Financial instruments for ESSnets


Two kinds of financial instruments can be used by ESSnets:

  • Multi-Beneficiary Grant Agreements (MBGAs) or
  • Framework Partnership Agreement (FPAs), with a number of Specific Grant Agreements (SGAs) concluded under each FPA.


An MBGA is typically used when the action to undertake is well-defined already at the outset, and when the time frame of the action is comparatively short (normally up to 3 years).
For ESSnets, a time interval of up to 2 years has frequently been applied.

FPAs and SGAs

For longer-term cooperation (with a duration not exceeding the European Statistical Programme (ESP) time frame) where the general orientation is known, but where specific actions only can be defined in a stepwise manner (for instance where the orientation of work depends on previous results or on external events), an FPA should be used. The FPA is supplemanted by annual SGAs for the different actions to be carried out during the duration of the FPA. The FPA merely sets up the collaboration environment; if no SGAs are established, no actions are financed or carried out.
The FPA will define the main lines of the project as well as the technical provisions which hold for the duration of the project. For these longer duration projects there should be a minimum of 4-5 partners but this does not mean that all partners need to participate in each SGA (i.e. in each specific action).
One of the countries will take the lead as "Co-ordinator" for the technical and administrative coordination for the whole duration of the contract and of the project and will be responsible for distributing the funds between the "Co-partners".
For the purposes of signature, the co-partners will sign mandates conferring powers of attorneys to the co-ordinator. 

Common features

There are a number of aspects common to both types of instruments:

  • There are multiple grant beneficiaries
    For ESSnets, 4-7 beneficiaries has commonly been the case, but somewhat smaller as well as far larger groups have also been established.
  • Restricted calls for proposals are issued; the eligible applicants are:
    • ESS NSIs and
    • other national authorities (ONAs) responsible for the development, production and dissemination of European statistics as designated by Member States
  • The action is co-financed by the EU and the beneficiaries
    For ESSnets, up to 90% EU financing is possible.
  • The results of each action remain the intellectual property of the grant beneficiaries.



FPA combined with SGAs


Level of detail at launch

FPA: Overall objectives known

SGA: Well-defined actions required

Well-defined actions required

Typical maximum length

FPA: Duration within the ESP time frame; normally 4 years
SGA: (individual actions shorter)

Normally up to 3 years

Change of coordinator for follow-up actions

Not possible – the FPA coordinator has to coordinate each SGA

Yes – a new MBGA has no formal link to the preceding MBGA

New member states wishing to join a follow-up action

Administratively heavy – new co-partners only possible after an amendment to the FPA

Yes – a new MBGA has no formal link to the preceding MBGA

Lead time until launch of a follow-up action

SGA: Shorter lead time than for an MBGA, since direct communication with the FPA co‑ordinator

MBGA: Shorter lead time than for an SGA, since a restricted call for proposals has to be issued

Aspects governing choice

As could be deduced from the below table, there are situations which are less clear-cut - for instance where multiple actions are foreseen, but it is not certain that a viable consortium could be established from the outset.

In that case, it might be advisable to launch an MBGA for the first action, and other (topically linked, but administratively independent) MBGAs for the follow-up actions.

FPA preferable

MBGA preferable

Multiple actions

Time frame exceeding 2 years

Overall orientation clear

Group of potential participants in any of the actions clearly identified

Feasible for a single NSI (or other beneficiary) to administratively coordinate multiple actions

A single action (normally broken down in several work packages)

Unclear who might like to participate in follow-up actions


This is an indicative, non-authoritative information text on the financial instruments used for ESSnets and Centres of Excellence. For authoritative information, please refer to the Financial Regulation.