Tips & tricks for finding Horizon 2020 partners

Every call needs a mix of partners in order to fill its requirements, but finding the right partner is often easier said than done. Many researchers find it difficult to know where to start the search for new research partners. Typically, the problem isn’t that researchers aren’t looking for new partners, they’re just searching in the wrong places. Searching for research partners for your Horizon 2020 project can be quite time consuming, especially with limited time and resources. Here are 5 suggestions where to look and how to find your next research partners in Horizon 2020.

1. Core partners

The first place you should look when searching for new research partners is within your core partner network, especially if you’ve implemented a few Horizon 2020 projects together in the past. Your core research partners are likely to also have their own networks, giving you access to other potential partners.

You may find it worthwhile to look deeper into European partnerships in order to extend your networking opportunities. Depending on your field of research, these partnerships include: Fuel Cell Joint Undertaking, Bio-based Industry Joint Undertaking, and Nanomedicine ETP, and many more.

2. Conferences & brokerage events

Conferences and brokerage events are where researchers from around the world meet to exchange ideas and get inspired. Participating in these events will allow you to meet stakeholders that share the same specialized research interests as you. Make the best out of coffee and lunch breaks by mingling with people and be sure to set-up one-on-one meetings with any potential research partners. You may find that even if someone is unable to partner with you at the moment, that they may have some colleagues or connections who might be interested.

3. Be a project enthusiast

People won’t know what you’re working on unless you talk about it. Be a project enthusiast and tell others what you’re working on wherever you go. It could be at dinner with friends, riding a plane, or even waiting at the doctor’ office that you find your next partner. You can meet research partners in the most unlikely and surprising places. The power of this approach is that even when the people you meet don’t work out as your next research partners, they carry your Horizon 2020 project wherever they go and continue to spread the word to their friends and networks. One crucial thing you should keep in mind when talking about your Horizon 2020 project is to never give out confidential information.

4. Tools

Go digital. When visiting the Funding and Tenders’ Portal, you’ll find a ‘Partner Search’ tool. This tool is extremely valuable as it allows you to check the background and previous activities of organizations. It’s an easy way to evaluate potential partnerships and determine if it makes sense to reach out and make contact.

5. Personal relations

Don’t underestimate your personal network and relationships when it comes to finding future research partners. They may build your next proposal. Since all types of stakeholders are welcome in EU projects like Horizon 2000, today’s friends might become your future collaborators, whether they belong to the public, private, or non-profit sector. As long motivation and determination are high and the “chemistry” between research partners feels right, the next strong project proposal might be just a few meetings away.

Build your winning EU project consortium

Take all lessons you’ve learned so far and mix until homogenous

What did we learn in Horizon 2020 in terms of building up a consortium? First of all, you need to know exactly what your topic requires, how to match that with your idea and the expertise you need for your project’s success.

Secondly, “united in diversity” ingredient applies. Why united? Because partners should all be committed and motivated, looking to develop sustainable strategies and wanting to go on with the results beyond the project lifetime. Diversity? Yes, you heard me well: geographically and from different disciplines and sectors. Get as many countries as you need and all the expertise you need for you project. I am emphasizing need as each project is unique – there is no standard consortium recipe.

And do not forget the secret ingredient (not so secret anymore now): complementarity. As people complement each other in relationships, you should make sure the partners complement each other – so choose wisely if you aim to succeed with your proposal and future project.

Make good use of all available tools

Now let’s talk tools: from Google to your own network to more EU-sophisticated tools, try them all! Keep Google for an initial search – especially when you are looking for partners in other areas than yours. Mind your network – it is gold! – check who would fit the expertise needed and ask around. To narrow it down even more, depending on the type of discipline or sector you would need for your project, there are plenty of tools: first of all, as mentioned above, the Funding & Tenders Portal “Partner search” function, CORDIS, or National Contact Points (NCPs). Make these tools your best friends in your next quest for partners.

Last but not least, be a project enthusiast and social butterfly: participate in all conferences and brokerage events you are interested in and where you might find your next project partner. Mingle with people at events and pitch your project idea – this will get you closer to your winning consortium. This may be a bit difficult now, but mingling is also possible online! Professional networks like LinkedIn and online events are an excellent way to find people with same interests.

“Gotta catch ‘em all” and keep them close

In your quest, scout your partners with a concept note – this is where you give an idea on what your project is about and explain to your potential partner what their role would be. This is where you mobilize all your pitching and persuasion skills. Make it catchy and sell it to them – why? Because some partners might be more popular than you thought, so everybody (including competing consortia) will want to be their friends (like those popular kids in high school). The other side of this story is that you should know how to keep them close and engaged after you get them on board. Celebration and chill times do not come when you managed to secure your partnership, but when you successfully submitted your proposal. Engage them and be the “social glue” your consortium needs. It is going to pay off having a committed team once you win that project and will have to implement it for several years (this is also for when you go out for dinners and drinks together).

This article was written in a cooperation with our valued partner Europa Media Trainings.

Networks and platforms for finding Horizon 2020 partners

Idealist Partner Search

While this was developed by the ICT National Contact Points (NCP) network, the partner profiles listed here are not limited to ICT. This service offers advice on how to create an organisation profile by your local NCP and it offers quality control on all published data.

Fit for Health

The Fit for Health network was developed in close cooperation with the Health-NCPs. It offers a quality checked database with professional profiles of researchers and SMEs acting in the Health / Life sciences sector. It also features advice on partner search activities for all aspects related to a research project; with help in first orientation and strategy development to proposal preparation, implementation, exploitation, and promotion.

Partner search for H2020 'Smart, Green and Integrated Transport' calls for proposals

This partner search tool is devoted to project proposals to be submitted under the H2020 'Smart, Green and Integrated Transport" calls (Societal Challenge 4). Developed by the H2020 National Contact Points network for Transport - ETNA Plus, it guarantees a high quality partner search with a two-step verification process.

C-Energy 2020 network - the European Energy NCP network under H2020

The C-Energy2020 Partner Search Tool was created as part of the C-Energy 2020 network and is linked from the Network website. It offers a comprehensive, web-based tool that supports the building of consortia for promising proposals that are targeted at the open calls under the Horizon2020 Energy Work Programme. This easy to use service includes a quality check by the NCPs.

NCPs CaRE: Partner search for Societal Challenge 5 “Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials”

In the NCPs CaRE network project for NCPs in SC5, this partnering tool supports potential applicants for the Horizon 2020 Work programme of the Societal Challenge 5 “Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials” in finding partners and building a consortium for a project proposal. This service provides a quality check by the NCPs and participates in specific brokerage events.

Enterprise Europe Network Cooperation Opportunities Database

An extensive number of innovation and technology profiles from international companies and research organisations to help identify suitable partners for bilateral business, innovation and technology cooperation is published by the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN). All profiles are published anonymously, and the EEN database is updated with new profiles on a weekly basis. You can express your interest in collaboration by filling out the Expression of Interest form and sending it to your local EEN office, which will initiate contact.

P2P Partner Search

ERA-LEARN 2020 is a support platform for Public-Public-Partnerships (P2P). It provides the P2P Partner Search, which allows you to find stakeholders engaged or willing to engage in large networks for the coordination and cooperation of national and/or regional research programmes.

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