The construction of the consortium is usually a task of the project coordinator, although this is not a rule. In many cases, there will be already a couple of potential partners involved in the development of the idea. If this is not the case, make sure to include potential partners as soon as possible – already in the phase of defining your keywords. You must remember that a project is not run alone and everyone must have a share from it. So, you will learn that there are a lot of negotiation involved in defining the focus of the project, the methodology to be employed and so on.
Finding and inviting potential partners
Use your research network to get in contact with people you know would have interest in the theme you are planning to address and that you know will correspond to your expectations. Be careful in choosing and contacting potential partners. This is a critical task and the success of your proposal writing and, eventually, the conduction of the project, depends on how well you configure your consortium.
Do ask the Professors for help when thinking of partners. Especially if you are considering to invite someone with whom you have not worked before. The Professors will give you relevant information about who would (not) be interesting to invite for the consortium. They will also be able to grant you access to their networks of collaborators, which will be invaluable in situations which you do not know who could be an interesting partner for your project. Be aware that there are also political issues associated with this. Hence, having expert advice on this one will not do you any harm.
When contacting a potential partner, these guidelines might save you from some trouble:
- Do not invite a potential partner to integrate the consortium at the first contact. Say that you are working on a proposal and would like to discuss possibilities. Ask whether they would be interested in discussing it.
- In the case of a positive reaction from the contacted partner, send them the abstract of the project – in case you already have one – or simply schedule a call/meeting to discuss the possibilities.
- Make clear what you have in mind, even if you do not have the idea completely formed. In this case inform that the project is still in the ideation phase and that their contribution to shape the idea. In other words, make clear how much room there is for adjustments of the research focus.
- Inform them of any other partner who is already composing the consortium and the responsibilities attributed to each one until now.
- Discuss how they think they could contribute with the project and what would be their needs in terms of personal and resources.
- Discuss with other potential partners of the consortium the conditions imposed by the potential new member and get an agreement.
- Only after an agreement within the growing consortium, make a formal invitation for a new member.
Project coordination is a serious matter and, therefore, should be discussed with the Professors. They will let you know whether our institute could or would be interested in assuming the coordination of the project.
It is a natural path that the group starting with the idea becomes the coordinator of the consortium, but there are a few situations that coordination can be transferred to another group, not least because of political reasons. Sometimes it is important to have a group in a particular country as coordinator, so to comply with some demands of the call.
This issue must be openly discussed in the consortium and there must be an agreement within the consortium about who will be the coordinator.
The discussion to define the coordinator of the project should be carried out as soon as the core of the consortium is composed – as mentioned, sometimes the full consortium is not finished until shortly before the submission of the proposal. The sooner this decision is taken, the better, since the coordinator of the project will most likely assume the coordination of the writing. This is sensible, given that in so doing, the coordinator will have some more room to articulate some small issues that will make their work easier in the future.
There is also the fact that coordination brings bigger responsibilities. It is deeply advisable that you only take the coordination of the writing, if our group is to be the coordinator of the project. Coordinating the writing is very time-consuming and demands an investment of energy that must be paid off with some extra resources for people and consumables.
Finding and involving industry partners
It has become a real trend to involve industry partners in academic project proposals. A more applied approach has been asked of proposal writers, in an initiative to bring academic results to the social world, so to contribute to societal changes. As such, since the beginning it is a good strategy to plan the inclusion of industry partners.
Many calls demand that at least some SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) are involved in the proposal. Others, like some of the EU-calls, do not make this exigence overt, but if one calls the National Contact Point they will strongly advice the inclusion of at least a large enterprise and some SMEs.
Convincing industry partners to join a project initiative is not always easy. Especially because they are not 100% funded. For national funding, for instance, they can get up to 50% funded through deductible revenues. However, some overhead money is possible and this can make the initiative more attractive to them.
Knowing a contact within the company you want to involve would be most helpful. However, if you do not have this sort of contact, find a colleague in the group who can put you in contact with interesting people. Walter Schäfer
has worked as interface with the industry for many projects. He is very experienced and has a considerable network. You might consider to schedule an appointment with him and talk about possibilities. There are also other experienced colleagues, who have managed to approve projects in cooperation with the industry in the past that can help you out.
Dealing with contingencies during the proposal writting
You will learn that man times the construction of the consortium will continue until shortly before the proposal is submitted. Sometimes you will find yourself in a situation that you will need to find a partner one or two weeks before the submission deadline. Fear not! Although this is far from being optimal, these things happen because of different reasons, e.g. the focus of the proposal changes in the course of the writing and a partner loses interest in it; the funding distribution does not contemplate the needs of the partner, etc. Most of the times we can avoid a partner to drop out of the proposal through a lot of negotiation, however, sometimes things go bad. If you are in a situation like this, seek help from more experienced people. You might want to involve the Professors in these negotiations as well.