from various grant programmes. After that, I worked as a programme manager for innovation at a large elderly care organisation for a year. Elderly care is facing an enormous challenge with the increasing ageing population and labour shortage. 

Were you already familiar with E+M?

“No, not really. I wanted to focus more on writing grant applications. I really enjoy the process of starting with an idea, developing a project, and setting up collaborations for a grant application.

I started looking at grant advice agencies very specifically and called Evers + Manders to obtain information. I got Paul Manders on the phone, who immediately said: “Come and see me next week.” She laughs. “After that, it went really fast.”

Are there any overlaps with your previous job?
“Yes, primarily in the design and development of grant applications that help tackle societal challenges. The intensive cooperation with partners is also similar. And finally, the writing process. Getting the project down on paper in a clear way, so that the grant is awarded and the partners know what to expect. In my previous job, I was more involved with the coordination and implementation of the projects. Indeed, this is less so here.”

Where in particular have you gained experience?
“At the National Foundation for Elderly, I set up and coordinated many grant applications and projects within the Active Assisted Living Programme (AAL), ZonMw, and the Erasmus+ programme. Erasmus+ is focused on education from a broad perspective. It is a fairly practical programme in which you will, for example, develop a learning module or training materials. An example is the BEING ME project—a project in which we wanted to improve inclusive care for elderly LGBT people by developing teaching materials for care courses. The great thing about these projects is that you get to work intensively with the target group to see what their needs are and how you can improve on these. In BEING ME, we organised sessions with teachers, students, elderly LGBT people, and care providers. During these sessions, we worked together to develop learning materials for MBO education.”

“During the first session, we organised an introduction using theatre, where the stories of elderly LGBT people were played back by actors. That was very well-guided—very good. Then you can see for yourself what discrimination does to people. There were care providers, teachers, and students present. This created a lot of energy within the project and as a result, we managed to achieve a lot. It was a truly wonderful experience.” 

Project Being Me - Nina van der Vaart

 

“I do think that Evers + Manders could sell itself more, however….” 

 

How would you characterise E+M, after having worked with us for a few months?

“There is a high degree of specialist knowledge amongst the staff. Everyone is highly educated. There is a lot of knowledge and expertise, which is also reflected on the website, and they invest a lot in training and coaching. I do think that Evers + Manders could sell itself more. That says something, coming from me, because I am not really that commercial myself,” she adds, laughing.

How can you tell? Why do you think this is the case?

“There is a kind of modesty amongst colleagues, whilst they do offer much more than most of our competitors, whose services are often limited to editing texts. They take a very specialist look at the content, and definitely do not stop at a simple edit. This could indeed be used more commercially. Personally, in the past, I encountered a grant advice agency that did nothing more than list the regulations. Then I thought: I know that already. At the same time, however, the non-commercial approach is perhaps also part of the charm of Evers + Manders, and appeals to specific target groups. I actually feel more comfortable with this approach myself”.

In which sector do you specialise?

“I am part of the medical sector, with a focus on care, elderly care, and welfare. Anne is going to help with the Erasmus+ programme, so she can gain experience with the programme as well.”

What do you consider to be a challenge in your new position?

“In the Horizon Europe programmes, being successful is still quite a challenge. I do have experience within FP7 and Horizon 2020, but more as a partner, and not necessarily as a coordinator. Within the Erasmus+ and the Active Assisted Living (AAL) programmes, I have coordinated many applications. However, Horizon Europe has a higher level in terms of the scientific approach, complexity, the number of partners, etc. Furthermore, I want to increase my acquisition network and develop my own customer base. For successful acquisition, it is important that you stay close to yourself, and that you do not sell something from which you feel too far removed. I think acquisition within a warm network is better, for example by inviting a relation for a cup of coffee and see if we may be able to identify some opportunities together. I am not really commercial.” Nina adds, laughing: “However, I did tell Johan and Paul this during the job interview, so they know what they are getting into.”

Talking about hobbies, Nina says she likes to cycle on her racing bike. Another cyclist in our midst, just like Harm Gines and Jessica. “I do have to admit that I do not go very fast. I prefer to go alone, so I can set my own pace.”

No worries, Nina. You are evolving fast enough for us, and more importantly: You are already a much-valued colleague within our team! Welcome at Evers + Manders!

 

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