Friday, 30 November 2012

€63bn for Horizon 2020

While the recent summit between EU heads of state and government failed to reach agreement on the EU budget for 2014-2020, it did produce interesting information. The compromise proposed by Herman van Rompuy, who chaired the meeting, suggests that he hoped to get agreement on a budget which would give Horizon 2020 about €63bn.

For the EU budget sub-heading 1a (Competitiveness for growth and jobs), which includes Horizon 2020, the Van Rompuy figures show a budget of €139,452m. His proposal identifies budgets for some elements of the sub-heading (see table). Subtracting these leaves €84,640m, which must fund activities originally planned by the European Commission to cost €107,187m, including €80bn for Horizon 2020. So, a pro rata reduction of budgets would give €63,172m for H2020.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Council undermines EC’s H2020 simplifications

The Council of Ministers – official representatives of the EU Member States – has made two tentative decisions which go against simplifications proposed by the European Commission (EC) for Horizon 2020.  In its initial conclusions on the EC’s proposed Rules for Participation (known as a “partial general approach”), the Council decided that, for close to market projects, funding would be 100% of eligible costs for not-for-profit organisations, and 70% for the rest. The EC had proposed 70% for all organisation types. 

The Council also decided that productive hours – the hours a researcher is available for work in a year – could be either a number laid down by the EC in the grant agreement, or based on a method taking account of the participant’s usual accounting practices. The EC had proposed that everyone used a figure it would decide. Productive hours are fundamental to the costs claimed on EU projects, and through its audits the EC has criticised the figures used by many organisations.
Other important decisions were to offer a flat rate for overheads of 25% of direct costs, compared with the EC’s suggestion of 20%; to allow one organisation to guarantee the participation of another (in FP7, a parent company was not permitted to provide guarantees for its subsidiaries); and to allow a bonus of up to €8000 per year per researcher if this is the normal practice of an organisation. The latter proposal is an attempt to handle the tradition in some newer Member States of paying researchers extra for each research contract they win. Unfortunately, €8000 appears to be far below the norm in these countries.

Of course, we are some way from finalising these matters. The next major event for Horizon 2020 is when the European Parliament decides its position. This is scheduled for December, but first there is the meeting of EU heads of state and governments to decide the total EU budget for the period 2014 – 2020. Negotiations on this are not going well!