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Get ready for your DN grant preparation – what you need to know

12th April 2022 at 4:05 pm

The successful proposals of the first Horizon Europe MSCA Doctoral Networks (DN) call of 2021 were invited for grant preparation. It will be the first time preparing a Horizon Europe, more specifically a DN, grant for many coordinators and their consortia. While much of the process is similar or even unchanged to Horizon 2020 (H2020), it is worth checking that you are aware of the latest terminology and some key principles to follow to ensure a smooth grant preparation process.

Termaccelopment’s explanation and recommendations
Description of the Action (DoA) (Annex I to the grant agreement)The DoA, also Annex I of the EU Grant Agreement, is prepared from Part B1 of your proposal. The DoA is divided into two parts: Part A includes the WP descriptions, the Deliverables, Milestones and Risks. The contents have to be copied into the online forms of the Proposal Management & Grant Preparation Process on the EU’s Funding & Tenders Portal. Part B is the narrative part of the DoA, based on the remaining parts of Part B1 of your proposal. Do not forget to include your Ethics Self-Evaluation from Part A of your proposal as a new section 4 Ethics Issues too. During the grant preparation process, you will have the opportunity to revise the DoA. In general, only minor changes will be accepted unless a sound explanation for major changes can be given. Such changes will have to be duly justified and mentioned in the History of changes. In addition, you may be asked to address any shortcomings identified in the ESR.
Evaluation Summary Report  (ESR)Together with your Invitation Letter, you will have received the ESR, which will list the evaluators’ comments on the Excellence, Impact and Implementation sections of your proposal. Any shortcomings identified in the ESR should be addressed in the DoA. If you do not agree with a shortcoming, raise the issue with your Project Officer and justify why you do not need to include additional clarifications.
Grant Agreement Preparation (GAP)You should receive specific instructions and a list of tasks to be accomplished by your Project Officer, including deadlines. We recommend tracking the GAP tasks in a file to facilitate the process for yourself and your Project Officer. Meeting deadlines is essential for the success of your grant preparation.
Declaration of Honour (DoH)Each beneficiary will have to sign the DoH for their organisation and your funded project. In the DoH, the individual participants confirm that the information provided for the project is correct; that the legal status in the Participant Register is correct; to comply with the eligibility criteria of the call; their intent to participate in the project. The DoH needs to be signed by the PLSIGN (see below) through the Proposal Management & Grant Preparation Process on the Funding & Tenders Portal.
Associated Partners (linked to a beneficiary)Called Partner Organisations in H2020, Associated Partners provide training, secondments and other activities in your network without recruiting a doctoral researcher themselves. They do not sign the grant agreement and do not receive EU Funding. New to the DNs is that all Associated Partners must be listed in the Grant Management system with their PIC and listed in the DoA. They do not sign the grant agreement.
Participant Identification Code  (PIC)Each organisation participating in a Horizon Europe proposal has to register on the Participant Register of the Funding & Tenders Portal. Once an organisation participates in an EU-funded project for the first time, it has to go through a validation process to ensure it is a real organisation and has the capacity to deliver the action tasks as described. If your consortium includes beneficiaries with the status of “declared” or “sleeping” in the Participant Register, make sure they take care of the validation tasks as quickly as possible, this process can significantly delay your grant preparation.
Legal Entity Appointed Representative (LEAR)The LEAR is the person officially nominated by an organisation to manage rights and obligations related to the use of the Funding & Tenders Portal and to act as the main administrative and legal contact in case of issues. Each beneficiary needs to have a LEAR, who is usually appointed in parallel to the validation process. The LEAR can assign central roles to participants, such as legal and financial signatories.
Legal Signatory (LSIGN) /
Project Legal Signatory (PLSIGN)
At least one LSIGN must be nominated for an organisation by the LEAR. This role is defined at the organisation level. The PLSIGN is assigned at the project level. To sign the DoH and the grant agreement, each beneficiary will have to assign at least one PLSIGN to the project. Any participant contact of an organisation can do this via the “Manage Consortium” action on the Funding & Tenders Portal (see edit role for your organisation), as long as at least one LSIGN was appointed.
