Go back

More universities warn EU against ‘haste’ on lump-sum R&D funding


Leru group says funding model has benefits for grantees but downsides for applicants and collaboration

Another university group has added its voice to calls for the European Commission not to be “too hasty” with broadening the use of lump-sum payments of EU funding for R&D projects, warning of “concerns over possible negative side effects”.

Under the lump-sum model, researchers submit cost estimates before the start of projects rather than invoicing for costs afterwards and being audited. The model was piloted under the 2014-20 EU R&D programme, Horizon 2020, and the Commission has said it is considering a “massive extension” of it in the 2021-27 programme, Horizon Europe.

But on 15 December, the League of European Research Universities, which represents 23 research-intensive institutions, said that while lump-sum payments have the potential to make life easier for grantees, the Commission should take longer to evaluate the pilot.

‘Devil in the detail’

Like other research groups before it, Leru warned that lump-sum funding results in a greater burden on applicants, and that this could be off-putting.

It also warned that applicants might propose less ambitious projects, and that participants in collaborative projects might choose “safer” partners, neglecting small companies, to avoid the risk of not hitting the targets that would trigger the release of funding.

Leru said the lump-sum model is a good one for projects with small budgets, short lifecycles and few partners, but that the Commission should wait a year before broadening out its use until the projects from the pilot have reached a more advanced stage. It said a recent evaluation of the pilot and the announcement of the broader rollout “seem premature”.

“We clearly see the potential of more lump sums as it makes life a lot easier in the post-award stage of projects. However, as always, the devil is in the detail,” said Leru director-general Kurt Deketelaere. “By introducing lump sums too hastily, the Commission risks not getting the details right.”