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Do not let risks become real – best practices for risk management in Horizon Europe

26th March 2024 at 5:09 pm

Every research and innovation project comes with associated risks that may hamper its progress and the achievement of its goals. In the case of the complex, multidisciplinary and international Horizon Europe projects, so-called implementation risks must already be defined in the project proposal and are then automatically taken over and included in the Description of Action, an attachment of the EU Grant Agreement. During the project implementation, the proactive identification of risks and opportunities is vital to ensure project success. Due to the multidisciplinary and pioneering nature of Horizon Europe projects, these are susceptible to risks of various types, including scientific challenges and non-technical obstacles like regulatory hurdles, staff changes, market viability, as well as unforeseen external factors. To be able to mitigate any potential risks at an early stage and before they have an impact on the project, it is key to define and follow a risk management process within the project consortium.

We at accelopment have supported many EU-funded projects, their coordinators and risk managers and are happy to walk you throughout the risk management process and share a few best practices that will help you ensure risks do not get on the way and are handled in a professional manner.

The risk management process

The risk management process defines the activities to identify, analyse, prioritise, manage and control risks that may affect the execution of the project and the achievement of its objectives. A general risk assessment project involves the following four steps:

Step 1 – Risk identification

Risk identification entails the early identification and documentation of risks that may have an impact on achieving the project’s objectives. This process happens before the project starts and until it finishes, and special care should be taken during key milestones such as the reporting periods. Risks can be identified as foreseen or unforeseen, and categorised according to different areas. While general risks are common to all kinds of collaborative research projects, others will be specific to your project and should be defined at a Work Package level.

Horizon Europe project: Here is an example from a health project.

#Description of riskProbability / impact severityProposed risk-mitigation measures
R1Difficulties in developing diseased fibroblasts and macrophagesSee belowSee below

Step 2 – Risk analysis

Risk analysis assesses the likelihood and impact of the identified risks. Risk analysis is generally performed with a risk matrix, where each risk’s probability and impact are scored from 1 to 5. Their product defines the risk level, which is then used as a reference for risk prioritisation and management.

Horizon Europe project: Analysing the example of the risk identified in step 1, its probability of occurrence and, if occurred, its impact on the project’s research progress and expected results are both defined as low.

#Description of riskProbability / impact severityProposed risk-mitigation measures
R1Difficulties in developing diseased fibroblasts and macrophagesLow / Low See below

Step 3 – Response plan

The response plan selects the best risk response strategy and identifies and plans the actions required to control the risks, to eliminate the risk and lower the probability that it occurs, and its impact. The response plan involves defining a contingency plan for each risk and, if successful, leads to the re-scoring of the risk.

Horizon Europe project: Based on the analysis, the mitigation measure or contingency plan is defined in our example.

#Description of riskProbability / impact severityProposed risk-mitigation measures
R1Difficulties in developing diseased fibroblasts and macrophagesLow / LowCommercially available cell lines will be utilised

Step 4 – Risk monitoring

Risk monitoring controls the implementation of risk response activities while at the same time continuously monitoring the project for changes in identified risks or the appearance of new ones.

Horizon Europe project: The EC requires all project coordinators to monitor and update the implementation risks in the EU Funding and Tenders Portal continuously.

The coordinator needs to update the status of the risks stated in the EU Grant Agreement and can add any unforeseen risk that are additionally identified during the project implementation. However, what kind of risks and when to add new risks are often subject to discussion in consortia.

For this reason and to help you organise the entire project management in your Horizon project, we would now like to share some best practices from “our” projects.

Best practices for risk management in Horizon Europe

At accelopment, we are aware of the importance of effectively managing risks for the success of collaborative research projects. Thanks to our long-standing experience in FP7, Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe projects, we have developed several risk management tools and procedures to ensure smooth project outcomes, and are happy to share a few best practices.


In the absence of specific guidelines for risk management in Horizon Europe projects, the following resources are relevant for the implementation of a risk management strategy in your project:

  1. Project Management Institute, “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) (6th ed.),” Project Management Institute, 2017.
  2. ISO 31000:2018, “Risk management – Guidelines,” International Organization for Standardization, 2018.
  3. D. &. S. P. Hillson, Practical Project Risk Management: The ATOM Methodology, Management Concepts, 2012.
  4. N. &. M. T. Lavanya, Risk analysis and management: a vital key to effective project management, Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute, 2008.

Looking for risk management and general Horizon project management support?

At accelopment, we understand that navigating through uncertainties and potential setbacks can sometimes be overwhelming. Building on our track record of dozens of EU-funded projects, we will be happy to support you setting up a risk management strategy and implementing it throughout the project, so that you can focus on what matters most to you. Do not hesitate to reach out – you are not alone in this journey, we are here to help you succeed.

Andreia Cruz
Research & Innovation Project Manager

Dr. Johannes Ripperger
Research & Innovation Manager