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EUA calls for full cost reimbursements in Horizon 2020

The European University Association (EUA) has reiterated its support for the option of reimbursing research based on full costing in the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.

The EUA supports the European Parliament’s proposal to allow institutions that can track the indirect costs of a research project to have them reimbursed on the basis of the actual amount spent, rather than at a flat rate. However, the EUA has told Research Europe Today that the Parliament’s proposal to pay only 70 per cent of this value is insufficient, and institutions should receive at least 75 per cent of indirect expenses.

The European Commission and the Council of the EU both favour flat rate reimbursement options. Under these options, direct costs would be reimbursed at 100 per cent but indirect costs would be reimbursed at a flat rate of either 20 per cent (the Commission’s proposal) or 25 per cent (the Council’s proposal).

The statement comes ahead of the European Council meeting, set to begin tomorrow (7 February), where EU leaders will discuss the EU budget for 2014-2020.

Thomas Estermann, head of the governance, autonomy and funding unit at the EUA, told Research Europe Today: “We’ve seen this work in many countries on a national level, where institutional costing methodologies are accepted, and it works. So in theory there is no reason why it shouldn’t work on a European level.”

The European Commission has said that moving to flat rate reimbursements would help to simplify funding under Horizon 2020. Many feel, however, that it would create an additional financial burden for universities and would be particularly problematic for institutions in the member states hit hardest by austerity measures.

Estermann rejects the argument that the flat rate option is necessary for simplification. He says: “It might be complex and difficult on a European level to manage that… but you don’t have to set up a system that is complex.”

The EUA published a statement last year, EUA Input to the Debate on the Rules for Participation in Horizon 2020, where it explained its position on reimbursement rates. It said that a 20-per-cent reimbursement rate is insufficient and that it “would punish universities that have moved towards full costing”.

The EUA is a Brussels-based organisation that represents more than 850 universities and university associations in 47 European countries.