Before signing a contract with the Commission, successful bidders are expected to sign a Consortium Agreement. This should set out the nature of the agreement between partners on a range of technical, commercial, financial, legal and organisational issues, including the following:
The LaserScan case study describes how the roles of each partner were assigned within the AGENT project and the commercial exploitation agreement that allowed the company to take the results to market.
One of the primary purposes of the consortium agreement is to allow each partner to function within a known and agreed framework of rules. One of the benefits of such a framework is the contribution it makes towards risk-management - including ways of dealing with conflicts of interest and balancing the demands on key personnel from their own organisation and from the project.
For the project to succeed, mutual trust must be maintained and the key to this is to make the management decision-making of the project as transparent as possible. Critical decisions should not be taken unilaterally or behind closed doors. Transparency requires a commitment to communication - across commercial, technical, cultural and geographical boundaries.
Fulfilling the terms of the consortium agreement is likely to require compromise in the way things are done internally. Organisations are likely to have to adapt their existing procedures and working practices to fit with other partners, including the need to be able to agree on escalation procedures, consensual decision-making, appropriate timescales, appropriate levels of representation/authority at meetings, and so on.
The unique nature of Framework Programme consortia - with their diverse cultures, goals and working practices, together with the extended time-frame of long-term research - introduces several problems that participants must be able to manage. Attention should be paid to the two specific problem areas described below.