Direct Costing of Research Infrastructures in Horizon 2020

Press release

Workshop between EARTO and the European Commission on the
Costing of Large Infrastructures in Horizon 2020

Brussels, 17 June 2013

The research community has called for many years for a major simplification of the EU Framework Programme rules and procedures.  This plea has also been expressed by the Council, the European Parliament and the Court of Auditors.  Therefore, the Commission declared that such simplification is a top priority and has proposed a series of radical simplification measures in the Rules of Participation that govern Horizon 2020.  These measures include the introduction of a single funding rate for all types of participants including a flat rate for indirect costs.  
Although these measures have been largely welcomed, several key players in the European research system that manage large infrastructures have expressed their concerns over the potential impact that this may have on their organisations and their participation in the Framework Programme.  These concerns were notably made by some members of EARTO (the European Association of Research and Technology Associations).  This was also an issue raised by the European Parliament and the Member States.  Therefore, in October 2012, on the occasion of the adoption by the Council of the Partial General Approach on the Rules for Participation, the Commission committed itself to issuing guidelines on direct costing for large infrastructures under Horizon 2020.

On 17 June 2013, senior representatives of the European Commission and EARTO met in Brussels to exchange views and discuss the guidelines and their practical application under Horizon 2020. 
As a result of the exchange:

  • EARTO and the Commission welcomed the open exchange of views, which led to increased mutual understanding of the issues.  Both parties underlined the need to continue the dialogue.  Future meetings would involve other stakeholder organisations;
  • The Commission took note of the concerns expressed by EARTO with regard to the measurement of certain costs and will seriously consider these concerns in the process leading to the formal adoption of the guidelines.   In this context, in line with the guidelines, when a cost cannot be directly measured to the project funded by the EU grant, because of proven technical constraints, an acceptable alternative would be the measurement of these costs by means of units of actual usage relevant for the project, supported by accurate technical specifications, and actual data;
  • EARTO and its members declared their willingness to work with the Commission to test the guidelines further;
  • In this respect, upon request of research organisations with large infrastructures, the Commission will carry out ex-ante assessments of the direct costing methodologies in place;
  • The Commission will appoint experts, in view of the interim evaluation of the funding levels referred to in Article 24a of the Rules of Participation, to evaluate whether the new approach has led to undesired situations.  This evaluation will also cover the effect of the flat rate for indirect cost and direct cost methodologies; 
  • The Commission and EARTO agreed on the usefulness of establishing an advisory group to evaluate the use of full-cost accounting systems by universities and other research organisations in Europe;

In conclusion, the Commission confirmed that it will formally adopt the guidelines on direct costing for large infrastructures, once the inter-institutional negotiations on Horizon 2020 have been completed.

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