Welcome For Cuts In Red Tape For Research

25 January 2011
Alyn Smith has hailed the steps taken by the European Commission to simplify EU funding for research and innovation.

It is hoped that the new procedures will make participation in the EU's current Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7) more attractive and accessible to the best researchers and most innovative companies, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which currently only account for 14.7% of participants in the areas in which they are eligible to take part.

The measures come in response to concerns voiced by FP7 participants, who often criticise the costs and lengthy processes involved.

Wider simplification steps will follow in time for the next EU research programme in 2013. The Commission will present legislative proposals for this programme by the end of 2011, after a consultation to be opened in early spring.

Smith said:

"These steps by the Commission, although not extensive, are good news for the research community and, in particular, good news for SMEs.

"Since 2007 the FP7 has drawn more than 40,000 proposals, and almost 8,000 projects have so far been funded. However, the process to get that funding is long and complicated, and wrapped in red tape. As we now look forward to the next EU research programme in 2013, it is very encouraging to see the Commission already paying close attention to the complaints and problems that those applying to this funding stream have faced to date.

"With a more straight-forward and less costly system in place, researchers and SMEs can spend less time and effort worrying over the paperwork and instead get on with the work they actually want to do and should be doing."

The new measures are:

  • Firstly, more flexibility will be allowed in how personnel costs are calculated, so that EU research grant-holders can apply their usual accounting methods when requesting reimbursement for average personnel costs and will no longer need to set up entire parallel accounting systems just for this purpose.
  • Secondly, SME owners, whose salaries are not formally registered in their accounts, can now be reimbursed, through flat-rate payments, for their contribution to work on research projects.
  • Finally, a new steering group has been set up to tackle inconsistencies in the application of funding rules across EU member states.

It is now for the Council and the European Parliament to adopt these measures.