Thursday, 1 September 2011

Horizon 2020: What's it Worth?

Plans for Horizon 2020 (which, as I don't need to remind you, is the new name for FP8) are coming on a pace, and UKRO reported today that the EC is currently grappling with the Gordian knot of what the Commission should pay successful applicants. The obvious answer would be, 'well, what they ask for,' but it's not that simple. Most European funding is given on a part funding or 'co-financing' basis, often calculated on an algorithm that makes the calculation of Easter look simple.

The current 'reimbursement rates' for FP7 are here (thanks, EUResearch, 'your Swiss guide to European research'). It all looks so simple, doesn't it? However, it's not as straightforward as the Swiss would have us believe, because these figures need to be cross referenced against an indirect cost rates matrix, which varies between institutions, and can be the 'simplified (ha!) method', 'standard flat rate', or 'special transition flat rate'.

Anyway, looking forward, UKRO has read the runes and it looks like the EC might propose Horizon 2020 reimbursement rates as follows:
  • up to 75% for research activities,
  • 50% for innovation activities, and
  • 60% for combined research and innovation activities.
  • Marie Curie and ERC would be up to 100%, as at present.
These would be for all participants (both academia and industry) and would apply to an entire project, so there wouldn't be the distinction for non-profit public bodies, secondary and higher education establishments, research organisations and SMEs, or for different activities within a project.

Indirect costs would be a flat rate 75% of personnel costs, again for all participants. No 'real' indirect cost system would be available. ERC would have indirect costs of 25% of personnel costs, and support actions (CSAs) 7% of personnel costs.

UKRO has already had feedback on these proposals from a handful of institutions, most of whom are worried that the rates would work out worse than those currently being offered. They weren't sure that having a single rate was all it was cracked up to be, and were particularly worried that management costs would be less than 100%, making coordination a lot less attractive. Also, the lower reimbursement rate for mixed activity projects (including research and innovation, which the EC is particularly keen to encourage) might actually discourage organisations from participating in such activities. As to indirect rates, most would prefer the current 'special transition flat rate' (of 60%) to continue.

Those institutions that have done some modelling believe that only projects that are personnel-heavy would be better under the new regime. In addition, the ERC might be badly hit, with a move from a 20% flat rate for indirect costs to 25% for personnel-only costs could be significant. There might be some savings made in the cost of managing the grants, but these, it was thought, would be outweighed by the losses.

The full UKRO analysis is available here (you have to be a subscriber to access this) and they would welcome other feedback by 9 September. So get your calculators out and get modelling!

1 comment:

  1. No matter how far a person can go the horizon is still way beyond you. See the below for more info.