When research projects don’t go as planned: making amendments

When research projects don’t go as planned: making amendments

28-9-2018 by Tim van Beelen

European research and innovation programmes are important contributors to the scientific excellence of European Universities and to the innovation capacity of Small-and-Medium Enterprises. 

European science thrives, supported by these grants. Making applications is, of course, extremely competitive. Once successfully awarded, the complexities of a grant will need to be effectively managed. This in theory may sound like a walk in the park, however experience and practice tell us differently. An example:

When a subcontractor does not deliver what was promised

Let me sketch a relatable scenario that you may have encountered during your research. You’ve planned your experiments adequately for achieving the deadline the project manager of your research group has set. However, to start the experiments you need to have the samples produced by your subcontractor. During a meeting the contractor hints at having production problems which will -in the best scenario- last for another six months. You immediately raise a red flag: “What happens to my planned experiments?”. The subcontractor tells you that you either have to wait, or have similar samples produced somewhere else in the meantime.

When back at the university you immediately consult the project team. “What will happen to my experiments? We cannot delay them for we miss the deadline…or can we?”. This is where the project manager offers a solution: “It sounds like we shall not achieve our deadline to submit our report on your experiments to the European Commission.”

Good project management offers solutions to reduce risks

The project manager proposes two solutions to the occurred problem:

  • We request an Amendment of the Grant Agreement for “subcontracting the task” of the project partner. We will look into other companies who can deliver the sample to us in a reasonable timeframe.
  • We request an Amendment of the Grant Agreement for an “extension of the timeline” of your task.

Exploring the right procedure

Both options are valid options in the scenario that was sketched above. In both solutions the proposed mitigation of the occurred risk is to request a change of the Grant Agreement. This procedure is described by the European Commission as “Requesting an Amendment”. Both options will lead to a cascade of activities coordinated by the project manager:

  • Informing the European Commission;
  • Starting the Amendment procedure in the ECAS Portal;
  • Describing the changes;
  • Constructing a financial budget prospect ;
  • Identifying new risks and mitigation measures;
  • Justifying the Amendment’s content.
  • Reviewing the Amendment’s content with the EU Project Officer
  • Submit the Amendment

R&D never goes as planned

The scenario described above will be very relatable scenario to most researchers. It never is a 100% certain how our project will turn out; it might be a larger success than initially expected, but it might be that the hypothesis does not translate back to reality. We can do everything to mitigate the risk that our project will not go as planned by considering all aspects carefully; chances are your R&D-project will change during its course. And this can be completely due to external factors, like is described in the scenario above. And, although it may seem stressful when facing the deadlines, it won’t be the end of the project. Just make sure that you do not neglect the change and discuss it with project management departments. They encounter such changes periodically and will not hesitate to help you steer your project in the direction of success again.

Support in Project Management

Do you need support in making amendments to your life sciences research project? Our Project Management experts can help you take the best possible route when things don’t happen as planned.

We can be involved in your project from start, or help you when you need it. Contact us to find out more.



Photo by Yoann Siloine on Unsplash

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