Antworten des Research Enquiry Service

Hier finden Sie eine thematisch sortierte Sammlung von Fragen und Antworten des Research Enquiry Service (RES) der Europäischen Kommission zu Horizont Europa


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Hier finden Sie die von der NKS Recht und Finanzen an den Research Enquiry Service (RES) der Europäischen Kommission zu Horizont Europa gesendeten Fragen zu unklaren Sachverhalten und Auslegungsfragen. Die Fragen sind nach Themen gegliedert. Tipp: In aufgeklappten Boxen können Sie über die Tastenkombination "Strg + F" nach Stichworten suchen.

1. Fragen zu Teilnahme und Beteiligung (Drittstaaten, assoziierte Partner, verbundene Einrichtungen)

1.1 Question on the "Declaration of Ownership and Control"

Question: When do you have to fill out the "Control Questionnaire" according to article 22,24 of the rules of participation? During proposal stage / grant preparation stage for all calls or only specific calls? Is the proposal / consortium than ineligible or only the partner concerned. Where is it possible to find more information on that topic? Is it possible to download the questionnaire somewhere?

Answer: The participation to some topics of Horizon Europe is restricted in application of article 22.5 of the Horizon Europe regulation. This article specifies the conditions under which legal entities that would normally be eligible are excluded from participating to the programme, in order to protect the Union strategic assets, interests, autonomy or security.
For the topics concerned, the use of article 22.5 is mentioned in the work programme, in the eligibility condition section of the specific topic conditions. It specifies if only the first paragraph of the article 22.5 is applying or if the two paragraphs are applying.
The first paragraph of this article refers to the countries in which entities have to be established to be allowed to participate. For the topics concerned, the work programme will identify the so-called "eligible countries". Entities established in these countries are eligible to participate.
The second paragraph of the article 22.5 specifies that for duly justified and exceptional reasons, the participation of legal entities established in eligible countries that are directly or indirectly controlled by non-eligible third countries or by non-eligible third country entities may also be excluded or made subject to conditions, for example the requirement to submit a guarantee. The "Declaration of ownership and control" questionnaire is the document used to assess if an organisation is controlled or not. This questionnaire is published in the Funding & Tenders Portal.
When the second paragraph of article 22.5 applies, applicants must fill in the "Declaration of ownership and control" questionnaire as part of their proposal application. The questionnaire will be available for download in the Portal Submission System. Each participant must fill in a declaration (beneficiaries, affiliated entities, subcontractors and associated partners). However, entities that are validated as public bodies by the Commission Central Validation Service do not have to fill in the form. All declarations must be assembled by the proposal’s coordinator and uploaded in a single file as an annex to the proposal in the Portal Submission system. Specific guidance is under preparation to help applicants in such restricted calls to become aware of the existing requirements, in particular, the ownership control assessment procedure and the guarantees that may be required if control by an ineligible country is confirmed.

1.2 Who can be coordinator in Horizon Europe?

Question: What is the reason for not allowing third countries (e.g. Switzerland) being coordinator anymore like in Horizon 2020 and what is the legal basis for this?

Answer: Under the Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement, which is aligned to the corporate Model Grant Agreement adopted at Commission level, only entities eligible for funding may become beneficiaries and only beneficiaries can become coordinators. Under Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement (article 7) beneficiaries are signatories of grant agreements, they must be eligible for funding under the Horizon Europe basic act for the entire duration of the action and can participate with full rights and obligations, including funding.
We recall that entities from a non-associated third country such as Switzerland are not in principle eligible for funding under Horizon Europe and bear the cost of their participation. They can however be exceptionally eligible for Horizon Europe funding under the conditions of article 23 (2) of Horizon Europe Regulation if:

  • the third country (Switzerland) is explicitly identified in the Work Programme (call conditions) adopted by the Commission as being eligible or
  • the granting authority (Commission or relevant funding body) considers their participation as essential for implementing the project.

1.3 Legal involvement of Swiss partners in Horizon Europe projects

Question: How is the legal involvement of Swiss partners in Horizon Europe to be handled? Why including the Swiss partner as an Associated Partner without funding according to article 9 and not under article 10? What are the cases reserved for article10?

