Brussels, 02 May 2005
A staff working document from the European Commission outlines a ten-point simplification plan for facilitating participation in the EU's framework programmes for research.
As is explained in the document, the framework programmes' increasing complexity has arisen as a result of the programmes' expansion in terms of budget, scale, scope and ambition. The evolution has led to a multiplication of instrument type, requirements for submission and reporting, and rules on implementation. This has also been accompanied by increased financial support, a growing number of participants, and a need for internal and external controls to ensure Community funds are spent correctly.
Although some steps towards simplification have already been taken, participation remains complex for non-administrators, and in particular for smaller actors such as small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Illustrating his commitment to simplification, Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik has already called for the creation of a Commission inter-services working group to advance proposals for simplification in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), and a Sounding Board enabling the Commission to understand the difficulties of SMEs has also been established.
The new simplification measures will be based on three principles: flexibility, rationalisation and the clarification of rights and obligations. The ten concrete measures, some of which are subject to review in accordance with the financial regulations for the EU's general budget, address a number of procedures, including: the choice of funding schemes; communication; the submission of legal and financial information; the definition of eligible costs; the selection process; the extension of flat-rate financing; and reporting models.
With reference to the use of instruments, the paper states: 'Rather than pre-defining the instruments in a fixed way, in their objectives as well as in their contents, and particularly in terms of activities and critical mass, it is [...] proposed that the different categories of actions should be implemented through a simple set of funding schemes, used either alone or in combination.'
In order to improve communication, and to ensure that the scientific community fully understands FP7's objectives and implementation modalities, information material will be made clearer. Jargon and acronyms will be avoided, and all texts will be examined by external users or communication experts in order to assess comprehensibility before publication. A single clearing house will also be established in order to guarantee that messages given out by the Commission are consistent and uniform.
Another new procedure will see participants submitting their basic legal, administrative and financial information only once - when the organisation in question first participates in FP7. The participant will then receive a personal registration number that can be used for all future involvement in FP7.
Networks of Excellence are set to see a major simplification in terms of financing. Under FP7, the EU's financial contribution will no longer be based on the reimbursement of eligible costs from joint programme activities. The envisaged solution would involve the periodic release of a fixed lump sum according to an assessment of progress made in terms of implementing joint programme activities.
For further information, please
Earlier related item:
Commission Staff Working Document - Simplification in the 7th Framework Programme (link)
22 April 2005