Tips & tricks for a better project management in Horizon 2020

Managing a Horizon 2020 project is a challenging task. We’ve put together some tips & tricks on how to minimize your administrative and coordination tasks ensuring financial and scientific success.

Horizon 2020 project management

Quick guide for Horizon 2020 project management

  • Read in detail what is required in the call and adhere strictly to the criteria set out in the guide for your proposal.
  • Build a merit based consortium that chooses proven experience over connections and be prepared for changes in the consortium.
  • Build trust by establishing an efficient communication structure that streamlines reporting, monitoring, and collaboration into a singular, secure, cloud based project management tool, such as EMDESK.
  • Make sure Intellectual Property (IP) agreements meet the needs of all partners.
  • Employ financial experts and tools that can help you fully understand the complexity of Horizon 2020 projects.
  • Use real-time data on progress and cost consumption to keep the project on track and do periodical EC reporting.
  • Develop a good relationship with the project officer based on proactive communication.
  • Develop a shared knowledge base, contact list, events calendar, etc. to keep everyone instantly on the same page.
  • Have a secure document repository with varying levels of access rights.
  • Ensure data security follows EU and GDPR standards.

How to start a Horizon 2020 project?

Start by analysing the grant call as this will be the most important guideline for creating your first outline for the proposal. Even though Horizon 2020 (H2020) call texts are broader than previous Framework Programmes, setting out and identifying all requirements from the call text is the first, essential step. Strictly focusing on what’s really asked in the call will help you and your project partners to write a successful proposal.

While it’s important to build strong relationships and maintain good connections, the decision to include partners in your consortium should be based on their experience and success rate with specific tasks. Even building a consortium of partners who hardly know each other but are highly qualified for the tasks they will perform will ensure greater success for your Horizon project.

How to work within a project consortium?

The time and effort made to establish and maintain trust between consortium partners throughout the project will foster new connections and relationships. However, just like our personal relationships, professional ones can also not work out. According to a study, about one third of all consortia change at least one partner over the course of the project. Take appropriate measures and ensure that all partners are kept up to date, can easily share information and stay connected via a common communication space such as EMDESK, which allows all collaborators from around the globe to share, communicate and meet in real time in a secure, cloud-based platform. Even when partners leave the project and new ones join, it will be easy for you to get the new partners on board quickly.

The same study indicates that one of the highest reasons for partners to leave the consortium are issues with Intellectual Property (IP) rights. It’s vital that IP agreements meet the needs of all the partners in the consortium. Different partners, business, and research institutions will each have their own IP interests, which might not always match the general Horizon 2020 IP guidelines. During the execution phase, you may find that high-level IP agreements are insufficient. It’s best to agree on an IP strategy with the legal departments or representatives for all consortium partners early in the grant application process. This detailed and specifically tailored IP agreement should be included in the European Commission Grant Agreement.

How to ensure secure environment for collaboration throughout the entire H2020 project lifecycle?

Another great challenge of managing a Horizon 2020 project is streamlining communication and sharing information in a secure environment. It’s vital to ensure that everyone is using the same tools in order to foster trust and prevent redundant work and miscommunication. Project management software solutions like EMDESK provide a single platform for planning, monitoring, reporting, and collaboration throughout the entire H2020 project lifecycle. As a fully customisable and scalable tool, EMDESK allows partners, teams, and organisations from across the globe to collaborate in a secure environment in real-time. Switching from multiple collaboration platforms into a single tool will allow you to optimize the flow of information and keep your H2020 project on schedule.

What about financial rules and reporting?

Not only does your EU funded research project need to stay on schedule, but it needs to follow complex financial rules. While these rules have been simplified for Horizon 2020 projects, adhering to these rules can be challenging and the difficulty of this can often be overlooked by Project Coordinators. Financial experts and professional financial management tools like EMDESK can change project nightmares into project formalities.

Project Coordinators and financial experts need an efficient way to manage financials, track consumption and progress throughout your collaborative H2020 project in order to make decisions and early communicate with your European Commission project officer about important issues such as unexpected deviations or consortium composition prior to formal reporting periods. This is vital to fostering a good relationship with your Horizon 2020 European Commission project officer, and will reduce the amount of time and administrative effort for them and your consortium.

EMDESK’s intuitive reporting and real-time analytics tools provide overviews and in-depth analysis that allow you to quickly spot deviations for consultation with your Horizon 2020 European Commission project officer, and to provide accurate periodical updates. With EMDESK you can also give your project officer restricted read access to monitor the project progress to improve transparency.

How to stay on schedule and meet project deadlines and milestones?

Time management is essential for meeting deadlines and milestones. Searching for contacts, documents, etc. can waste a lot of time. Creating an active knowledge base and secure data repository for your EU funded project gives your teams the ability to retrieve, update, and share information efficiently. It’s important that this repository has varying levels of access and meets EU and GDPR protection standards. EMDESK provides the tools your teams need to collaborate and share knowledge with varying access levels in a secure environment that meets all EU and GDPR standards.

Overall the key to successful H2020 project management is to implement a workflow and find a system that allows members of the project to spend the majority of their time concentrating on their EU research. Simplifying routine administrative tasks and keeping people updated with only relevant details prevents information overload and miscommunication. Simplifying the process of collaboration and sharing from multiple platforms to a single solution allows for collaborative projects to meet administrative requirements with minimal effort. This combined with instant progress and financial overviews and analysis make using a project management tool, like EMDESK an important part of successfully managing a Horizon 2020 project.

Yvonne Osborn, freelance writer

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