Answer: Differently from article 9 Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement which addresses other participants than the beneficiaries which may be involved in the action (associated partners, third parties giving in-kind contributions to the action, subcontractors, or recipients of financial support to third parties), or article 8 which covers the affiliated entities, article 10 does not – strictly speaking – provide for a specific type of participant, but aims rather at addressing specific issues related to the specific status of a given participant, i.e.:

  • the obligations applicable to non-EU participants, e.g. to respect general principles (including fundamental rights, value and ethical principles, environmental and labour standards, rules on classified information, intellectual property rights, visibility of funding and protection of personal data) (see article 10.1)
  • the specifics related to participants which are international organisations, e.g. special rules on applicable law and dispute settlement (see article 10.2)
  • the specifics related to so-called "pillar-assessed" participants, i.e. participants have been already positively assessed by the Commission in a number of aspects ("pillars") of the systems, rules and procedures which such participants use when entrusted to manage indirectly EU funding (see article 10.3). We hope that it clarifies the scope and rationale on when using these different provisions.

1.4 Is it possible to include a second affiliated entity of an affiliated entity which is not directly linked to a beneficiary or do both have to be included into the consortium?

Question: We received a question on the participation of an affiliated entity we are not sure about if it is possible. One of the potential partners has an affiliated entity that has itself also an affiliated entity which they want to include in the project (only the applicant and the affiliated entity (not directly linked to the beneficiary but to its own affiliated entity). Is it possible to include the second entity without the first directly linked entity or do both have to be included into the consortium?

Answer: An affiliated entity must have a legal link to a beneficiary. A legal link to a beneficiary means a legal or capital link, which is neither limited to the action nor established for the sole purpose of its implementation. This covers permanent legal structures, contractual cooperation not limited to the action (e.g. a collaboration agreement for research in a particular field) or a capital link. You may note that the capital link covers not only direct control but also indirect control of the beneficiary, being under the same indirect control as the beneficiary or indirectly controlling the beneficiary.
In your example, if the concerned entity has no such link to the beneficiary, it cannot be an affiliated entity. Yet, as said above, the Research Enquiry Service is not in a position to assess further the specifics of a case. Besides this legal or capital link issue, if the entity which is affiliated to the beneficiary is not performing any action tasks, it cannot be an "affiliated entity" in the sense of article 9.3 of the Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement. Moreover, there is no possibility for an affiliated entity to have its own affiliated entity as article 9.3 defines that an affiliated entity must have a link to a beneficiary.
Another alternative might be that the entity (i.e. the affiliated entity of an affiliated entity in your example) performing work on the action, participates as a beneficiary, provided that this is possible under the applicable call conditions.

1.5 Who must sign the consortium agreement?

Question: We have a question on the consortium agreements in Horizon Europe. According to article 7 Horizon Europe Grant Agreement and number 1 of the data sheet of the Grant Agreement, the consortium has to conclude a consortium in most cases. Now we are wondering who is obliged to sign. Is it only the beneficiaries according to article 7 Grant Agreement (partner from Member States and Associated Countries) or also associated partner and article 10 participants?

Answer: According to article 7 of the Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement, a written consortium agreement between the beneficiaries setting out their internal arrangements regarding their operation and coordination may be required by the granting authority. It can also be concluded on the initiative of the consortium. Such written agreement must be at least signed by the beneficiaries but other participants that are involved in the implementation of the action may be part of this consortium agreement, like for instance associated partners, affiliated entities or participants with special status. The beneficiaries are not prevented from inviting other participants to adhere and sign their consortium agreement, this is up to them to decide on this aspect.

1.6 How do you legally involve Associated Partners into the Grant Agreement and what is a collaboration agreement?

Question: We have a question on the legal relation between the consortium / beneficiaries and the associated partners (articles 9.1 and 10.1). As we understand from articles 7 and 9.1 of the Horizon Europe Grant Agreement, the associated partners do not sign the Grant Agreement, but a beneficiary is legally responsible for their actions. Do the coordinators have to conclude an additional so-called coordination agreement with the associated partners or article 10.1 partners to legally involve them into the action? Is there a model the coordinators can use? Is this the collaboration agreement which is mentioned at the end of number 1 of the data sheet of the Grant Agreement?

