Under the 6th Research Framework Programme (FP6) the European Commission granted consortia greater flexibility in project management issues and hence transferred a large chunk of the responsibility to individual project partners. This trend continues with FP7. Whilst this results in more flexibility, it also means that consortia and particularly the project coordinators face harder requirements concerning project management. A particularly difficult challenge for them is the harmonisation of the diverse interests and objectives of the participating individuals and institutions.
As a contract, the Consortium Agreement (CA) decisively limits the potential for conflicts amongst the project partners and also helps to ensure that conflicts are avoided from the word go. In FP6, the conclusion of Consortium Agreements was mandatory for big projects only. However, in FP7 consortium agreements are obligatory for all funding schemes unless otherwise provided for in the call for proposals.
The consortium agreement only governs the relations between the participants themselves and it should be noted that the European Commission is not a contracting party to this agreement. The legal provisions which regulate the relations between consortium and the Commission are laid down in the Grant Agreement. In any case, the Grant Agreement’s regulations take priority over those of the Consortium Agreement.[pagebreak]
Content of the Consortium Agreement
The Rules for Participation for FP7 give concrete provisions on matters which must be agreed upon in the consortium agreement:
- The internal organisation of the consortium: This refers to the management structures and decision-making processes within the project.
- The distribution of the Community financial contribution: The procedure by which the coordinator transfers the different tranches to the consortium partners will be contained into the CA. The Consortium Agreement might include a clause that states that the transfer of money will be dependant on or connected with the delivery of project results and reports.
- Rules on dissemination, use and access rights: Both the Rules for Participation for FP7 and the Grant Agreement already provide regulations on the use and dissemination of project results. Moreover, they also define the range of access rights available to information which comes out of the project or which is owned by the participant prior to the signing of the contract with the Commission. In this context, the consortium agreement should provide complementary and specific regulations.
- The settlement of internal disputes: The Consortium Agreement should explain the procedure for solving conflicts within the consortium. This also includes cases where there is an abuse of power.
- Additionally, agreements on liability and indemnification, as well as confidentiality arrangements between the participants shall be found.
The Commission will publish guidelines on some of the other main issues that may be addressed by participants in their consortium agreements, including provisions relating to the promotion of SME participation.
With the start of the FP7 the German Consortium Agreement-Team (CA-Team) has provided, together with other European partners in the context of DESCA (The Simplified FP7 Model Consortium Agreement), a model contract. This will simplify the formulation of the agreement for researchers and administrators.
Additional information: Simplified FP7 Model Consortial Agreement, DESCA vers.2 [en] [doc], Checkliste für einen Konsortialvertrag, Version 2 [en]