Governance Models of Horizon Europe Partnerships

Horizon Europe orients R&I partnerships towards the achievement of objectives and policy impacts. The new approach to European Partnerships calls for different governance arrangements – both inside the partnerships as well as between them. A major difference is the expectation that they take a “systemic approach in the achievement of the objectives”, including “approaches to ensure flexibility of implementation and to adjust to changing policy, societal and/or market needs”. The Horizon Europe legal base also stipulates that European Partnerships need to ensure coordination with other relevant R&I initiatives, including between themselves.

Under Horizon 2020, partnerships have developed a variety of governance models, ranging from co-funded actions focusing mainly on the internal consortium management to more elaborated governance structures involving different configurations (steering boards, scientific advisory groups, stakeholder fora, state representative groups and others).

In order to have a coherent and systematic approach to future governance arrangements, including a clearly defined role for the Commission services and national policy makers, it is necessary to identify the functionalities that are needed, and how to best reflect them in the governance set-up. Part of that issue is to develop models on how to establish formally a collaboration among partnerships, and its impact on governance arrangements.

Against this background, ERA-LEARN aims to provide a systematic overview on common governance functions that European Partnerships should aim to establish.

We are furthermore pleased to be able to introduce an example of a governance model provided by the European co-funded Partnership Driving urban Transition (DUT)).

General Model of Partnership Governance Functions

The model attempts to capture key governance functions of Horizon Europe Partnerships. The governance functions should not be regarded as recommendation for practical governance bodies. Instead, they may serve as a benchmark of important functions that should be included in the governance model as a whole. Governance formats or bodies may therefore incorporate more than one function. The two key pillars of partnership governance are:

I) The core governance functions relate to the predominantly internal governance arrangements of the European Partnerships. It also includes functions relating to the need to receive input from independent bodies for better steering the strategic programming and operation of the European Partnerships. Core governance functions include:

  1. Strategic planning and decision making
  2. Consortium coordination and management
  3. Call management
  4. Cooperation with responsible EC unit and executive agency
  5. Alignment with national and regional activities
  6. Partnership impact monitoring
  7. Stakeholder advice
  8. Compliance

II) The collaboration governance functions relate to the essential need to actively engage with parties that are relevant for the operations of the European Partnership. The collaboration governance functions comprise:

  1. Stakeholder engagement
  2. EC involvement (strategic and policy)
  3. Coordination with other European partnerships, missions, and R&I initiatives
  4. International cooperation: Cooperation with international programmes and funders

Description of governance functions

Core governance

1. Strategic planning and decision making

  • Function: Planning and decision making involves highest-level decisions on strategic matters and budget allocations, ensuring and supervising effective operation and deployment of activities and achieving the partnership's objectives. Decisions on other important issues such as annual work plans, and partnership membership concerns also fall under the responsibility of this overarching function
  • Goals: Planning is undertaken along the lines of key policy directions, with a comprehensive strategy in terms of the partnership's vision and goals being as well as European priorities, typically resulting in strategy documents such as roadmaps and SRIAs, and a mandate for work packages and activities. Structured processes, including voting, and the inclusion of consortium members in the decision-making process ensure legitimate and transparent decisions.
  • Governance bodies and formats: The governance body (e.g., “governing board” or “general assembly”) typically consists of representatives of all consortium partners from the participating countries. Activities may include biannual meetings and other forms of regular exchange. Different configurations of or within governance bodies may reflect different levels of decision making, such as on a country or funding-partner level.

2. Consortium Coordination and Management

  • Function: Mandated by the consortium, this function develops and implements the work plan along the agreed lines of action. Effective consortium coordination and management establishes efficient communication channels and formats between (potential) consortium members to enable effective management and implementation of partnership activities. Moreover, the function also includes reporting to the European Commission and the Governing Board, highlighting topics and issues to be addressed in the partnership agenda, managing the thematic focus of the partnership activities, in particular calls for proposals, supporting partners in budgetary and administrative matters and in fostering cross-cutting discussions and synergies between activities.
  • Goals: The function ensures that compliance with rules and good practice principles of European Partnerships is addressed, both in terms of operational management (including finances, conflicts of interests, and transparent reporting) as well as the strategic focus and the coordination of the partnership. Consortium coordination promotes efficient and transparent internal communication, coordinates work packages and tasks within the partnership, and thus facilitates and ensures collaboration among the various activities and workflows in the partnership. The function furthermore ensures the integration of all partnership work packages and tasks, the implementation of strategic decisions, the deployment of resources, and the maintenance and updating of the consortium agreement and partnerships agenda.
  • Governance bodies and formats: Examples of implementing this function may be higher level “management boards” as well as work package leaders that consist of specialists and representatives of member states. Activities may involve regular consortium meetings and other means of communication.