Answer: We understand that to the extent that the beneficiaries are the sole signatories of the Grant Agreement and remain responsible for the action tasks performed by associated partners, you would like to know if the relations between the beneficiaries and their associated partners must be formalised in an agreement and of which kind.
According to the Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement, there is no obligation for the beneficiaries to sign a written agreement with their associated partners. What is mandatory is to list them in article 9.1 of the Grant Agreement and mention their tasks in Annex 1.
In any case, it is the beneficiaries' responsibility to ensure that obligations mentioned in article 9.1 Horizon Europe Grant Agreement are accepted by the associated partners. As a best practice, when beneficiaries want to formalise their relations with associated partners, the former may rely on any kind of contractual arrangements with the latter. Beneficiaries can also rely on the consortium agreement and invite associated partners to be part of it. 
Concerning the provision of a consortium agreement template, no such document is available. However, the article 7 of the Horizon Europe Grant Agreement can provide you some indications about its content. Indeed, when the granting authority requires a written agreement to be signed between the beneficiaries, it must cover for instance:

  • the internal organisation of the consortium;
  • the management of access to the Portal;
  • different distribution keys for the payments and financial responsibilities in case of recoveries (if any);
  • additional rules on rights and obligations related to background and results (see article 16);
  • settlement of internal disputes;
  • liability, indemnification and confidentiality arrangements between the beneficiaries.

In your query, you make reference to a coordination agreement. The coordination agreements were used in the framework of Horizon 2020 and were related to joint calls. Under Horizon Europe, coordination agreements gave way to collaboration agreements, which aim at setting out arrangements when two actions are linked. As provided in article 7 of the Horizon Europe Grant Agreement, to ensure coordination and proper implementation of the actions, the beneficiaries must have arrangements with the participants of the other action. When required by the granting authority, these arrangements must be set out in a written collaboration agreement aimed at linking the two parallel actions and ensure a smooth and successful implementation of the project. As a general rule, the collaboration agreement should complement the two grant agreements and must not contain any provision contrary to them.

2. Vorbereitungsphase der Finanzhilfevereinbarung

2.1 Where exactly in Part B do applicants have to prove their operational capacity (as it is an award criterion)?

Question: We have a question regarding the evaluation of operational capacity. Annex C of the Horizon Europe Work programme states that operational capacity is an award criterion: "For this assessment, applicants will be required to provide the following information in the application form (Part B):

  • general profiles (qualifications and experience) of the staff responsible for managing and implementing the project;
  • description of the consortium participants; and
  • list of EU-funded actions/projects in the last 4 years."

Where exactly in Part B has this information to be provided? Some of the points to be assessed are included now in Part A, but not all of them. Maybe Part A and B are mixed up here? On the other hand, Part A does not cover all points, which shall be assessed. Where can I provide general profiles of the staff responsible for management and implementation? This group of persons is explicitly excluded from the Table in part A.2 Researchers involved in the Proposal.

Answer: Please note that all the information you mention may be provided in Part A of the general annexes. The structure of the annexes will soon be updated to resolve the current confusion.

2.2 Are Horizon Europe state aid rules (nor deminimis) applicable for Horizon Europe as in Horizon 2020?

Question: Could the Research Enquiry Service please confirm for Horizon Europe that state aid rules (nor deminimis) are not applicable for Horizon Europe as in Horizon 2020?

Answer: Only advantages granted directly or indirectly through State resources can constitute State aid within the meaning of article 107.1 of the Treaty. Hence, centrally-managed EU resources such as Horizon 2020 or Horizon Europe do not constitute “State aid”. This principle is also explained in the Commission's notice on the notion of aid (point 60): "if such resources are awarded directly by the Union, by the European Investment Bank or by the European Investment Fund, with no discretion on the part of the national authorities, they do not constitute State resources (for example funding awarded in direct management under the Horizon 2020 framework programme, the EU programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME) or the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) funds)." That notice dates from 2016. The objective notion of State aid explained in this Commission Notice also apply to other EU-funding under direct management with no discretion on the part of the national authorities that entered into force after 2016, thus also to Horizon Europe.
This same principle is also explained in the Commission Communication on the Framework for state aid for research and development and innovation – Point 9 under this Framework provides that "Union funding centrally managed by the institutions, agencies, joint undertakings or other bodies of the Union that is not directly or indirectly under the control of Member States (the footnote clarifies that this is indeed the case of funding provided under Horizon 2020, hence also applicable to Horizon Europe) does not constitute state aid". Therefore, there is no requirement to take such Horizon Europe funding into account neither for State-aid compliance nor under the de minimis clause.
Moreover, "where such Union funding is combined with state aid, only the latter will be considered for determining whether notification thresholds and maximum aid intensities are respected or, in the context of this framework, subject to a compatibility assessment".
However, where directly-managed Union funding (e.g. from Horizon 2020 or Horizon Europe) is combined with State aid, the total amount of public funding (i.e State aid and Horizon funding) awarded in relation to the same eligible costs must however not exceed the most favourable funding rate laid down in the applicable rules of Union law (point 83 of the Framework; also article 8.2 of the General Block Exemption Regulation).

2.3 Does the list of researchers need to be updated during the course of a project?

Question: The standard application form says that the researchers involved in the proposal, (see below definition of "researcher") have to be included. But in the Webinar: "How to prepare a successful proposal in Horizon Europe" (24 March 2021) (at 2:01:31) the Commission makes it clear that the main persons listed in the proposal must also be the ones carrying out the work in the project. Many institutions start hiring their personnel only after receiving a grant. I would like to know if the list has to be adapted and updated during the project and how detailed the changes have to be. If yes, when should this happen? In the continuous reporting? The periodic reports? Does it need an approval by the Commission (e.g. if a less high-ranking person will be carrying out the work)?

Answer: The list must be updated in the continuous reporting tab. In addition, it can be updated during the GAP process.

2.4 Who is an Ethics Advisor?

Question: We have been contacted by some consortia that have to involve a so-called Ethics Advisor into the project due to the wish of the evaluators. Unfortunately, there is no information at all available about their function, tasks, qualification, etc. Is it possible to involve a law firm as ethics advisor for data protection law or do they have to address scientist, if yes what kind of qualification do they have to have? It would be very helpful if you could explain a bit the task and qualification requirements for so-called ethic advisors in the project. And how many do you need if different ethical issues are tackled in the project? Most probably one advisor cannot cover all topics.
Answer: An Ethics Advisor should be an external and independent expert who is specialised in the ethics issues that a project faces and who will be able to advise on how to best address the ethics issues raised by the project’s activities, in accordance with ethical principles, the applicable international and national law, the provisions set out in the Grant Agreement, and the guidance provided in the How to complete your ethics self-assessment.
There is no predefined profile but an experience as a member of an ethics committee and experience in resolving research and technological ethics issues helps in coping with a wide range of ethics concerns.
For large projects with multiple ethics issues, several advisors are nominated to constitute an Ethics Board but for smaller actions, when a single advisor is requested, she or he will either directly advise on the concerned issues or indicate where advice should be sought. The Ethics Advisor must not have any hierarchical link with the Principal Investigator. For example, a Data Protection Officer (DPO) belonging to the same organisation cannot be considered be an external and independent expert to be appointed as an Ethics Advisor. For further guidance please see:

3. Gender Equality plan

3.1 Questions concerning the Gender Equality Plan in Horizon Europe

Question: On the homepage of the European Commission the requirements for the Gender Equality Plan differ from the wording in the Standard Proposal Template Part A on "data collection and monitoring". The homepage of the European Commission refers to "staff", the portal to "personnel and students". Are "students" in this context PhD-students?
The "data collection and monitoring" foresees an annual reporting based on "indicators". The statutory equality plan provides for a report every 3 years, which, however, breaks down the indicators annually. Would this be sufficient?

Answer: Data collection should cover all levels, staff and students. Regarding the second question on "data collection and monitoring" and the annual reporting, it is important that data are collected on an annual basis based on indicators, feeding a progress report (even if it is every 3 years in the case you describe).

3.2 Is there any funding opportunity for the Gender Equality plan or is the elaboration of the Gender Equality Plan an eligible cost item? When does the applicant have to propose the Gender Equality Plan?

Question: Is there a funding opportunity for the Gender Equality Plan or is the elaboration of the gender equality plan an eligible cost item? In some information material it is written, that funding might be available but without a reference to a programme or further information. Do you have any other information on funding possibilities by the Commission?
When does the applicant have to propose the Gender Equality Plan? Already at proposal stage, at signing the contract or during the project, because a lot of institutions do not have a plan ready yet and for working out a good Gender Equality Plan they need some time.

