One can have the best idea for a proposal in response to a call, but one cannot apply alone for a Horizon 2020 project. Why is it important to have consortium partners beyond meeting the minimum H2020 eligibility criteria?
Consortium members ensure with their expertise and contribution to bring an idea to success. The earlier in the process of proposal development the participants of a consortium are found, the more time they would have to contribute to the elaboration of an idea and later on share efforts in successful project implementation. After the H2020 call text is published, and the project conceptualisation phase is over, it is time to search for partners. I will present one way among several approaches for finding partners.
At the beginning, the coordinator shall weigh the scope of the project, roughly assess its goals and related tasks they would target, and what kind of expertise the consortium needs to realize these. Following that, it is worth compiling a short, to-the-point proposal abstract in which we present the core idea about our project in a clear way.
Considering the necessary expertise, the coordinator shall search for the right partners, which may take significant amount of time. Devoting time and effort into partner search activities will have its fruits later on, therefore the possible partners’ relevant experience and expertise need to be researched before making your decision. Any time you address someone, remember to present your own organisation and that withdrawing any request for cooperation will decrease your credibility. You may use your networking channels to find the first few partners, then they could also come up with other suggestions; but bear in mind, if you are the coordinator, you will decide whom to involve in the consortium. Connections through friends, acquaintances and ex-colleagues are really important in partner search, but the coordinator have to make sure that the balance of the consortium is kept and there is a good cohesion among consortium members to ensure good cooperation.
Partnership consideration is not only about relevant expertise and experience, but the coordinator has also to take into account the minimum eligibility requirements of Horizon 2020; for instance, minimum 3 different legal entities from at least 3 Member States or Associated Countries are required in traditional research and innovation projects. It is advisable to set up your priorities and decide in which order to contact them and make a plan B and plan C for possible future partners as reserve. Sending out the short proposal abstract is a good starting point in each case in order to screen the possible partners about their interest in the proposal idea. In this case, we have to make sure that the message reaches them; therefore it shall be addressed to the right person in charge of making such decisions or can pass the idea to the decision makers.
The way how to approach and get on board an academic, business, governmental or a non-governmental organisation could vary based on the differences of these organisations. In case you do not get any reply quickly, do not worry. Some organisations may have different protocols before giving an answer, or the person you contacted may simply be engaged in other activities (business trip, holidays, etc.) causing a delay in their reply. If you do not receive an answer in a week, it is worth calling them by phone.
Potential partners may confirm or refuse your cooperation offer. The confirmed consortium participants could then contribute to proposal preparation such as by commenting, elaborating specific parts of the proposal, etc.
Last but not least, we have to keep in mind that we may experience unpleasant situations too, such as a consortium participant quitting in the very last moment before submission. Here comes plan B and plan C, possible joker participants, who can jump into the consortium if necessary. But we have thought about this in advance, haven’t we?!
Read our previous blog series about the "Experiences of a Project Coordinator".