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More effective and more accessible grants for research

In this Communication, the European Commission presents a number of guidelines intended to simplify procedures for participation in research projects funded by the European Union (EU). The general aim is to facilitate the award and management of grants in order to realise European research potential both in Europe and elsewhere. This Communication should thus contribute to the success of the Europe 2020 strategy to overcome the crisis and prepare for economic recovery.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 29 April 2010 – Simplifying the implementation of the research framework programmes [COM(2010) 187 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The Communication from the Commission aims at simplifying the rules and procedures applying to the award and management of European Union (EU) grants in the field of research and innovation. The Communication is divided into three main strands.

Strand No 1 – Rationalising the management of proposals and grants within the current regulatory and legal framework (short term)

The aim of the first strand is to improve the current system of proposal and grant management, and to make it less burdensome, simpler and quicker. Most improvements aim at a reduction of time-to-grant and time-to-pay. They mainly consist of:

  • better IT systems (which should enable participants to access documents related to their proposals or grants);
  • more coherent application of rules, in particular those relating to audit;
  • an improvement of the structure and content of “calls for proposals” through which research organisations request funding from the Union;
  • forming smaller consortia; and
  • awarding prizes which have a positive impact on research and innovation.

Strand No 2 – Adapting the rules under the current cost-based system

The second strand consists of adapting the existing financial rules whilst maintaining effective control. The new system should allow for wider acceptance of usual accounting practices (including average personnel costs). This adaptation should also lead to a reduction in differences in the specific conditions that apply to many activities (research, demonstration, and management) and types of participants (research organisations, universities, non-profit organisations, etc.). Lump sum options for certain cost categories will allow for actual costs, a source of complexity, to be fully abandoned. Such lump sums are already widely used under the "People" programme. They can now be introduced for all projects, particularly for personnel costs or owner-managers of SMEs who carry out a major part of the project themselves without a salary registered in the accounts. Furthermore, an amendment of the grant selection progress will contribute to reducing time-to-grant and to a removal of administrative burden both for Member States and Commission services.

Strand No 3 – Moving towards result-based instead of cost-based funding

The options presented in the two strands above will not remove the administrative efforts connected with cost reporting and financial auditing. However, the gradual introduction of “result-based remuneration” will minimise the administrative burden for accounting and the needs for financial ex-ante and ex-post checks. This amendment will apply to future research framework programmes. Beneficiaries of EU grants will receive lump sumps to carry out specific scientific tasks. They will have to demonstrate that they have acted in an efficient and effective manner instead of justifying their expenditure.

Perspectives

Most options proposed under the second and third strands require changes to the rules. They will therefore be addressed in the triennial review of the Financial Regulation and, on that basis, in the forthcoming review of the regulatory framework of research policy.

However, the Commission may present amendments to the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), following its interim evaluation, expected in October 2010.

Context

FP7 has provoked considerable interest in the research community – so far, more than 30,000 proposals have been received each year and around 7,000 projects funded. Almost all European universities have participated in the programme.

Several measures have already been taken to simplify procedures, both in the preparation of FP7 and during its operation. Amongst these measures is a new guarantee fund and a single registration system which allows organisations requesting funding for a number of projects over several years to communicate their data only once. In addition, eight participants in FP7 out of 10 are now exempt from ex-ante financial capacity checking.

Two new executive agencies were put in place by the Commission in 2007:

The European Research Council is an essential part of FP7. It awards grants to projects led by researchers (both new and experienced project leaders), without these projects needing to be included in cross-border consortia.

This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.

Last updated: 17.09.2010
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