Financial Signator (FSIGN) /
Project Financial Signatory (PFSIGN)
At least one FSIGN must be nominated for an organisation by the LEAR. This role is defined at the organisation level. Out of the appointed FSIGNs, at least one PFSIGN needs to be selected for a project to sign cost claims within the project. While each beneficiary may be asked to appoint a PFISGN during the grant preparation, the PFSIGN will not have to sign any financial statements during this process.
The Ethics Appraisal Report, also called the Ethics Summary Report (EthSR)Each positively evaluated proposal will receive an EthSR that analyses any ethics issues raised by a proposal/project. During the grant preparation process, you should address any issues raised in the EthSR in Part B of your DoA. Your project will likely receive a mandatory work package dedicated to ethics issues and a number of ethics deliverables to be submitted during the project implementation.
DeliverableDeliverables are contractual obligations and are listed in the DoA Part A. There are different types of deliverables (e.g. reports, data management, others) with varying dissemination levels. During the grant preparation process, you must review your list of deliverables to ensure that they are well distributed and ensure that the dissemination level is appropriate. Changing the dissemination level of a deliverable after the grant agreement has been signed would require an amendment. You should also be aware that the dissemination terms for deliverables have changed under Horizon Europe and since the proposal submission. Any confidential deliverables (CO) should be entered into the DoA as Sensitive (SEN). You will also receive a list of compulsory deliverables in the GAP instructions from your Project Officer. If you haven’t already done so during the writing of your proposal, make sure that you include all compulsory deliverables in the DoA Part A before you submit it.
MilestoneMilestones correspond to critical achievements during the implementation of your project to track its progress. Next to specific scientific milestones that you expect to reach, you will also have to include a number of compulsory milestones provided to you by your project officer. These are usually related to the administrative tasks of the project and the recruitment of your doctoral candidates.
Consortium Agreement (CA)The CA is a contract between all beneficiaries and sometimes even associated partners of a DN. The CA used to be a mandatory deliverable for all H2020 Innovative Training Networks (ITNs) but is now a compulsory milestone to be achieved by month two of the project. We recommend that you start preparing the CA for your new DN sooner rather than later and in parallel with the grant preparation process, as they take some time to prepare. There are model CA templates available. Most popular in Europe seems to be the DESCA model CA, which has already been updated to Horizon Europe. We have analysed the changes to H2020 in a previous blog post about the DESCA Model Consortium Agreement. Another template for you to consider is the LERU model CA, based on DESCA, but specifically adapted to the needs of H2020 ITNs. This template is yet to be updated to Horizon Europe, and we are not sure when this is going to happen. Nevertheless, the LERU template could still be a valuable tool for preparing your DN CA.

The grant preparation of your DN project will most likely take four to five months, with the successful project expected to start between September and March. Make sure that you keep on top of your tasks and meet the deadlines set by your Project Officer to set your DN project off to a good start. If you are interested in further information about the preparation of Horizon Europe grants, make sure to also check out our post “Invited to prepare the Horizon EU Grant Agreement? Your journey is beginning!” which takes a more in-depth look at the general process of Horizon EU grant preparation.

Support for your DN project

Following the first Horizon Europe MSCA DN evaluation results, we are pleased to support four successful proposals in the preparation of their grant agreement. Building on our experience as a Partner Organisation in over 15 the H2020 ITNs, including the ongoing  AGePOP, CAPSTONE, CONSENSE, InPharma, MORE, MOSAICS, MUSIQ, NanoCarb, NATURE-ETN, and STACCATO, we are looking forward to supporting these projects also in their future transferable skills training, administration and dissemination activities. If you are interested in our support for your newly-funded DN project, contact our ITN/DN experts, Jacqueline Strehler and Marco Cavallaro.

Jacqueline Strehler
Research & Innovation Project Manager

Marco Cavallaro

Marco Cavallaro
Research & Innovation Project Manager