3. Call management

  • Function: Central function of each partnership, which deals with preparing, promoting, and implementing calls. This includes organising the administrative related tasks (e.g., preparing necessary call documents like guidelines or call texts and opening the call on the submission platform etc.) as well as acting as contact person for the call, organising the evaluation (assigning experts, organising selection meetings) and follow-up (overviewing contracts, reporting etc.).
  • Goals: Call management is essential to the partnership to ensure targeted and efficient calls. Besides ensuring suitable call operations and monitoring the state of calls and projects, the function encompasses identifying opportunities and formulating call topics and call texts that follow the overall strategic focus of the partnership agreed on in SRIAs and roadmaps and consider synergies and alignment with other (European) initiatives and overarching strategies. Regarding call promotion, calls need to be announced appropriately to the respective target groups to allow a good response.
  • Governance bodies and formats: Typically, a dedicated governance body such as a "Call Secretariat" or a “Call Management Board” is responsible and acts as the central contact point for the call management.

4. Cooperation with responsible EC unit and executive agency

  • Function: This function ensures the cooperation with responsible EC units and executive agencies on a regular basis. It includes cooperation with the project and the financial officer and ensures that administrative matters/ contractual aspects like reporting/ fulfilment of EC requirements are addressed appropriately.
  • Goals: Smooth implementation of the European Partnership, efficient communication to allow continuous exchange to avoid problems and delays.
  • Governance bodies and formats: The cooperation is in the hands of the coordinator, who ensures the involvement of EC representatives and of the implementing agency in the partnership progress.

5. Alignment with national and regional activities

  • Function: This function encompasses identifying and reporting on relevant national or regional R&I activities related to the partnership and provides an interface between national authorities and relevant partnership activities. It encourages the uptake of results and joint activities between the partnerships and the Member States, ensuring that activities, strategies, and needs and strategies of countries are considered at the Partnership level and in the design of the work plan.
  • Goals: The alignment of efforts and activities at national and European level is important to exploit synergies and to increase the impact of the partnership. National (policy) coordination is an essential contribution to better align European and national policies. Increasing the impact and uptake of the activities of the respective partnerships in national contexts and stimulating investment will help ensure the success and impact of the activities of the partnership.
  • Governance bodies and formats: In co-funded partnerships, Member States typically participate in “Governing Boards” which are the main structure for decision making in the partnership. In co-programmed and most institutional partnerships, Member States have an advisory role and usually participate in “State Representative Groups”. In a few institutional partnerships, Member States are constituent members and part of the “Governing Board”.

6. Partnership impact monitoring

  • Function: In general, the monitoring function involves managing and creating transparent, relevant, and reproducible monitoring processes within the various activities and organisational units of partnerships and incorporates learning cycles into the decision-making process. The monitoring function is particularly important in the context of Horizon Europe, as it is the first time that the EC has attempted to develop a more harmonised monitoring system for European partnerships. Therefore, the indicators and methods for monitoring the Partnership's progress towards its objectives and impact should be harmonised and aligned with the new Horizon Europe monitoring framework and its Key Impact Pathways and Key Performance Indicators. Where appropriate, the SRIA provides further details on the monitoring framework for European Partnerships.
  • Goals: The monitoring function helps to track progress towards the objectives envisioned in the partnership and provides good quality data and evidence showing their contribution to the partnership’s goals, the EU’s policy objectives, and making drivers of and barriers to impact visible. Moreover, the monitoring function must fulfil the newly established requirements on common indicators and data structure for the European Partnership monitoring and the biennial monitoring reports in Horizon Europe. Identifying the data sources needed for specific indicators and distinguishing between project-level and partner-level data is thus a key element of the monitoring function.
  • Governance bodies and formats: While monitoring is typically not the focus of a single governance body, the design and planning of monitoring activities as well as the consideration of monitoring results is an integral part of other governance functions, particularly in units responsible for planning and decision making, consortium coordination, and operative management. An essential instrument is the biennial monitoring report, on which the quality of decisions on the development of the partnership ultimately depends to a large extent.

7. Stakeholder advice

  • Function: The advisory function informs the Partnership's priority-setting process and advises on thematic and operational issues and constraints to provide guidance and strategic direction for the Partnership's work. It collects views and feedback from the scientific community and stakeholder representatives. As stakeholder engagement has been increasingly expanded and shifted from informing and collecting feedback to more inclusive ways of stakeholder engagement, including co-creation and empowerment, the advisory function may be included in Function 9 (stakeholder engagement) and the following.
  • Goals: Enabling synergies between relevant sectors to add value and making recommendations on priorities and strategic needs related to the partnership's research objectives are key concerns that make the advisory function essential to Partnerships. The inclusion of stakeholders’ perspectives can contribute to broader acceptance and uptake of results and enhance the overall impact of Partnership activities.
  • Governance bodies and formats: Advisors, which may include external experts not directly involved in the Partnership and its activities, have typically been organised in specific governance bodies that carry out this function (e.g., advisory boards). However, with the focus shifting increasingly to co-design and stakeholder and citizen involvement, this function may be fulfilled in stakeholder-engagement formats (see Function 9).

