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Arts Humanities and Social Sciences Research

The School of Arts and Humanities and the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Studying at Cambridge

 

Working as part of a Consortium

Managing Multi-Beneficiary Research Grants

Most EC funding streams, including Future and Emerging Technologies, Societal Challenges and Industrial Leadership, involve a joint application being made by multiple partners forming a consortium. The University of Cambridge may be the Coordinator leading the application, or may be a Beneficiary in a consortium led by another organisation.

The information below reflects the School Research Team’s best practice advice for working as either Coordinator for, or partner within, an active consortium project.

Additionally, the Research Operations Office can provide support in applying for and setting up H2020 collaborative projects where the University is the Coordinator.  Please see the ROO website for full details.

Consortium Communications

One vital element of effective award management is clear and open communication within the consortium, though this can often prove challenging on multi-beneficiary, complex projects.

The Coordinator takes overall responsibility for leading communication with the EC and for disseminating key information to all other Beneficiaries, and each Beneficiary should keep the Coordinator informed of progress, flagging any issues or changes which may need to be raised with the EC or Consortium.

To support consortium communications, beneficiaries could consider:

  • Forming a General Assembly – this is the decision making body of a consortium, usually formed with one representative from each Beneficiary.  Regular meetings, either in person of by teleconference, will give opportunity for all Beneficiaries to raise and discuss items with the rest of the consortium.

  • Holding a kick off meeting – a project start-up meeting with all partners can be a useful introduction, outlining roles and responsibilities, processes and timeframes for ongoing communications.

  • Identifying key contacts – specifying who to speak to at each organisation is a simple but effective step in facilitating communication. All communication could be channelled through the PI at each Beneficiary, or another member of the project team, or alternatively different contacts could be provided depending on the type of query.

Coordinating Research Activity

Each EC project will be broken down into a series of Work Packages (WPs) reflecting strands of research activity, with each WP assigned several Deliverables. WPs may run concurrently, or might lead on from previous WP activity. Each WP will have one Beneficiary leading activity, but usually have several other Beneficiaries involved.

The responsibilities and commitment of each Beneficiary to these WPs will have been agreed during the application and award negotiation processes, and are detailed in the project Grant Agreement. Additionally, a Consortium Agreement will be set up and signed by all partners; this document details practical information including governance, financial matters, decision making, ownership of results and intellectual property, and liability towards each partner.

The current EC Grant Agreement template can be found here, and Consortium Agreements are usually based on the DESCA 2020 template, found here.

Both the Grant Agreement and Consortium Agreement should be carefully checked before signing to ensure the research activity and terms the University is committing to are appropriate, realistic and accurately budgeted.

Budget, Reporting and Amendments

The consortium can agree to reallocate budget between Beneficiaries if needed, without need for an amendment, so long as research activity is delivered as per the DoW. This allows flexibility for the consortium should costs vary from what was anticipated at application stage.

The Coordinator takes the lead in monitoring progress and compliance against all WPs, and the EC Participant Portal provides the platform through which Deliverables and reporting are submitted. Although the Portal does indicate deadlines for each Deliverable, the EC don’t issue reminders to Beneficiaries beforehand so it’s advisable for the Coordinator to send deadline information to Beneficiaries as needed.

If an amendment is required, these requests for change should be raised with the Coordinator, who can proceed to liaise with the EC directly in regard to the amendment. Further details of amendments can be found here.

 

If any issues on a consortium project are encountered, please do contact the HSS SRT directly for advice and clarification.