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Why participate in an H2020 consortium (part 1): SME perspective

April 16 2018

Public-private partnerships (PPP) are hot in the Horizon 2020 programme! The European Commission greatly encourages partnerships between industry and academia and other stakeholders (such as patient representatives, governmental- and regulatory bodies ), as this is an important path to decrease time-to-market of potentially impactful innovations. Knowledge gained in academic research can quickly be translated to e.g. clinical and societal settings when industry is closely involved. However, starting and maintaining a PPP requires effort to be put in by all parties for which the benefits are not always clear from the start. So why should you as an SME participate in an H2020 consortium? What is in it for you, and how can you address some uncertainties you might have? This is the first article in a series around this topic, starting with the perspective of an SME.

Benefits for SMEs

In an earlier article, we described the potential benefits of participating in a PPP to both industry and academia. See the full article here.

In short, the following benefits have been identified for SMEs:

  • Access to talent, specialised expertise, and state-of-the-art facilities and equipment (infrastructure).
  • Alliances with top scientists provides credibility of the company to investors
  • Diversification of the drug and technology portfolio; ensuring little risk and high return

Moreover, SMEs can share the high costs usually necessary for high-profile projects.

Barriers perceived by SMEs

We acknowledge that many SMEs perceive barriers for participation in a PPP. We would like to address these barriers, including how to overcome them. This way, you do not have to miss out on the benefits as listed above and can help improve Europe’s position in the commercialisation of innovation.

Cost of participation [1]

A first and major aspect of the decision to participate in a large consortium for SMEs are financial incentives: comparing benefits of cost-sharing with the cost of participation. As costs are quite short-term, this can be over-represented compared to the longer-term benefits of cost sharing. When thinking about the cost of participation, it is therefore crucial to keep in mind the future cost-sharing aspect to make a fair judgment. You will find that often, the benefits will outweigh the initial costs!

Different objectives [2][3]

Academics often have different objectives for research than you as a commercial SME. For example, academics can have different expectations in terms of disclosure of results, both in timing and in form. Keep in mind that within the Horizon 2020 framework the Grant Agreement is there for exactly this purpose. In addition, selecting a strong project leader – preferably with a hybrid background – greatly reduces this barrier, as they will make sure all stakeholders are represented.

Language and culture [1][2][3]

Partnering with an academic (institute) may feel like partnering with a different world in terms of language and organisational culture. Previously, we have written a resource on how to ensure your PPP collaboration is successful, covering topics that help understand the other's culture and build trust. The result of building trust and a strong consortium is that relationships can be shared, thereby mutually increasing professional networks. This is thought to be one of the greatest benefits of participating in a consortium [2].

In general, experience in public-private partnerships is likely to result in a reduction of these types of barriers as practices and routines can be reused and refined with every experience [3]. So, make sure you get a great start in public-private relationships to develop a sustainably innovative environment!

Request assistance

Convinced that you, as a life science SME, should participate in a PPP? Great! Consult our website to find more resources on how to establish great collaborations and tips on how to ensure successful grant writing. Find the right partnership opportunity for you in the Life Sciences Funding Database. If you need help writing the grant application, forming the right consortium, or managing collaborations, our experts are here to help! We have extensive experience and a large network of potential partners to ensure successful PPPs. Moreover, our project managers can assist in overcoming the perceived barriers. Get in contact with us to see what we can do for you.


[1] Faber, J., van Dijk, J., & van Rijnsoever, F. (2015) Incentives and barriers for R&D-based SMEs to participate in European research programs: An empirical assessment for the Netherlands. Science and Public Policy, 1-15.

[2] Villani, E., Rasmussen, E., & Grimaldi, R. (2017) How intermediary organizations facilitate university–industry technology transfer: A proximity approach. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 114, 86-102.

[3] Bruneel, J., D’Este, P., & Salter, A. (2010) Investigating the factors that diminish the barriers to university-industry collaboration. Research Policy, 39, 858-868.

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