Skip to content

5 tips for managing a consortium

Consortia have become very common in the scientific world as a means to find innovative solutions to problems. However, having multiple parties involved in a project comes with its own set of challenges. Are you struggling to successfully manage a consortium yourself? Here are five tips.

Tip 1: Hold a project kick-off meeting

Holding a kick-off meeting once a project officially begins is paramount. Several months will have passed since the proposal was submitted, so most participants will have lost focus on what it promised to deliver. A kick-off meeting (typically two or three days) ensures everyone understands the project objectives, budget, a timeline for delivery, and most importantly, what the end results should be.

Our advice: have each partner deliver a brief presentation on their role and expertise within the project to ensure they are up to speed with what is required from them.

Tip 2: Maintain regular communication

Communication is a key aspect of any collaborative project. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools available for this purpose today – whether it be WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Slack, Google Drive, all-in-one project management software, or even state-of-the-art augmented and virtual reality platforms such as Facebook’s Horizon Workrooms. Regardless of the preferred platform, establish it at the outset and make sure all partners have access.

Tip 3: Appoint a designated project manager

Appointing a designated project manager to deal with day-to-day questions, helps tackling topics such as conformity with the grant agreement, arranging and supporting project meetings, and following up on action points from steering group meetings. Next to a project manager, it can be beneficial to have a designated person at each partner organization to follow up on queries locally and ensures all the required documents are delivered promptly.

Tip 4: Hold quarterly steering group meetings

Quarterly steering group meetings are an effective way to maintain sufficient progress throughout the project. Less formal monthly meetings, possibly work package specific, are also useful for small-scale updates. To ensure these meetings remain focused and relevant, consider splitting them into technical and non-technical steering groups. This will also help controlling attendance numbers.

Promote the steering groups as an opportunity for partners to highlight the work they have been doing. This tends to be most effective on a work package by work package basis. Other key items for the agenda include updates with IP, risk assessment reviews, updates with communication and dissemination, input from the monitoring office (if present), reviewing the Gantt chart (in terms of progress), reviewing past and upcoming deliverables, and a financial review.

People in a conference room having a meeting

All steering groups should be well-informed with clear and concise action points. This will allow for a clear action plan post-meeting, ensuring all partners understand what they need to deliver and when.

Simple project management tools such as traffic light systems may also be useful, especially for monitoring the Gantt chart, risk register, and expenditure. Ensure each partner provides an update on their expenditure at every steering group. The project manager should then compile a global project expenditure review, which they can cross-reference with the proposal.

Ensuring a good buffet and a nice hotel (within grant agreement eligible expenditure) is typically a good way to keep everyone happy!

Tip 5: Ask for help

Most queries can be answered via the grant agreement, with the biggest obstacle being navigating your way around the 300+ page document which bounces from article to article. If you cannot find the answer you are looking for, don’t hesitate to contact your project monitoring officer within the European Commission (EC). They are there to help. Remain patient until you receive a response (or continue your chase) and keep in mind that each EC Project Monitoring Officer is responsible for many projects.

Final remarks

If anything, remember these three points:

  • Always make sure your timesheets are complete and keep track of your expenditure (file your invoices!).
  • Ensure regular communication with your partners and promote a transparent approach to avoid conflict and enhance team spirit.
  • Remember that accessing EU grants is very competitive and success rates are often low. Receiving one means you are incredibly fortunate and have a unique opportunity to make a difference. In other words: enjoy the experience also without immediate result!
About the author
Picture of Ilina Bareja

Ilina Bareja