Step-by-step guide: How to find the right H2020 consortium partners?
For consortium projects, partner search for R&D and Innovation initiatives is key to maximise chances of receiving financing from the European Commission. As an essential step it is advisable to spend enough time analyzing your options and recruit the best partners.
There are several funding programs designed for projects in consortium. Each of them has different eligibility criteria concerning its structure. For example, in Eurostars, R&D SMEs are project coordinators. While in Fast Track to Innovation, the coordinator should be an industrial partner.
Partner matchmaking can be laborious and confusing. To make it easier, we have written a step-by-step guide so you can approach your partner search in a logical order and consider the most important points as you go to avoid problems later.
Partner matchmaking: First steps to take
Getting it right
Partner search requires in-depth analysis. Because of that, it is crucial to dedicate enough time to structure your consortium.
It is important to remember that it is a long-term commitment, during the execution phase of the project you can expect to collaborate for 2-3 years at least, and the most successful consortium projects aim to encourage a working relationship beyond its completion once your co-developed technology has been commercialized.
First port of call
The first port of call to find the right partner(s) to join your H2020 consortium is to use your company’s professional connections. Asking your existing network to be involved in your project can be preferable, as a precedent working relationship is most likely going to give you more reliability, upfront commitment, and less risk overall.
Going further afield
However, companies should not hesitate to reach out beyond their direct network and connections if this means working with the right organizations to accomplish the project tasks, ideally organizations who have a high level of scientific expertise and prior experience in H2020 projects. Therefore, it might be strategically important to reach out to key opinion leaders in your scientific field or reputable Research Organisations and Universities to demonstrate to the evaluators that the consortium has the ability and proven track record to accomplish the objectives laid out.
When we develop a new project, two heads think better than one: often the world’s most complex problems require interdisciplinary research and expertise to find solutions.
However, we know it is not always easy to spot the ideal ally for your initiative. For that reason, we encourage you to follow our step-by-step guide to understand who you need to team up with and how:
- Analyze your value chain to identify relevant stakeholders for the development or market uptake of your technology.
- Study carefully what their contribution to the project will be as well as their rights to the exploitation of the project results.
- Ensure that the roles your chosen stakeholders are in keeping with the principles of complementarity and interdisciplinarity. It is vital to adhere to these principles to ensure there is no conflict during both the development phase and once the technology is in the market.
- Check out the eligibility criteria of the relevant program to understand any objective criteria that need to be met: which types of organizations are eligible, which countries are included, what funding rate are they eligible for?
- Consider any budget restrictions: can each partner accomplish their tasks within any budget restrictions? Does the distribution of the budget between partners make sense for the project? Is the funding rate high enough for your partners to consider participation?
- Evaluate whether your consortium is balanced geographically: The importance of geographical spread in the European Commission’s assessment can depend on how research-focused the project is and also whether there are any logistical considerations about where the partners are located (i.e. potential distributors). However, it can be said that overall, projects greater in transnational scope are often viewed more positively.
- Securing interest from your potential partners: Approach your chosen organizations with a short pitch to secure initial interest. They will need to know what tasks are expected of them, and when, what % of the budget they need to fund themselves, and what exploitation rights they will have upon completion.
Bonus track: Do you know how to start?
Sometimes it is challenging to step outside your comfort zone. However, many platforms and tools exist to allow you to extend your horizons and make this process more accessible.
There are free EU partner search platforms available such as:
- Enterprise Europe Network: Using this platform, you could get in touch with a local Network point or find an international partner.
- CORDIS: At Cordis, it is possible to find a repository with all project information held by the European Commission.
- European Cluster Collaboration Platform: By registering at Cluster, you can post new requests or maintain conversations with potential partners to match.
- European Social Fund: The ESF developed a Partner Search database where project promoters include the details of their organizations and ideas.
- Up to Europe: By creating an account, you can find EU partners for your project and, also, support other European initiatives.
- BBI JU Partnering App: This application with more than 2,000 active members is the best option to find consortia proposals for the BBI JU (The Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking) calls.
- Funding & tender opportunities: Through this portal we can find not only information about the different funding programmes of the European Commission but also partners who want to join our consortium to participate in those opportunities.
Apart from these platforms, it is always an excellent option to reach your National Contact Point at your National Funding Body, as they can propose you some local connections.
There are also several online networking platforms available such as B2Match, Eventbrite, Eventtia, and Swapcard amongst others, as well as frequently organized events to connect with experts in your field. Some of the previously mentioned platforms are currently hosting online events due to the pandemic, which might be an excellent way to meet potential partners over 1:1 calls.
We understand partner matchmaking can be hard: it is necessary to analyze our options carefully and to be aware of the keys to success when structuring a consortium. However, we should recognize a consortium project as a real opportunity to grow our network. You can streamline the process by following our step-by-step guide and by registering on the available online platforms mentioned previously.
We think of consortiums much like the African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”