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Consortium management: How to make sure that 1+1=3 during your research project?

August 24 2016

Recently, we have shared information on how to attract the best partners to your consortium for a large research project. Building the best possible consortium is one thing; but what if you are already part of a consortium? How to make sure that your project excels for the entire duration of your project; how do you make sure that 1+1=3?

A consortium partner may well be compared with a very exotic orchid. At the time you purchased the orchid, you spent your time looking for the most beautiful one of its kind. You read the manual and you made sure it fits nicely with the plants you already have in your collection. You have chosen the location where the flowers thrive best; not too sunny but definitely not too cold with all shade. You nourish it, but you do not water it too often or cut off its most beautiful flower. You give it just the right amount of attention, brightening its true and stunning colours.

Your consortium, especially Horizon 2020 funded innovative projects, consists of orchids only. Handle the partners right and they will flourish. But what is the right way to do this? Here we provide our insights into aspects that can help your consortium flourish:

  1. Make sure everyone in your consortium is on the same page and work towards a common goal. In any H2020 project, the goal is described and discussed in the proposal stage. However, science cannot be programmed and often you need to adjust your route to the goals and be flexible with the way to achieve it. Starting on the same page provides the leeway for this flexibility.  
  2. Make clear who will be responsible for what within the consortium. Being responsible does not mean you need to do all the work.
  3. Vilfredo Perato described in 1897 the 80/20 rule. Within the context of this article this means that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Use this rule to make your consortium more efficient. Involve the right person within an organisation.
  4. Develop team-spirit! People are willing to do more if they feel connected to a group and feel useful. An easy way to create this feeling in your consortium is to give regular updates on the work that has been done and achievements that are made.
  5. Delegate tasks that someone else can perform better or more efficient. For example, if you are a work package lead and you need to prepare a report, maybe someone else in your work package has the skills and knowhow and can do an even better job.
  6. Build consensus. A difference in opinion is not a bad thing (it is only human), especially in science. Try to build consensus, or have a system in place that can ensure that consensus is reached.
  7. Address difficult topics before they can become a problem. Topics that are often the elephant in the room are: budgets, risks, underperformance and IPR issues.
  8. Communicate a clear message and listen with full attention. Keep in mind that in communication you have two information channels, the one sending information, and the one receiving information. Sender and receiver can sometimes talk about very different things. These two messages can be very different, without the sender and the receiver knowing.
  9. Choose a communication medium that best suits your message. Sometimes one phone call works better than a dozen e-mails.
  10. Have a project management team in place that oversees the entire project and that has the dedication to find out how to accelerate the consortium.

At ttopstart we can take away the burden of the non-scientific management.  We have the tools and the experience to make your consortium flourish, creating that team spirit. Contact us if you want to know more. 

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Contact

Karin Bosch-Elberse, PhD
+31(0)30 737 0779