Professional management of collaborative projects: why consultants are essential
If you have already been coordinating or participating in an EU Research or Innovation collaborative project, you are probably aware of the complexity of such a task.
Over the years and throughout the various framework programmes, some elements and processes have been simplified. For instance, from 2021 and with the new Horizon Europe programme but also with other EU programmes, there will be a single method of calculating the cost of personnel, which will simplify the life of many accountants and financial officers within the beneficiaries of funded projects.
However, despite some simplifications, the rules remain rules and fulfilling them is extremely important to ensure you properly justify how you are spending European public funds. This is where the professional management of EU-funded projects comes in.
Professional management of projects
Professionally managing a project requires
Therefore, many beneficiaries of EU funds request the support of EU innovation consultants for their expertise in project management. Thanks to their vast experience and the variety of projects and cases they encounter, they have, through time, set clear procedures to professionally support the partners in the various phases of the project from the negotiation, to the project management until its closure. When a project involves over 20 partners from 10 countries, guidance is essential. Although experienced companies or research centres working with EU projects may have internalised the experienced resources; however, newly established companies that perhaps work with EU projects on a lesser scale, might want to hire professional consultants with the required experience to advise them.
EAIC member companies can offer valuable support to EU projects
Within the EAIC, a large number of members offer this service of project management support. Today, management of EU projects cannot officially be subcontracted; it must either be subcontracted unofficially through a company’s budget or request these consultants to step on board or joint projects as a partner. This prohibition to subcontract such activities is stipulated in the new Grant Agreement Model in Article 7. It says the following, with regards to the obligations of the coordinators:
“The coordinator must
(i) monitor that the action is implemented properly (see Article 11)
(ii) act as the intermediary for all communications between the consortium and the granting authority, unless the Agreement or granting authority specifies otherwise, and in particular:
The coordinator may not delegate or subcontract the above-mentioned tasks to any other beneficiary or third party (including affiliated entities).”
Few exceptions now exist in Horizon Europe: public entities can delegate the role of an intermediary for communications or the distribution of payments to some affiliated entity; sole beneficiaries benefit from more flexibility as well.
Hence coordinators are the ones who must take care of the tasks listed above, which often refrains some experienced companies or industries from daring to coordinate as they don’t see themselves in the position to have an in-house expert able to perform or dedicate time to all these tasks in a professional manner. An alternative to ensure that industry is leading EU-funded projects is to obtain assistance from consultancies or other partners to support the management of the project.
Our Manifesto to support Professional project management in Horizon Europe has the following objective: it aims to alert the EC about the proper consideration of project management for the Horizon Europe Framework Programme. When we launched our Manifesto in 2019, while Horizon Europe’s rules were being defined, we were seeking for a better recognition of the impact of real expertise in management - whether this expertise be internal or external, public or private:
- By allowing the participation of other partners, not just the coordinator, in Project Management activities.
- By allowing the subcontracting of management tasks to professional experts with proven track records.
Today, with the launch of Horizon Europe and the publication of the Common Model Grant Agreement, we feel our first request was partially heard; however, we continue to insist on the essential role innovation consultants can play, particularly in making EU framework programmes more attractive to EU industry.
Today more than 270 people have signed our Manifesto: your signature to show your support to our initiative can help raise our voice. You can read the full manifesto and sign it here: https://www.eaic.eu/manifesto.html.
Article courtesy of EAIC member, ZABALA Innovation