The European Commission has introduced flexibility measures to address difficulties caused by the current pandemic.
The current pandemic has a major disruptive effect on our economies and societies. The research and innovation community has been affected too, including fellows and projects funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA). While there is no possibility to increase the maximum grant amount due to legal and financial constraints, the European Commission has introduced a wide range of flexibility measures to address the difficulties faced by researchers and institutions funded under Horizon 2020. This allows MSCA host institutions to continue running their projects even if the research activities cannot be carried out as originally planned.
FAQs for projects and fellows affected by the COVID-19 pandemic
Some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) by MSCA project coordinators and fellows are available on the Funding and Tenders Opportunities Portal FAQ page and they are updated regularly.
If you have further questions, please contact your supervisor or scientist-in-charge at your host institution or your project officer at the Research Executive Agency (REA).
Guidance for MSCA fellows affected by COVID-19
If your research project or mobility has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, you should contact your supervisor or scientist-in-charge at your host institution.
To report any problem or complaint, please use the means specified in the following guidance notes (see "Complaints" section).
- General information package for MSCA fellows
- Specific guidance for MSCA COFUND fellows
- Specific guidance for MSCA RISE fellows and staff members
- Specific guidance for ITN fellows
- Implementation guide for MSCA IF fellows
Alternatively, should problems remain after contacting your supervisor or scientist-in-charge, you can contact the MSCA National Contact Point in your country; report your case through the survey of the Marie Curie Alumni Association; or contact the project officer of your MSCA project at the Research Executive Agency (the coordinator of your MSCA project can provide the direct contact). Your complaint will be shared with the European Commission and the Research Executive Agency and treated confidentially.
For MSCA Individual Fellowships, please refer to your MSCA individual fellowship guide to implementation received at the beginning of your project and to the specific information Note regarding COVID-19 and paid extensions for MSCA individual fellowships projects. To report any problem or complaint, please contact the project officer of your MSCA IF project at the Research Executive Agency (REA) through the Funding and Tender Opportunities Portal. There you can also find your project officer’s name for confidential or sensitive correspondence ("Manage Project") – the direct contact details were provided in the GAP Invitation Letter.
Guidance for MSCA projects affected by COVID-19
The European Commission and the Research Executive Agency (REA) offer several flexibility measures to mitigate the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on MSCA projects and fellows. These include, among others
- paid remote work
- delaying the start of researchers’ individual projects
- paid absences of up to 30 consecutive days
- working outside the host institution’s premises
- flexibility on scheduled due dates for deliverables, milestones, etc.
Using unspent institutional costs to maintain the salary of researchers during mutually agreed suspension periods or covering these expenses from national or own resources.
If your project has been affected, please check the FAQs on the Funding and Tender Opportunities Portal for a full overview of the measures, and if needed, contact your project officer at the REA for more support. All of the measures proposed should accompany and complement the respective host organisations’ duty of care towards their employees.
The REA has also published a news item detailing the latest decisions taken by European Commission that have an impact on its research management activities.
Maximum grant amounts
Despite the various flexibility measures put in place to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 crisis, the EU financial contribution to Horizon 2020 projects ('maximum grant amount') cannot be increased.
According to the Financial Regulation, Horizon 2020 grants shall not exceed an overall ceiling expressed in terms of an absolute value (‘maximum grant amount’) [(Article 186(1)]. Amendments to grant agreements shall not have the purpose or the effect of making such changes that would call into question the grant award decision or be contrary to the principle of equal treatment of applicants [Article 201(4)].
Also, as clarified in the Annotated Model Grant Agreement (AGA) the maximum grant amount set out in the grant agreement cannot be exceeded (Article 5.1). The same principle applies to cases of change of the action duration, i.e. if the project is prolonged, the maximum grant amount will not be increased. Furthermore, if force majeure entails extra costs for the implementation of the action, the beneficiaries (i.e. the host institutions) must bear these extra costs (since they were not budgeted and the maximum grant amount set out in Article 5.1 cannot be increased).
Exceptions for projects working on COVID-19
The Financial Regulation [Article 195(b)] allows for awarding a grant without a call for proposals in case of ‘duly substantiated emergencies’ (the other possible exceptions are not relevant for the COVID-19 situation). On that basis, the European Commission has been able to increase the budget of a very small number of on-going grants for additional activities whose scope could immediately contribute to the efforts for tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. The budget of these grants could be increased not because they were affected by the COVID-19 situation, but only because they were directly looking for solutions to the COVID-19 situation. Each of those exceptions had to be duly and individually justified. Neither the Financial Regulation nor the Horizon 2020 Rules for Participation provide legal grounds for a general increase of the budget of on-going grants.
Reorienting your MSCA project to help tackle COVID-19
Some projects and fellows have contacted the Research Executive Agency (REA) to enquire about the possibility of addressing COVID-19-related issues in their ongoing project. MSCA projects can be adjusted if the changes are scientifically justified and broadly relevant to the proposals’ original aims. If you are considering such a change, please contact your project officer at the REA, who can see how best to support you and guide you through the process.