Partners and Consortia

A large majority of Horizon 2020 calls requires the set-up of teams, so-called consortia, with partners from various countries. Typically, consortia can include a large variety of members (academia, large enterprises, SMEs, associations, etc) with different backgrounds. Putting together a consortium that includes partners whose expertise complements one another is an important success factor for your proposal.

Formal criteria

The formal criteria for setting up a consortium are straigthforward: it must be composed of at least three partners from at least three EU Member States or  Associated Countries. Legal entities must be independent of each other to be considererd as different partners. Each consortium must include a coordinating organisation, referred to as the “coordinator”.

The coordinator

The coordinator has a very specific role among the project partners. This role is usually carried out by an experienced organisation well versed in EU-funded projects that has the capacity to take on the overall project management. Legally speaking, it has financial obligations defined under the Horizon 2020 Rules of Participation. The coordinator must ensure general compliance with the Grant Agreement. Accordingly, it receives and distributes the project funding among the other consortium members, as specified in the Grant Agreement. The coordinator should also ensure that the communication between the partners is efficient and reports to the Commission on the progress of the project are submitted on time.

Grant Agreements

A Grant Agreement is the contract signed between the coordinator and the European Commission (or a relevant Agency, such as REA, the Research Executive Agency). It defines, among other things, the action, grant amounts and eligible costs, the rights and obligations of the parties, reporting and auditing. The Grant Agreement follows a template prepared by the European Commission services, the Model Grant Agreement. There is also a commented version of it, the Annotated Model Grant Agreement. All documents can be found on the Participant Portal, in the reference document section. 

How to join a consortium – as a partner

The following points might be helpful if you are looking for a consortium that you could join as one of the project partners:

  • Prepare a convincing document that describes your organisation and competences, what you can bring to a consortium and which call(s) you are targeting. Be clear about your expertise and how you can contribute to a project.
  • Tap into your professional network. Some of your professional acquaintances may be planning to submit a proposal.
  • Set up a profile on a partner search site. These are domain-specific websites dedicated to Horizon 2020 calls for proposals – such as Ideal-IST for ICT and Net4Society for Social Sciences and Humanities – or on the CORDIS partner search tool.
  • Follow LinkedIn Groups related to Horizon 2020 where partner searches are published occasionally, or let your network know about your partner search.
  • Solicit your NCP. Your National Contact Point can distribute your search to their European counterparts.
  • Participate in brokerage events. For certain calls, Europe-wide or local brokerage events are organised where participants can pre-arrange meetings and talk to a large number of potential consortium partners in a short time.

How to build a winning consortium – as a coordinator

All of the above hints apply. In addition, the following points should be kept in mind:

  • Explain your idea clearly – draft a convincing document that presents your project idea, your competences and the competences that you are looking for in potential partners.
  • Argue your case – demonstrate your excellent knowledge of the subject at hand, your ability and willingness to launch a European project, as well as your managerial and personal skills.
  • Tap into your network – recruit project members whose know-how you can assess and fit into the project.
  • Spread the word – publish a partner search on dedicated websites, your own website or on LinkedIn.
  • Check out past EU projects in the domain of your targeted call. Partners in these projects are likely to be central players in this field. Information on past projects is mostly readily available on the European Commission websites. Most projects also have their own websites.
  • Make sure you are on target – during the proposal phase, coordinators are not encouraged to contact the European Commission, but it is still possible to obtain clarification on doubts you might have concerning the general scope of the call. National Contact Points can ask questions on the behalf of proposal coordinators. Questions should, however, be general and concern the interpretation of the call text. European Commission Project Officers (staff in charge of calls) are reluctant to answer questions that are very specific to one Horizon 2020 proposal.

Where you can go alone – Calls not requiring consortia

Not all Horizon 2020 funding schemes require that proposers set up consortia with several partners:

  •  Coordination and Support Actions can be submitted by one legal entity established in a Member State or associated country only.
  • The SME Instrument only requires one SME from a EU Member State or associated country to submit a proposal.
  • European Research Council (ERC) grants fund single Principal Investigators working in a host institution in a EU Member State or associated country (for more information, see the chapter on the ERC).
  • Individual Fellowships, which are part of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions, address individual researchers (and their host institutions) (for more information, see the chapter on the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions).