Proposal writing for EU Projects is a complicated and demanding business. It requires a lot of time, a critical look and of course expertise on the subject proposed. But most importantly, it demands a good if not perfect management plan for the entire project. Now managing a Horizon 2020 implementing project is not easy. If you have never done it before then the very first thing you are going to want to do will be a research on how to take the easiest steps. That is of course just the beginning.
It is of utmost importance for you to make sure that you will use the help of a professional on the field of course. However, just to start there are certain specific steps that every Horizon 2020 project must have:
- Follow the call text, carefully when developing the project
A project that has been carefully developed, is more likely to be a successful project. Analyze everything according to the call text. No details left out.
- Strong consortium
Expertise plays a very important role for a Horizon project. You need a strong consortium with expertise in their field. That will most likely guide the project towards the right path. The success path.
- Give time to project management
When writing the proposal, remember that project management needs a lot of time to be thoroughly explained. And of course, you need to devote all that time to manage the project as well. Time is everything in this case.
- Focus on the people, not the tools
When implementing the project you will use both people, tools structures and pretty much everything that will make the project work. Always focus on the people and what they can offer, first. The project work for people, not machines and tools.
- Trust the key
Excellent projects share a high level of trust among the partners at the end of the project. As many consortium partners may be new to each other at the start of the project (see bullet 2), it is essential to invest in building and maintaining trust throughout the project. To this end, frequent communication within the consortium is crucial; regardless of the mode of communication.
- Establish a good working relationship with the project officer
Our data clearly show that it also improves the quality of the FP6 or FP7 project. Communicate pro-actively with the European Commission project officer about relevant aspects of your project, such as expected deviations in project results or consortium composition. Invest in a good working relationship and inform the project officer well in advance and in an informal manner instead of waiting for formal reporting periods. This allows for a more flexible and tailored approach with a less administrative burden for both the consortium and the project officer.
- Prepare to make changes in the consortium
Most of the Horizon 2020 consortia change during the implementation of a project. Be ready for that change in order for it not to negatively affect the project management.
- Intellectual Property (IP) agreements should meet the needs of all partners
IP issues are a major determinant of project success and are often the reason for partners to leave the consortium. Note that different organizations (e.g. research institutions and businesses) may have very different IP interests. The Horizon 2020 IP guidelines are leading. However, keep in mind that these might not always be in line with the specific interests of each partner. High-level IP agreements are usually insufficient to manage IP issues during the project execution phase. It is therefore advisable to agree upon the outline of the IP strategy with (the legal departments of) all consortium partners early on in the grant application process. A detailed IP strategy that is tailored to and acceptable for each consortium partner should be included in the European Commission Grant Agreement.
- Include sufficient expertise in financial management
Although the financial rules have been simplified in Horizon 2020, financial management of projects is still complex and often underestimated by Project Coordinators. If the Project Coordinator does not have the required experience it is wise to include institutional financial departments or an external specialized party.
- Be mindful of cultural differences
International consortia bring skills from multiple research and cultural traditions to projects. This leads to diverse and valuable insights. To this end, it is worth recognizing cultural differences and understanding how they can complement each other to move the project forward instead of becoming a barrier.
These are some very important tips that need to be included in the project management of your Horizon 2020 project. If this is your first time implementing such a project then asking for the help of professionals in the field of Project Management is essential. Find the right organization that will be able to help and perhaps you might find a great partner to add to your consortium as well.