Answer: Having a Gender Equality Plan in place will become an eligibility criterion for higher education establishments (and research organisations and public bodies from EU Member States and associated countries) as of calls for proposals with deadlines in 2022. However, if an institution concerned by the Gender Equality Plan eligibility criterion does not yet have a Gender Equality Plan in place at proposal submission stage, for calls with deadlines in 2022, this will not be blocking the submission and evaluation of the proposal they are part of.
It is at Grant Agreement signature that the European Commission will check, and require, that all partners concerned by this eligibility criterion have indeed self-declared having a Gender Equality Plan in place that fulfils all 4-mandatory process-related requirements.
As a Gender Equality Plan will become an eligibility criterion, it cannot be an eligible cost item.
Regarding your question on funding opportunities, through the Horizon Europe Work Programme on Widening participation and Strengthening the European Research Area (WIDERA), there are calls to build competence and strengthen knowledge on gender equality throughout European Member States and associated countries, and funding in 2022 to support the implementation of inclusive gender equality plans integrating an opening to intersectionality.
You can find information on the Gender Equality Plan eligibility criterion in Horizon Europe in a dedicated section on our Gender equality in research and innovation policy webpage and also in Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on Gender Equality Plans available on the Funding & Tenders Portal. More detailed guidance specifically on Gender Equality Plans will be soon available.

4. Unteraufträge

4.1 Would it be possible in Horizon Europe to subcontract a task to an associated partner not eligible for funding?

Question: Would it be possible in Horizon Europe to subcontract a task to an associated partner not eligible for funding? We are aware that in general subcontracts or contracts for other works and services cannot be used to circumvent the funding rules but this is the specific case:
In the call HORIZON-CL6-2021-BIODIV-01-15 the projects are encouraged to engage in international cooperation (in particular with African countries, Brazil, Latin American and Caribbean countries or the Mediterranean region). A proposal currently under development plans to cooperate with a Brazilian university that has developed freely available software necessary for the project. Beyond this software, the university has expertise that will be incorporated into the project. Since institutions from Brazil are not eligible for funding, it is planned to include the institution as an associated partner in the consortium. As part of the project, it may become necessary to customize the software. This adaptation can only be done by scientists from this Brazilian university, as the rights are held there. Is it possible to assign the adaptation of the software as a service to this Brazilian university, which will not receive any funding from the European Commission? And could the beneficiary who contracts the associated partner be able to get these costs reimbursed as subcontracting / other services (depending if it is an action task or not) in the project?

Answer: There is no substantial change between Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe subcontracting rules. Subcontracting costs for the action, if they are calculated on the basis of the costs actually incurred, fulfil the general eligibility conditions and are awarded using the beneficiary’s usual purchasing practices — provided these ensure subcontracts with best value for money (or if appropriate the lowest price) and that there is no conflict of interests.
In the question below, it has to be seen which status the Brazilian University may have. Without knowing details, it does not look like a subcontract in this case.
Also, the terminology is to be seen, what concerns "associated partner".
As of course Subcontracting to affiliates — Is not allowed, unless you have a framework contract or the affiliate is your usual provider, and the subcontract is priced at market conditions. Otherwise, these affiliates may work in the action, but they must be identified as affiliated entities and declare their own costs.

4.2 Would it be possible to assign the adaptation of the software as a service to a Brazilian associated partner that will not receive any funding from the European Commission?

Question: I have a follow-up question on case (see Question 4.1). Just for clarification: the status of the Brazilian partner is as an associated partner (not affiliated entity). Would it be possible to assign the adaptation of the software as a service to this Brazilian associated partner that will not receive any funding from the EU? And would the beneficiary who contracts the associated partner be able to get these costs reimbursed as subcontracting / other services (depending if it is an action task or not) in the project?

Answer: In that respect, please note that subcontracting tasks to an associated partner would not be possible. In that case, it would be for the associated partner to perform directly these tasks but without receiving EU funding.
In the same vein, purchase of services between a beneficiary and an associated partner would not be accepted, as a principle. The rationale being the same (i.e. there is the risk that the grant is issued to circumvent somehow the rules on associated partners and, on top, to charge commercial profit margins.). Purchases between a beneficiary and an associated partner could only be accepted in exceptional and properly justified cases (e.g. associated partner A is the usual supplier of beneficiary B for a generic consumable that beneficiary B needs for the action). Yet, this would not seem to be the case in the situation you describe.
This being said, please note that clarifications regarding so called "combination of roles" (where possible) are currently under internal assessment by the Commission services and might be part of the future release of the corporate Annotated Model Grant Agreement. Therefore, we cannot be further affirmative / conclusive at this stage.

4.3 Is it possible to give subcontracts to an associated partner?

Question: The Horizon Europe Annotated Grant Agreement states at page 54/55 that subcontracts between beneficiaries (and partly with affiliated entities) are forbidden. But associated partners are not beneficiaries (they don't receive funding). Does that mean that beneficiaries can subcontract certain activities to associated partners?

