14 Mar / Latest Horizon 2020 Simplification Explained

On February 27th 2017 the European Commission has published its latest updates regarding simplification process of Horizon 2020. The aim of this article is to provide a short and clear summary of the recent key changes made along with our commentary perspective.

The first thing to know is that the new funding conditions will apply retroactively to all on-going and future Horizon 2020 grants.

The goals are –

  • Removing calculation barriers for researchers’ top-up salary bonuses
  • Simplifying financial project management
  • Providing means to reduce accounting errors and duplication

The main changes are –

Changes to the Model Grant Agreement 

  • A new definition of additional remuneration of researchers (Article 6.2.A), relevant only to non-profit organisations:

–   Top-up bonuses that (together with basic salary) are lower than the salary paid in national projects, will account as basic salary and will be used to calculate the personnel costs eligible for Horizon 2020 grants.

–   Top-up bonuses that (together with basic salary) exceed the salary paid in national projects, will account as additional remuneration.

–   The sum exceeding the threshold, if any, may also be eligible for funding under specific conditions and up to €8,000 per year.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: It will be possible for non-profit organisations (e.g. universities, research centres, etc.) to claim higher cost of employment for their researchers, to the extent of at least as much as paid in their respective national grants. In most cases this change will significantly increase the amount of eligible costs in low income EU member states, thus helping to improve their capacity to attract top researchers with more competitive salaries. There will be no need for amendments of the individual grants to benefit from the new definition.

  • Acceptance of the beneficiary’s usual cost accounting practice when charging direct costs of internally invoiced goods and services, declared on the basis of a unit cost (Article 6.2.D.5).

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: Internal invoicing will be simpler and clearer from now on. This new policy provides clear guidelines when calculating and claiming internally invoiced goods and services, which previously were not well defined.

  • An extension of the electronic grant management to the period after the final payment (Article 52.1).

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: If, after the final payment, a formal notification was not accessed by the partners to ensure its distribution, “a second formal notification will be made, by registered post with proof of delivery (‘formal notification on paper’)”. Deadlines will be calculated from the moment of the second notification.

2018-2020 Workprogramme Simplification

  • Fewer calls and fewer topics to maximise impact and ease locating relevant funding opportunities by stakeholders.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: It is premature to tell, however we can assume that reducing the amount of calls and topics could lead to broader project scopes compared to the past.

Encourage SMEs Participation

  • SME-Instrument will open to all areas, as well as introduce an interview stage to evaluate the most promising project proposals.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: This will essentially transform the SME-Instrument grant to be a genuine bottom-up scheme, as opposed to the current predefined topics. In addition, a direct interaction with the reviewers at the interview could positively affect the evaluation process by adding a personal dimension.

Lump-sum project funding

  • Planned pilots in a few 2018-2020 calls (lump sum either predefined per topic, or individually fixed in evaluation)
  • Keep the project focus on research and innovation
  • Enhance impact and results
  • Decrease administrative burden and lower financial errors

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: unlike in reimbursement of incurred costs, fixed lump sums are paid against fulfillment of conditions set in the Grant Agreement (e.g. milestones). A greater use of lump-sums will remove obligations on cost reporting and financial ex-post audits. The focus will shift from financial management and checking inputs to monitoring the scientific/technical performance and outputs of the project. The pilot will test both modules – preliminary fixed lump-sum per project for a specific call topic, or determining an individual lump-sum in the evaluation phase of a given proposal based on its estimated budget costs.

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By Sharon Alon in Post-award