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Delay to Horizon Europe grant guidance ‘problematic’

Earma 2021: Lack of Annotated Model Grant Agreement leaves rules “unclear”, managers say

University research managers have said they are struggling to prepare to work on grants for the 2021-27 EU R&D programme, Horizon Europe, as the European Commission has still not published a template agreement with its interpretation of the programme’s rules.

“We were expecting the Annotated Model Grant Agreement to be ready for us in December [of the year before launch] as it used to be for the previous Framework programmes,” Daniel Bergvall, a financial officer at Stockholm University, said at the annual conference of the European Association of Research Managers and Administrators on 16 April.

Bergvall said that, as a result of the delay in providing the AGA, Horizon Europe’s rules on topics such as personnel timesheets and projects’ indirect costs were “still very unclear”, even after the first calls opened for instruments including the European Research Council and European Innovation Council.

“It’s very unclear and that’s problematic at this point where we’re already starting to apply for grants,” said Bergvall.

The Commission declined to comment, but Research Professional News understands it intends the AGA to be available before the first grant agreements for Horizon Europe are signed. A new Model Grant Agreement is to be used across all directly managed EU programmes, to increase synergies and reduce the administrative burden, so the annotations need to be discussed among Commission departments so that many of them can apply across the different programmes.

The Commission has published a draft version of the MGA without annotations. One novelty is that researchers’ time working on a project will be logged as either whole or half days. Bergvall said the simplification “could be positive”, but that clarification was needed on how the rule will work. “We don’t want to over-report,” he said, referring to potential overestimation of researchers’ contributions and subsequent pay from grants.

Others echoed the concerns about the lack of clarity. Jhon Álvarez Ahlgren, an EU grants manager at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, expressed uncertainty about the change to the timesheet rules. “Do they have to round upwards to half a day if they work very little?” he wondered.

Research Professional News is the official media partner for Earma 2021. Follow more of our coverage on Twitter @ResProfNews and @ResearchEurope, #EARMADigital.

A version of this article also appeared in Research Europe