<< Blog

Make the best of your ITN – project management and communication

27th November 2019 at 2:30 pm

Being an excellent researcher and supervisor in the 21st Century means being able to not only master the science, but also know how to successfully manage projects and communicate effectively to a wide audience with a varied background.

Innovative Training Networks (ITNs) funded within the European Union’s Horizon 2020 framework are ideally suited to train Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) to become exemplar modern researchers with a well-rounded profile, fitting career prospects in academia, the private sector, namely large companies (industry) and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), the public sector and many other fields. ITNs differ from traditional PhD programmes especially through their strong emphasis on international mobility, multidisciplinary research training, networking and training of transferable skills.

If you’re preparing a proposal for the next ITN submission deadline on 14th January 2020, then you’re probably familiar with the importance that is given to project management as well as to communication and dissemination activities within ITNs and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme as a whole.

Why is project management important?

Project management is essential when coordinating a consortium of 8-16 project partners, and especially in achieving project objectives and deliverable in time as well as meeting the EC requirements while managing expectations of the consortium meetings. Project management is also crucial in view of becoming a leading researcher and thus applying for funding for multiple projects, guiding students through a successful completion of their research projects, and maintaining international collaborations with other colleagues. Therefore, being a capable project manager when supervising ESRs will also benefit the young researchers, by setting a good example to follow. Needless to say that project management skills are a must in many positions in industry and the regulatory sectors alike. Yet project management is also interlinked with communication and the elegant ability of being able to interact with others in an efficient yet tactful manner.

Why is good communication essential?

Being able to get your point across is key to moving forward. Be it in a conversation with friends and family or at the workplace, when presenting results at a conference, when pitching yourself to your supervisor (in the case of an ESR) or to a potential collaborator, no matter how brilliant your thoughts, ideas or results are you will not get them across to anyone without good communication skills. Even less so if you’re not the only voice out there.

The ability to effectively communicate plays an important role in supervision and in leading a consortium, as in both cases it is necessary to guide actions and move ideas forward while paying special attention to how this guidance is received and perceived by the students and colleagues. Thus, ultimately, communicating with effectiveness and care will help reach the target goal more smoothly and efficiently.

Communication is also key for early-career researchers who want to make their way in the field and establish strong collaborations. Being able to communicate research results to peers and colleagues is a first step. But the modern researcher needs to go beyond this and master the ability to reach out to a wider audience and engage the general public to make their  research efforts more tangible and attractive for further funding. An ESR that is already trained in this level of communication skills will be highly valued and appreciated in many different fields and career paths. After all, communication is one of the most transferable skills,  key to opening many opportunities, and  an essential component of the 7 Principles for Innovative Doctoral Training.

Good communication skills will also ease the process of disseminating research results so that these can be taken up by others, empowering knowledge sharing and strengthening innovation capacity.

Achieving excellent project management and communication within your ITN

ITNs should be set up to provide their ESRs with adequate training in project management as well as in communication and dissemination, truly building up their transferable skillset, their disposition towards teamwork, collaboration and outreach. Backed by more than a decade of experience in ITN proposal writing and training implementation, we at accelopment put project management, communication and dissemination skills into practice on a daily basis. We are also eager to share our experience and expertise with others, and with some of us having been doctoral students in the past as well, we find genuine pleasure in sharing our skills through workshops aimed at training ESRs. 

Having been involved in many successful ITN projects, such as the most recent PEARRL, Train2Target, STACCATO, NanoCarb, MOSAICS and MORE as a few examples, we’ve learnt that a successful ITN proposal should emphasise training activities in transferable skills alongside technical and scientific research skills. If you’re interested in our support for your upcoming ITN proposal, we’d be excited to provide training workshops in project management, proposal writing, project communication as well as supporting you with the practical implementation of communication, dissemination and exploitation measures during the lifetime of the project. Already during the proposal writing phase we provide advice on training for ITNs and upon successful approval of your project we provide professional assistance with ITN related project management services, support with communication activities and dissemination measures. For any enquiries feel free to contact Jacqueline Strehler, one of our ITN experts at accelopment.