Answer: First of all, it should be reminded that beneficiaries must have the appropriate resources to implement the action (see article 7 of the Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement). Therefore, an extensive use of third parties may be seen as a lack of operational capacity.
This being recalled, "associated partner" and "subcontractor" are two kind of third parties who perform actions tasks. In that respect, their status would be mutually exclusive and ideally it should be clear from the beginning how the performance of action tasks will be done and shared between a beneficiary and an associated partner.
Moreover, associated partners are not eligible for receiving funding under an EU grant agreement. Therefore, envisaging a situation where an associated partner would actually be also subcontractor (for which the beneficiary could claim reimbursement of costs, including potentially any profit-margin) could be negatively perceived as a way of circumventing the rules on funding eligibility.
Now, if during the action implementation it appears that a beneficiary cannot actually perform some of its action tasks and that an associated partner involved in the project is better placed to perform them, it might be possible to agree to such a reshuffling of action asks between them. As best practice, the project officer in charge should be informed in advance to assess whether an amendment of the grant agreement would be needed or not (e.g. for modifying its annex 1 – Description of the action).

5. Personalkosten

5.1 What is the correct budget column for associated partners?

Question: Which one is the right budget column for associated partners whose action-related costs will be covered by a different funding body?
Should they use "own resources", since it is reimbursement of their own costs?
Or is it "financial contribution" even though the national funding can only be used for the associated partner's action-related costs and not for the remaining consortium?

Answer: The right column to use for funding from a different body is "Financial contribution".

5.2 Determination of the annual workable hours in Horizon Europe

Question: How are the annual workable hours determined in Horizon Europe? Is it the same formula as in Horizon 2020?
See Horizon 2020 Annotated Model Grant Agreement page 69: "Standard annual productive hours for Research Centre Z: Research Centre Z would like to use its usual cost accounting practices to calculate the hourly rates for EU actions. It calculates the number of standard annual productive hours as follows:
Annual working days = 228
- average annual sick leave (days) = 3
- days of general training = 4
- other unproductive activities (days) = 9
⇒ productive days = 212
Multiplied by 8 working hours per day
⇒ standard annual productive hours = 1 696"

In Horizon Europe this is needed e.g. for users of unit costs when not using the 8 hours per day, see page 40 in Horizon Europe Annotated Model Grant Agreement:
"If your usual cost accounting practice is to calculate hourly rates instead of daily rates, you must convert the hourly rate into a daily rate as follows:
Daily rate = hourly rate x 8
Alternative: If you have a usual cost accounting practice determining the standard number of annual productive hours of a full-time employee, you can alternatively multiply by the number of hours resulting from the following formula (instead of by 8):
{The higher between the standard number of annual productive hours of a full-time
employee according to your practice and 90% of the standard annual workable hours of a full-time employee divided by 215}".

Answer: The "standard annual workable hours" can be considered as a relatively well-established general concept referring to: the standard number of hours during which a full-time employee of a given reference group must be working, at the employer's disposal and carrying out his / her activity or duties under the employment contract, applicable collective labour agreement or national working time legislation.
In that sense, there will be no different approach between Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe on that issue.

5.3 Which personnel cost category should be applied for managing directors who are at the same time shareholders / owners and receiving a renumeration / salary as mentioned above?

Question: A German beneficiary is SME with two managing directors, both being shareholders at the same time (each holding 50% of the SME). Both CEOs / managing directors are main knowledge carriers and work (documented with time sheets and so on) for the Horizon Europe action. Each person has a managing director's contract since years with elements like a monthly regular renumeration, working time regulations, vacation entitlements, appliance of the law of employee invention, et cetera. Both persons are registered in the monthly payroll system of the company, and employment related taxes (in Germany: Lohnsteuer (income tax), Kirchensteuer (church tax), Solidaritätszuschlag (solidarity surcharge)) are being deducted from the monthly salary net payments and accordingly paid directly to the tax authorities by the company.
Due to special rules of the German social security system both are not subject to social charges. Which personnel cost category should be applied for managing directors who are at the same time shareholders / owners and receiving a renumeration / salary as mentioned above?

