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Strategic project management resource kit

Final Report Summary - SPARK (Strategic project management resource kit)

The management of European research projects have to master a multitude of different challenges in order to make them successful. Professional management tools and techniques are then needed. On the one hand, first experiences have shown that project coordinators are already intensively looking for powerful management tools and techniques and sometimes also consider the possibility of developing such tools. On the other hand, some powerful tools already exist which are being used in related fields and, after minor adjustments, could be adopted for the management of the new Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) instruments.

SPARK recognised the high complexity involved with project coordination and aspired to take European research projects to a higher level of achievement through the use of sophisticated management techniques and tools. So, the main objective of SPARK was to establish a reference pool of key management processes, methods and tools based on Life sciences and health (LSH) project experiences for LSH project needs.

The sub-objectives were:
- collect project management practices and organise cross-fertilisation within a representative sample of FP6 projects;
- evaluate for this sample the path to follow in order to identify reachable best practices found mainly on the private market;
- accompany players in their learning and integration of new management practices.

To accomplish this, SPARK challenged current practices, assessed them according to a unique framework, identified best-in-class practices within the projects under scrutiny and defined, document and championed the best practices which could be implemented within research projects in order to achieve their goals.

SPARK project offered a new horizon for LSH activity and research. It essentially aimed to create favourable conditions to increase the impact of research efforts by strengthening the coherence of research managerial activities conducted in Europe. This was achieved through the mutual experiences gained between LSH managers and SPARK.

SPARK has provided research managers with the necessary knowledge and skills to enable them to make decisions that should be translated into efficient and effective technology generation and development activities. It was the support from LSH communities and their devotion to the project that provided the basis for the identification of excellent tools and techniques. The dissemination of best practices and tools with the SPARK initiative resulted in the establishment of a reference pool of excellent practices, which was presented in a series of workshops and an interactive handbook, consisting also of a help-line.

By using excellent tools, project managers can be awarded extra time resulting from efficient management. Consequently, managers are relieved of stress, resulting from reduced uncertainty and wasted-time. In turn, this allows the allocation of more time being spent on the actual research activity and its exploitation and valorization. SPARK ran for thirty months and provided LSH management teams with improved skills and techniques for handling research projects.