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BLOG: 10 Lessons to learn before you start preparing the Grant Agreement with the EU

August 05 2016

Congratulations, out of numerous applications your project has been selected by the EU for preparation of the Grant Agreement. You have scored best compared to all other projects in the sections 'Excellence, Impact and Implementation'. Your idea now has the opportunity to evolve into a project, using the funding from the Horizon 2020 program and your excellent consortium. You will be one of the >1000 projects that are preparing the Grant Agreement, while 8600 projects are already running in Horizon 2020 (status August 2016). Maybe you have had some help from a consultancy firm such as ttopstart, who went through this writing process with you in a structured way and helped you to write from scratch, until this very moment of victory. 

What is next? The European Commission will invite you to prepare the Grant Agreement (GA). You will have the pleasure to inform your consortium about the success (provided the automatic notification of the EC stating that the proposal moved to 'project' status has not beaten you to it). At this very moment, your interaction with the EC begins. Realise that if all goes well, this will be a long relationship, so enter into it wisely. The preparation of the Grant Agreement can be very elaborate and complicated. Some of your consortium members will have to be validated, LEAR and other representatives have to be appointed and the Grant Agreement itself has to be produced. Deadlines are tight: generally within 3 weeks after your proposal has been awarded eligible for funding the EC expects a Grant Agreement draft and within 6 weeks a Declaration of Honour needs to be signed by the appropriate representative, the PLSIGN. You can read the guidelines in detail in your invitation letter.

Make no mistake, Grant Agreement preparations can fail, even if it is in the best interest of the EC and the consortium. Also, keep in mind that every hour spent in the phase before the project begins is not eligible for funding. Based on our best practices in Grant Agreement preparations we provide you with the top 10 lessons to keep in mind before you start the Grant Agreement process:

  1. Communication: In the Grant Agreement preparation there will be a number of processes running in parallel. Communication is key to have the entire consortium in line and working towards the deadlines. Communicate what you expect from the consortium, but be efficient. Avoid spamming the entire consortium when there is only one partner you would like to reach.  
  2. Relationship with EC: The relationship with the EC starts with the Grant Agreement preparation. We recommend to build a good working relationship and go to the Coordinator Day meetings and meet your EU project officer.
  3. Partners diverting from the described work: When the proposal is being written, often the work packages are written under time constraints and with an underestimation of the work necessary once a project is funded. This may lead to partners that will lower the expectation of their work during this period. Make sure the work will be performed as previously agreed upon, so it will not jeopardise your work packages.
  4. Partners requesting additional money: Work done with funding from the EC has to be performed with the actual budget applied for. It is prohibited to make a profit from an EC grant. Especially industrial partners may want to ask you for additional money separately from the grant. It is okay to make arrangements with companies apart from the GA, but keep in mind what the accepted conditions were when it was still in the writing phase.   
  5. Problems in establishing the Consortium Agreement: The Consortium Agreement is the agreement between the consortium members, the EC is left out of these discussions. However, the Consortium Agreement has to be signed in parallel with the GA (preferably). This is to avoid any discussion after the Grant Agreement is already signed, which may jeopardise the signed agreement with the EC. See lesson #1, communication!
  6. Intellectual Property Rights issues: IPR issues may be very straightforward for some consortia, but for some, especially when industrial partners are involved with background IP, this can be a big hick-up. Start with creating a term sheet and let officials put this into the right wording. Do not try to be the expert here: The DESCA will provide you with a nice template that is updated regularly (February 2016).
  7. Validation by the EC: During the Grant Agreement preparation process some partners need to be validated. This is a long process, especially when it still requires a LEAR appointment too. Therefore, we recommend that partners that require a validation start immediately after the proposal writing.
  8. Adhere to the EC rules: The EC has strict guidelines in preparing the Grant Agreement text and in delivering documents for the appointment of LEARs. Make sure to follow these guidelines correctly to not delay the process.
  9. Financial viability: In some cases the EC will check for the financial viability of your company. Especially when the coordinator is an SME, your finances will be checked to see if your company is viable enough for the EC to transfer the amount of money for the grant to your account.
  10. Preparing the Grant Agreement text: Make sure to include all relevant data in the Grant Agreement text. Do not forget to address questions posed in the Evaluation Summary Report and Ethics/Safety Report.

Does this still look like a lot of work for you? There is a solution: Contact ttopstart! We can help you in preparing the Grant Agreement and all logistics around it. Also, we can help you managing your project when it starts in about 3 months. 

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