8. Compliance

  • Function: This function has the main purpose to avoid conflicts of interests. This is of particular importance in partnerships where research performing organisations (RPO) act together with research funding organisations (RFO) as beneficiaries in a Co-funded Partnership (firewall requirement). However, it is also relevant in the whole call announcement and selection process.
  • Goals: Equal and independent treatment of all applicants, all potential conflicts of interests are identified and methods avoiding them are established.
  • Governance bodies and formats: Sometimes a dedicated compliance management team is established, or function is implemented and considered in various other governance functions and bodies

Stakeholder collaboration and networking

9. Stakeholder engagement

  • Function: Depending on the partnership goals, different user and stakeholder groups as well as the scientific community need to be addressed. The function enables the involvement of these groups and offers the opportunity to consider both academic and practical interests and needs. Stakeholder engagement can go beyond the thematical and geographical limits of the Partnership and may involve interested stakeholders from other areas or non-EU countries.
  • Goals: The function is relevant in a wide range of goals and activities of Partnerships, ranging from community and citizen engagement, communication, and dissemination measures. Stakeholder engagement typically aims at increasing the overall impact of funding and other Partnership activities, e.g., by considering the necessary range of needs and collecting a diverse range of perspectives (such as researchers, practitioners, consumers, prosumers, etc.), by fostering the exploitation of projects results, and by accelerating transformation of the R&I system.
  • Governance bodies and formats: In many cases, stakeholder platforms are established to ensure a coherent, coordinated, and consistent approach for the involvement of relevant stakeholder groups and foster the exchange of views between them.

10. EC involvement (strategic and policy)

  • Function: This function ensures coordination and coherence of partnership related targets with EC strategies and policies by creating an interface between the partnership and the relevant EC DGs.
  • Goals: The cooperation enables a coherent strategic focus of partnerships with EC policies, which is needed when setting up, executing, and ending partnerships (exit strategy). Involving EC representatives in the governance enables partnerships to efficiently address high-level policy objectives such as SDGs, Green Deal, European missions etc.
  • Governance bodies and formats: Besides the attendance of the partnership representatives in the Partnership Knowledge Hub (as observers), the function may be foreseen in a dedicated governance body (such as a board) or as part of the strategic coordination and management processes. For example, the function could be organised as a reflection group that comes together on a regular basis to discuss the direction of the partnership strategy and ensures that the EC representatives are informed of and involved in aspects of strategic importance to the EU (e.g., international cooperation versus strategic autonomy).

11. Coordination with other European partnerships, missions, and R&I initiatives

  • Function: Coordination and collaboration with other partnerships, missions and other initiatives is largely focused on building relationships and partnership networks and fostering synergies with existing structures.
  • Goals: Knowledge sharing and open communication with other partnerships or R&I initiatives aims at increasing mutual awareness and recognition of planned work and results achieved, fostering the exchange of learnings and building competencies across partnerships, and enabling cooperation to identify and achieve synergies.
  • Governance bodies and formats: Specific governance bodies fulfilling this function may be a “partnership board”, or more specifically a “coordination group”, composed of representatives of the member states. Specific tasks can be defined in the partnerships’ work plan to determine how best to optimise interaction between partnerships and various methods can be used to strengthen cooperation, e.g., joint foresight exercises, joint calls, joint action plans and alignment of SRIAs.

12. International cooperation: Cooperation with international programmes and funders

  • Function: International cooperation increases the quality and relevance of activities to address global challenges by building and strengthening international networks and improving overall capacity for collective action and to operate jointly. Furthermore, international cooperation enables articulation of international and EU agendas and identifies opportunities for future research and innovation collaborations with international partners.
  • Goals: The function aims at reducing barriers to participation in R&I programs and enable joint participating in calls and carrying out joint activities. In this regard, the involvement of international networks and non-EU countries, which have their own strengths and can complement the activities of EU member states, aims at knowledge exchange, synergy creation, accessing new markets, and building lasting relationships with non-EU countries. Nevertheless, there are limits to participation if it is justified to protect the EU’s strategic assets, interests, autonomy, or security.
  • Governance bodies and formats: Depending on the goals and international scope of the partnership, international partners may be included on equivalent terms in the governance of the partnership itself, potentially being included in the steering and implementation of the partnership and its activities. Formats for international co-design and co-creation of solutions in interested countries and/or regions may include conferences and workshops to which international actors and representatives are invited.

