A consortium is at the heart of any Horizon Europe project. First and foremost, a consortium is a written requirement for all Horizon Europe collaborative projects. As well, consortium partners, once chosen and settled, will undoubtedly impact the success rates of the project itself. Because of this, building a highly competitive and relevant consortium is a very important stage of the Horizon Europe project development process. In this article, we will discuss important do’s and don’ts that will help you to build a strong and successful consortium.
The basic guidelines for a Horizon Europe consortium
Every consortium in Horizon Europe is comprised of at least 1 partner from an EU member state and at least 2 additional partners from 2 other different countries coming either from EU member states and/or associated countries. In many cases, a consortium with more than 3 partners is expected (although this depends on the exact requirements set in the topic description in the work program). One of the consortium partners will need to be the Project Coordinator (often leading to a coordination dilemma). In terms of project evaluation, beyond eligibility – the structure and composition of the consortium is very important and should not be taken lightly.
With the above guidelines in mind, the main challenge is always: how to build a highly competitive consortium tailored to your project’s needs? To help – let’s discuss the do’s and don’ts of consortium building.
Building a consortium – don’t bring your friends
The most common mistake in building a consortium is bringing on board the immediate “friends”: the close circle of peers, past and present collaborators, etc, before a thorough conceptualization of the proposed project. We have seen many cases in which the initial core consortium included a set of partners that were already interlinked or related in various ways, even before assessing the real needs of the project.
Following this method, it is very likely that there will be a discrepancy between the list of consortium partners and the project’s actual needs, thereof rendering the consortium incapable of fulfilling all requirements for the project’s success. In this way, the intended focus of the project may be changed or “forced” to try to work with the existing consortium, and this is clearly not the recommended path to take.
So what should you do to build a successful consortium? Continue reading below.
Building a consortium – do understand the project’s specific needs, then bring the relevant partners
When constructing a consortium that is going to submit a project proposal to the highly competitive Horizon Europe program, the priorities should be different from ensuring your friends can be a part of the project.
- For the Pre-Award phase, the only thing that matters is how the reviewers perceive the consortium structure: What would be the best project definition, and is the consortium perfectly tailored to execute it? In other words – what would be the composition of partners that best serve the project’s definition and goals? Are there redundancies? Are there tasks that are not well-covered by the expertise of the consortium?
- For the Post-Award – the execution phase – the goal is to have a manageable project structure, with a reasonable administrative burden and without having redundant and unnecessary partners. We have seen projects that were retained for funding in which partners turned out to be a burden as the project did not really need them. Experience shows that this is definitely something to avoid.
Building a Consortium – a simple guide to success
The key to building a consortium the right way is shifting the discussion focus from partners to functions. Looking carefully at what the EC is asking for in the Horizon Europe projects shows they want to see a composite of functions that will lead to the expected impact.
Analyzing the Functions of the Project
The very first step to building a consortium successfully is to deeply analyze what would be the best functions to “deliver the goods”. This should be done early in the process of proposal development.
It should be done vis-à-vis the topic description, and in line with the overall agenda and scientific concept that you want to promote. In that context, we wish to remind that the full topic description should be addressed by the project definition. If you fail to refer to all of the topic requirements, your application might be evaluated as less competitive than others.
Logic must play a crucial role. The workflow between the functions is very important. We must ensure that it is clear to the reviewers. We must make sure that there are no redundancies, overlaps or unexplained gaps in functionality. Gantt chart is not enough for that matter. We’d always recommend also having a Pert chart, accompanied by a detailed written explanation about the project’s workflow. Entry points, endpoints, milestones, inner dependencies, etc. – all these should be well addressed. It will help you with the reviewers in the pre-award phase. Later on, once the project is retained for funding, it will definitely help you in the execution phase as well.
Transforming functions to partners
After we are done with designing the project and its functions, we can transform the discussion back to “partners” and start searching and recruiting them. The output of the “functions” planning will be a clear set of requirements for the partner search. You will have a much better view of the kind of partners that you need for the project and their respective roles in the project.
Equipped with this knowledge, you can now search for partners and allocate them. Now, if any of your friends or peers qualify to the functional requirements of the project – invite them to join!
Following the above process properly can ensure you formulate a successful consortium for your Horizon Europe project. Of course, this process may involve stepping out of your comfort zone in terms of partnering. But the ultimate result will be a robust consortium structure that will serve both the highly competitive pre-award phase and the post-award phase. Once such a robust consortium structure is in place, we urge you to learn more about the process of curating the Consortium Agreement.