As for all the other decisions regarding your proposal, the scope of the topic will be your first guiding point. If a region is specifically mentioned (which will not often be the case) or if international cooperation is cited as a cross-cutting priority (more likely to happen), you will have a clear image of what you need to do. Let’s make something clear though: international cooperation doesn’t simply mean several organizations from different countries – this is already a requirement. You need to have at least three organizations from three different countries, at least one of them being a Programme country. So, what is international cooperation indicating then? It means we have to go outside of the European borders and bring on board Associated and Third countries (see here). Always have in mind the scope of the topic you are applying for and try to see which profile of institution from which region would best suit your idea.
But what happens if there are no specific indications in the topic on who you should include? You still need to be mindful of geographical representation, so what does that mean in terms of organizations that you need to have on board in the consortium? Should you include one from each country? Region perhaps? How important will this be to evaluators?
Even though geographical representation is only the fourth criterion the evaluators turn to in case your proposal scores the same as another, and they are trying to decide who will get funded, it still is important to show that your consortium is balanced. This is not just a box that needs to be ticked though, representation matters because you need to prove that your results will be applicable in different systems, policy backgrounds, infrastructures, or whatever other context is relevant for your project. Try to think in terms of applicability of what you will create in the project – is the result usable in the Baltics and in Central European countries for example? To prove that it is, and that you took into consideration all the perspectives, backgrounds and different approaches, policies and systems, you would need to think of it in terms of the partner being a good representative of a certain area and potentially if they are able to scale up the results on the regional level or among similar countries.
Geographical representation does not mean that you need to artificially balance or bring on board partners that are not relevant for the topic. On the contrary, if you manage to prove to the evaluators that you have included valuable partners and the logic behind the specific geographical representation is mirroring the various systems in terms of applicability later on – you will be on the right track.
Let’s take a simple example of a new pedagogical approach to teaching in elementary and high schools. It would be ideal if this innovative methodology would be usable after the project is done in various school systems – from very rigid ones to those that are quite advanced and open to new methods. To prove this, the consortium could decide to put the methodology into practice and pilot it in different countries. Ideally in this case, you would have several partners to conduct these pilots and you would choose them to be from those countries that are good representatives of various school systems. The applicability of the methodology at the European level would then be visible as you could prove through the pilots that it could have been successfully used in several different systems.
This is why geographical representation matters – the results of your project have to be relevant for the entire EU context – at least! Make sure to do a comprehensive state-of-the-art analysis of the variety of backgrounds and systems where your outputs would have to be exploited, show the evaluators that the logic behind including certain partners reflects their potential for exploitation and upscaling, and enjoy cooperation with partners from all over Europe and beyond!
For more consortium building and proposal writing tips and practices, join me and Ömer on 6-7 June in Eindhoven, for Part I of our Horizon Europe Academy. Check it out here.