Good practice examples

Stakeholder engagement in the Partnership Driving Urban Transitions to a Sustainable Future (DUT)

To ensure the relevance and impact of all investments and to foster synergies between all Partnership activities, DUT aims to reach out and engage all forces needed to achieve transitions in the diverse landscape of urban development. This requires involving all relevant stakeholder groups from different backgrounds (such as individuals and organizations from industry, civil society, research, (local) public authorities and other relevant groups). User and scientific community engagement allows to collect a diverse range of perspectives on thematic challenges, partnership activities and strategy, thus enabling co-creation by exchanging views and ideas.

DUT takes a systematic and comprehensive approach to stakeholder and community engagement that is deeply embedded in the governance model and work plan. DUT’s plans for stakeholder engagement correspond strongly to Function 9 (Stakeholder engagement), but also relate to other functions, particularly 5 (alignment with national and regional activities), and 11 (coordination with other European partnerships, missions, and R&I initiatives).

DUT’s governance model reflects the central role of stakeholder engagement, explicitly including governance functions for national coordination and its relation to formats such as the DUT Agora and City Panels & Focus Groups, as well as European and international networks and initiatives engaged through the DUT Synergies Forum, as shown in the governance model’s illustration (Figure 1). The City Panels, for example, include selected cities as sparring partners that will accompany DUT and its strategic development and thematic focal points to support the mission-oriented approach of DUT.

DUT Governance Model (courtesy of the DUT Partnership)

Figure 1: DUT governance model (figure courtesy of the DUT Partnership)

To develop the appropriate formats and activities for stakeholders to achieve DUT’s desired impact, seven actor groups have been identified as central to DUT: 1) European policy makers, 2) national and regional programme managers, 3) Multipliers incl. international networks, initiatives and other European partnerships, 4) Researchers, 5) City authorities and urban infrastructure providers, 6) Local civil society initiatives and communities, 7) Businesses (incl. real estate, utilities, mobility providers, service providers)

To engage with stakeholders, DUT builds upon structures and experiences that are grounded in the engagement of the already existing community of the JPI Urban Europe. DUT aims at bringing together all stakeholders as funded or associated project partners, highlighting the co-design principle in the overall programme design as well as on the project level. With its challenge-driven approach, DUT is continuing to apply the new paradigm in designing an urban research and innovation programme which addresses urban challenges as they are articulated in an everyday practical sense by the affected groups.

To facilitate stakeholder engagement, the “AGORA” – the stakeholder involvement platform within DUT – stands out. The AGORA is designed as a space for urban stakeholders with diverse backgrounds (researchers, practitioners, public administrators, planners, entrepreneurs, social innovators, etc.) to meet, exchange, identify and discuss priorities, and work together on the most pressing urban challenges of today and the future. The AGORA follows a bottom-up approach of stakeholder engagement and is open for all communities and across all stakeholder groups. The format has been established with the intention to:

  • help understanding the issue of urbanization and its particular aspects by combining perspectives
  • make use of the full capacities of different stakeholder groups
  • develop thematic priorities, instruments and joint activities which contribute to tackle societal challenges caused by urban dynamics and urbanization processes.
  • build capacities in research, policy and society across Europe

In this sense, the AGORA aims to provide the following inputs to the DUT strategic processes:

  • facilitating the widening of participation and capacity building in terms of countries, regions, stakeholders, and urban actors,
  • providing an ecosystem and environment for co-creation and multi-stakeholder involvement, considering the four main stakeholder groups – science, city administrations, civil society, and businesses,
  • knowledge and information sharing, including the reflections of research results, sharing of good practices,
  • anticipating the different logics and needs of the different countries, stakeholders and urban actors in the design of the DUT programme and raising awareness for the need of action, and
  • mobilising the different actors for engaging in concrete actions of the partnership.

As key means for facilitating two-way communication, interaction and dialogues, the AGORA facilitates Strategic Dialogues that bring together approx. 80–100 participants with diverse urban backgrounds to jointly discuss key priorities of DUT activities. Topics of previous AGORA dialogues comprised:

  • identification and reflection of challenges for urban transitions along the DUT Transition Pathways to guide the thematic orientation of DUT actions,
  • collection and synthesis of key priorities for developing and updating the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda,
  • gathering of evidence and good practice based upon existing local experiences and practical needs to strengthen stakeholder engagement, and
  • discussions on how research and innovation can be brought into practice more effectively for building capacities for urban transformation.

Related Files

Workshop Report 'Supporting the preparation of future European Partnerships'

On 9/10 March 2020, ERA-LEARN together with the European Commission, DG Research and Innovation, organised a workshop that aimed to support the preparation of futu ...
More ...

Slides Workshop 'Supporting the preparation of future European Partnerships' 9/10 March 2020, Brussels

On 9/10 March 2020, ERA-LEARN together with the European Commission, DG Research and Innovation, organised a workshop that aimed to support the preparation of futur ...
More ...