Deciding on the management structure and principles is a very critical step in a Horizon Europe proposal. There is no single way to do it but several approaches that vary according to the project. We recommend below a generic method but feel free to adapt it to the needs of your proposal.
The project coordinator
This role is mandatory in any Horizon Europe proposal. One partner must be chosen to take the role of project coordinator at the proposal stage and during the project. During the proposal preparation and submission, the coordinator is the one who creates the online version of the proposal on the European Commission’s submission system and invites the other partners. The coordinator is also the one officially submitting the proposal on behalf of the whole consortium. If the project is successful, the coordinator becomes the key contact with the Commission during the grant agreement preparation. Once the project starts, the coordinator becomes responsible for the internal communication in the consortium and between the consortium and the Commission. He is also responsible for checking the quality of the deliverables and ensuring they are submitted on time. Finally, this is the coordinator who receives the funding from the European Commission and who is responsible for distributing it to the other consortium partners.
The role of project coordinator is therefore quite challenging and time consuming. It is advised to allocate this role to an experienced partner, especially if the project is big. Do not forget to plan enough time and resources for that (about 7% of the budget should go to the project management for all the partners, but a bigger part should go to the coordinator).
The steering committee
It is advised to set up a committee representing all the consortium partners and giving it the decision-making power in the project, in the form of a vote done during the project meetings. The steering committee should meet regularly, for example every 3 to 6 months and review the project’s tasks, milestones and deliverables submissions. The steering committee should be called any time a critical decision should be made in the project. This is why you should also give the committee the responsibility of risk monitoring and management.
The work package leaders
Each work package should be led by somebody with the responsibility of tracking and reporting to the steering committee the completion of the different tasks within their work packages. This is a more technical responsibility and the meetings of the work package leaders should occur more regularly. To streamline the project, technical decision making should be allocated to the work package leaders, but any decision involving for example a budget change, a reallocation of tasks, the delay of a task’s completion etc. should remain the responsibility of the steering committee.
It is advised to not allocate the roles of work package leaders to the same people who seat in the steering committee.
The exploitation and innovation manager
It is strongly advised to create a position of exploitation and innovation manager, preferably given to a partner with a commercial interest in the technology developed in the project. The role of the exploitation and innovation manager is to help the industrial partners of the project set up their business plans and supervise the discussion about the intellectual property of the project between all the consortium partners. Plan some time and resources to deal with these issues and ideally, create a task or a work package about innovation management, especially in innovation actions.
The advisory board
It is also recommended to include a few (for example 3) advisory board members to the project. Their role would be to give an external opinion on the scientific, technical and exploitation matters of the project. That for, they can be invited to some of the project meetings to receive updates on the project and give their opinion. Do not forget to plan the budget to reimburse their travel expenses.
Any support role?
Coordinating institutions often have within their organisations a project management support office. If so, it is a good idea to mention it in the management structure for the administrative and financial support of the project.
What about the management procedures?
It is better to have a formal decision-making mechanism, for example a fully-documented vote on arising decisions. The critical aspect in the management procedures relates to the conflict management. It is not rare to reach disagreements in large projects, so you should plan ahead for the process to deal with it. Plan an escalating process, that starts with simple discussions and ends with a formal decision by the steering committee vote. A veto right can be allocated to some partners but in general, it is advised to keep the decision-making process democratic.
Also plan for change management, for example if one partner pulls out of the project.
Plan to sign a consortium agreement before the project starts. This is not mandatory but strongly advised to do so. The consortium agreement should include all project management principles, change management, risk management and IPR management.
We hope this article has helped you with understanding how to create a management structure and key principles. Do not hesitate to ask questions in the comments below.