Answer: Generally speaking, there are two possible cases for declaring costs of (co)-owners of Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Horizon Europe actions:

  • If the SME owner received a salary, understood as remuneration paid under an employment contract (defined as labour cost by national legislation and recorded as such in the accounts of the SME, according to the SME's usual accounting practices), the beneficiary must use that salary to calculate the eligible personnel cost under the category 6.2.A.1 – Costs of employees.
  • If the SME owner is remunerated / compensated for their work for the SME by any other means than a salary under an employment contract (for example, dividends, service contracts / other non-employment contracts between the company and the owner, and so on), the beneficiary will declare the costs of the person under the category 6.2.A.4 - Costs of owners of beneficiaries that are small and medium-sized enterprises.  As an exception, the beneficiary may also use this category even when the person receives a salary if it can demonstrate that this salary corresponds exclusively to the management of the SME (and is therefore not linked to the action).

You can find detailed information about these two cases in the Horizon Europe Annotated Model Grant Agreement under the abovementioned articles.

5.4 SME Company Owners contracts

Question: We have a question about the situation of company owners who have an employment contract in their company and are paid regularly according to this contract - quite a common practice in Germany.
In national funded projects there is sometimes a difference in the treatment of personnel costs depending on whether project employees are subject to social insurance or not. In the Horizon Europe Annotated Model Grant Agreement we couldn't find anything about this and we had the assumption that SME owner could therefore be considered as "personnel working for the beneficiary under an employment contract" and actual costs could be applied. Now - for the first time - we were informed about a concrete case, where during the course of an audit (third parties audited on behalf of the Commission) the actual costs of the SME owner were reduced to unit costs.
This was justified as follows: "The monthly remuneration is recorded in the personnel expenses of the [company], however according to German legislation the two managing directors are not subject to social charges. This means that [the company] is not paying social contributions for the management, also not on a voluntary basis, which is possible under German law. Moreover, both SME owners are also not subject to any pension insurance contribution, which is usually also typically for the remuneration received by an employee and which qualifies as a salary according to German law. We therefore consider that the monthly remuneration received by both SME owners does not fulfil the criteria of a salary as per the Annotated Grant Agreement."
Up to now, we have been convinced that if the SME owner is subject to social security contributions, this is the standard, but not that a corresponding requirement can be derived from the Annotated Model Grant Agreement.

Answer: The Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement distinguishes two different situations with regard to the declaration of costs for SME owners:

  • If the SME owner receives a salary from the SME resulting from an employment contract, defined as such by national legislation, and recorded as such in the accounts of the SME according to the SME's usual accounting practices: that salary must be used to calculate the personnel costs (actual costs) that can be charged to the Horizon Europe project. It is the national legislation which defines what types of contracts qualify as "employment contracts".  
  • In all other cases, e.g. the SME owner receives a remuneration resulting from a contract that is not an employment contract in the sense of national legislation, then his / her personnel costs must be declared on the basis of the specific unit cost (fixed amount per hour) defined by the Commission in its Decision C(2020) 7115 and set out in Annex 2 and 2a of the grant agreement  (see article 6.2.A.4 of the Model Grant Agreement).

In most cases, the fact that the company pays social security contributions, as well as contributions to the public pension schemes, for the person are objective indicators that the person is subject to an employment contract qualified as such by national law. Therefore, when the company does not pay those contributions for the person hired, that is typically the case of a contract that does not qualify as an employment contract but as a service contract or other contractual relation.
Finally, please note that it is not possible for a SME owner not receiving a salary to charge costs to Horizon Europe grants as "costs for natural persons working under a direct contract" (article 6.2.A.) even if the SME owner signs a direct contract with his / her own company.

6. Förderfähigkeit von sonstigen direkten Kosten

6.1 Eligibility of working / project dinners

Question: Can you confirm, that working / project dinners are generally NOT considered as entertainment or hospitality expenses (as defined in the annotated Model Grant Agreement)?

Answer: We confirm that for a consortium dinner to be eligible, a beneficiary would have to show that the dinner was connected to the action as described in Annex I and necessary for the implementation of the action (article 6.1.(a)(iv)). Generally speaking, a dinner identified as "working / project dinner" would be deemed complying with these requirements. On top of that, the beneficiary will have also to show that the cost of this "working / project" dinner was indeed not excessive and was in line with the principles of "economy" and "efficiency" (article 6.1.(a)(vii) of the Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement). Conversely, if the dinner was for entertainment and hospitality purposes (i.e. not related and necessary for the implementation of the action), its costs would be ineligible

6.2 Reservation fees for train seats

Question: Are reservation fees for train seats eligible costs?
In a case brought to us cost for the reservation of train seats operated by Deutsche Bahn were not accepted during the preparation of a Certificate on the financial statement. The institution which asked for clarification is a public body. All travel costs are handled according to federal travel expenses law. Reservation fees are in line with that law and comply with the usual accounting practice of the institution. The auditor rejected the cost because he assumes that they are not necessary to implement the project. I would like to add that trains of Deutsche Bahn can be quite overcrowded and reservations are very common and recommendable.

