How to build a winning consortium for research projects

In many prestigious grants such as large Horizon Europe calls, you need to have a strong, complementary, and often large consortium to address all the ambitious objectives. For some calls (e.g. IHIs, Marie Curie Doctoral Networks, Horizon Europe RIAs), you need to have a consortium of about 20 (!) partners from all around Europe. Getting the right people on board is crucial to increase your chances of having a winning proposal, as well as a successful project. But how to build such a strong, large and ultimately winning consortium?

Tips to build a winning consortium

1. Start on time with building your consortium

Getting the right people on board is a lengthy and challenging process. You should start 2-3 months before submission. Remember that there is often a lot of competition from rival consortia who might hijack your perfect partners. Also, you want to have the consortium finalized well before the submission deadline. Establishing a consortium is one thing, but managing all those partners during the preparation phase and aligning all their opinions, ideas and into one coherent, clearly focused project plan is perhaps even more challenging.  So, start in time to make sure you bring in the best partners and  have enough time to develop an excellent project, together.

2. Envision your perfect consortium

Envision your ideal consortium and start building from there. But what is an ideal and winning consortium? A strong consortium has the following characteristics:

  • Excellence. A strong consortium brings together the brightest minds in the various key disciplines. Therefore, identify the true key opinion leaders (KOLs) within your field or topics.
  • Complementarity. Each partner should have a unique role and bring in a special, required expertise and/or technology. Make sure you have a clear idea of what kind of roles and expertise’s you need to deliver the work and avoid redundancy.
  • Interdisciplinarity. To tackle outstanding challenges, you need a collaboration that brings together diverse viewpoints and knowledge. To do so, you need to go beyond a single discipline. Setting up a consortium that combines partners from various disciplines is thus essential.
  • Balance. Think about aspects like geographical spread of the partners and balance between profit and non-profit partners. Pay attention also to the gender balance of the key investigators involved. And last, but not least…

In general, there is no one-size-fits-all solution here. The perfect consortium will be very much defined by the call (what are the reviewers looking for) and your project idea (what am I looking for/what do I need).

3. Establish a core consortium with high excellence

The first step is to bring on board the KOLs within the specific field or topic and establish a core consortium with these established players. This will make your life so much easier as 1) you do not need to lead a 20-headed consortium all by yourself, and 2) having the established experts on board will greatly help you to bring in other excellent parties – and collecting excellence is exactly what you want.

4. Develop your innovative idea

Together with this core consortium you want to further draft the scope, main objectives and a rough outline of the project. Many bright people generally means very many great ideas. Thus, in order to maintain a clear focus of your project, a basic plan and consensus needs to be generated. This plan will be your advertisement to bring on board the other key players that will strengthen your project.

5. Bring in the rest of the partners

With your project idea and core team prepared, start building the rest of the consortium. The best way to do this is by getting yourself out there. Spread the word so other key players know you are establishing a consortium. Use your network, or those of the core consortium members or others.

Need help building your consortium?

Building a consortium and coordinating all the activities within a consortium to deliver a high-quality  and winning proposal for a large research project is not an easy task. Our experience and expertise in Life Science & Health, and Green & Sustainable Innovations industries, together with our large network allows us to help researchers in this odyssey. We can help you find the right funding opportunity, build a successful consortium, create a competitive proposal and even manage the project once it’s successful. Want to know more? Contact us to find out what we can do for you.

Visit our Cases page to learn more about successful projects.


Gain insights and accelerate the growth of your innovations. Sign-up to our monthly newsletter