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The rise and rise of executive agencies

How to manage growing budgets without growing staff? Tania Rabesandratana finds out how the European Commission outsources research funding management.

Last month, the European Commission proposed a 45 per cent increase in the next phase of EU research funding between 2014 and 2020. But this rise will not come with a growth in staff numbers at the directorate-general for research. Instead, the Commission is likely to outsource the management of up to two-thirds of its research funds, in part by expanding the work of what are called executive agencies in Brussels.

Outsourcing became a necessity at the beginning of Framework 7. “The annual budget was going to double between 2007 and 2013, but the Commission had a freeze on staffing. The two didn’t add up,” recalls Graham Stroud, director of the Research Directorate’s Research Executive Agency. So the Commission decided to split policy making from policy execution for part of the programme, as an agency focused solely on management would be more efficient.

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