last week’s agreement between EU ministers for research on an overall framework for the proposed Horizon 2020 research and innovation funding programme (2014-2020), EUA participated on behalf of its members on Wednesday in an important Horizon 2020 hearing organised by the European People's Party (EPP Group) in the European Parliament.
The EPP hearing included key figures from the European Parliament, including MEPs Christian Ehler, Rapporteur for the Rules for the Participation in 'Horizon 2020', and Maria da Graça Carvalho, Rapporteur on the Specific Programme of Horizon 2020. EUA Deputy Secretary General, Dr John Smith, was invited to present on EUA’s viewpoint on the Horizon 2020 proposals in relation to simplification. In particular, it was an opportunity to underline the importance of preserving the universities’ financial sustainability over the long term, one of the key elements of EUA’s recent input on the Horizon 2020 Rules for Participation.
Dr Smith welcomed the fact that the proposed rules foresee 100% reimbursement of direct costs. However, he highlighted that the European Commission’s proposal for a single reimbursement rate (100% of direct costs and a flat rate of 20%), does not achieve the necessary balance between reducing complexity and responding to the real needs of different actors. He told the audience that the 20% flat rate was too low, as it does not sufficiently cover actual indirect project costs. This would lead to two undesirable effects: it would discourage universities that have already implemented full costing from participating in the programme, and would hinder the further development of full costing methodologies in the sector.
Dr Smith also highlighted that the declaration of the full costs incurred should be the general rule for those universities who are able to identify their costs through an appropriate costing methodology, as this would foster transparency and accountability of public spending. For those universities that are not able to identify their indirect costs, the rules should retain the possibility to apply for a flat rate high enough to cover their indirect costs. A 100% / 40% model would provide an acceptable level of reimbursement while also giving an incentive for the further development of full costing methodologies, he added. He also stressed that it was crucial to have a clear definition of ineligible costs, improved clarity in terminology, as well as an improvement in management and control processes.
The hearing took place at an important time in the Horizon 2020 negotiation process. Ministers attending the Council of EU (Competiveness Council) meeting last week reached an agreement on an overall framework for the Horizon 2020 programme but did not broach the issue of the budget for the programme, which will be debated in the framework of the ongoing negotiations on the EU multiannual financial framework. The European Parliament, meanwhile, is expected to reach a position on the Horizon 2020 legislative package in October.