Brussels, 24th January 2011
EU research and innovation funding – immediate changes to cut red tape for researchers and SMEs
Today the European Commission has adopted measures to make participation in the EU's current Seventh Framework Programme for Research more attractive and more accessible to the best researchers and most innovative companies, especially Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs). Based on the simplification plan unveiled by the Commission in April 2010, these measures will take effect at once.
Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: "Today's measures will allow the many thousands of excellent people we fund to save time and effort on paperwork and concentrate on what they do best - working to boost growth and jobs and improve our quality of life in Europe through world class research and innovation. We want to attract even more and better applicants, including dynamic small businesses which can't cope with reams of red tape. This is only the start: the Commission has already proposed big changes to the overall financial rules governing all EU funding programmes, and if the Parliament and Council agree with those, we will put forward more radical simplification measures for the successor programme to FP7."
Three concrete measures
The Commission adopted three concrete measures with immediate effect on the management of EU research grants in the current EU research programme (FP7). Each of these steps responds to concerns repeatedly expressed by participants and would-be participants in FP7:
- Allowing more flexibility in how personnel costs are calculated so that EU research grant-holders can apply their usual accounting methods when requesting reimbursement for average personnel costs. They will no longer need to set up entire parallel accounting systems just for this purpose;
- SME owners whose salaries are not formally registered in their accounts can now be reimbursed, through flat-rate payments, for their contribution to work on research projects.
- A new steering group of senior officials from all the Commission departments and agencies involved will remove inconsistencies in the application of the rules on research funding.
The Commission considers simplification as one of the basic design principles for the next EU research and innovation programme, and it will continue to push for substantive improvement. The Commission will present its legislative proposals for the next EU research and innovation programme by the end of this year, following an open consultation to be launched in the early spring.
The current EU research programme, FP7, has attracted more than 40,000 proposals from the research community since 2007, and almost 8,000 projects have so far been funded. Nearly all European universities participate, and about 15% of the participants are SMEs.
Several concrete steps have already been taken towards simplifying procedures both before and after the launch of FP7.
In April 2010, the Commission adopted a Communication presenting further simplification options which apply to the existing legal framework and, in the longer term, to a possible revision of the EU Financial Regulations (see IP/10/472 and MEMO/10/156). This Communication triggered a broad debate among the EU institutions and with many other research and innovation stakeholders. In this context it is also recalled that the Commission's proposal on the revised EU financial regulation offers simplification still to be applied to FP7, such as the abolition of the interest bearing accounts, and proposes measures which will set the basis for a more radical simplification of the next framework programme. It is now under the responsibility of the Council and the European Parliament to adopt these measures.
The measures adopted in the present Commission Decision are based on a broad consensus in this debate, and are also in line with the recommendations of the Expert Group carrying out the Interim Evaluation of FP7 (IP/10/1525).
Link to the full text of the April 2010 Communication on simplification: http://ec.europa.eu/research/fp7/index_en.cfm?pg=documents
Report of interim evaluation expert group: http://ec.europa.eu/research/evaluations/pdf/archive/other_reports_studies_and_documents/fp7_interim_evaluation_expert_group_report.pdf#view=fit&pagemode=none