Answer: According to article 6.2.C.1 of the Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement travel costs and related subsistence allowances are eligible if they are in line with the beneficiary’s usual practices on travel.
Therefore, if the reservation fees are in line with the beneficiary’s usual practices on travels and systematically used by the beneficiary, disregarding the source of funding (e.g. applied also for non-EU Research Projects), they might be eligible also under Horizon Europe, assuming that they also comply with the rest of the Horizon Europe general eligibility criteria set out in article 6.1(a) (e.g. reasonable article 6.1.(vii)) and are not ineligible costs (e.g. excessive expenditure (article 6.5.(viii)).

6.3 What happens if the currency exchange rate provides a profit?

Question: According to article 6 (Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement) currency exchange losses are ineligible costs. What happens if the currency exchange rate provides a profit? Are these considered receipts and have to be declared in the financial statement? Or can these profits which might occur be kept by the beneficiary?

Answer: Currency exchange losses, as established in article 6.3(a)(v) of the Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement for beneficiaries using currencies other than euros or being invoiced in a currency other than the currency they use, are considered ineligible costs. In the same vein, currency exchange gains are not considered receipts of the action and do not have to be declared as such in the financial statements.

6.4 In-kind-contributions (IKC) in the Budget Planning Table

Question: In the Annotated Model Grant Agreement of Horizon Europe, page 30, regarding in-kind contributions, it is stated: “they must be declared under the budget category of the beneficiary if they were its own costs", but it is not clearly mentioned if then seconded personnel free of charge should be mentioned in the budget table under A1, and NOT as A3.
Can you confirm that the costs of seconded personnel for free have to be mentioned in the column A1 of the budget table or as A3? Can you please clarify this?
Otherwise, seconded personnel against payment is clearly stated that it has to be mentioned as A3.
And should in the proposal in table 3.1.j only be listed the in-kind contribution of seconded personnel free of charge and there under the category seconded personnel then? And should seconded personnel against payment be listed or not in table 3.1.j?

Answer: Cost for seconded persons by a third party against payment concerns exclusively the costs of staff that is seconded by a third party to the beneficiary when the beneficiary pays for that secondment and these costs should be declared under category A.3.
Staff seconded free of charge are to be declared under category A1, as if they were the beneficiary’s own employees. The costs declared must comply with the conditions set out in the grant agreement.
Please note that the budget table provides one single column for the cost categories A.1, A.2 and A.3. The amounts corresponding to these categories must be summed up and declared together when filling the budget table.
Regarding table 3.1j of the Horizon Europe proposal templates, in what concerns seconded staff it should include only persons seconded free of charge. Persons seconded against payment do not have to be included in that table. Please note that, as a general rule, for the costs of staff seconded free of charge to be eligible they must be set out in Annex 1. Therefore, it is particularly important to have those costs identified from the proposal stage.

6.5 Could costs of Gift "Lego toys" be considered eligible direct costs (in Horizon Europe ERC)?

Question: One of the tasks of a project is to do some tests on the children (testing of educational program; agreement of parents is of course anticipated). These kids will receive instead of money some Lego toy (with logo of the beneficiary – it is normally used as promotional material). Could costs of these Lego toys be considered eligible direct costs (other direct cost, consumables)? Thank you for the reply

Answer: In general, a gift such as described in your question does not fulfil the eligibility condition requiring that costs must be necessary for the action (see article 6.1(a)(iv) MGA). If due to the circumstances of the specific case, there are reasons to consider that this cost is necessary for the implementation of the action, we advise you to take contact with the Project Officer in charge.

7. Berichtswesen und Audits

7.1 Archiving messages from the Project Officer?

Question: How long are messages from the Project Officer to the project coordinator in the Funding and Tenders portal archived? Forever? Or will they disappear after a defined period? For example, five years after the finalisation of the project?

Answer: Please be advised that such messages will be visible as long as the project remains in the Funding and Tenders Portal.

8. European Research Council (ERC)

8.1 How to calculate full time equivalent for a Starting Grant candidate?

Question: At the time of application and prospective start date the researcher will have a full (100%) work contract at the Hospital and an additional 20% work contract at the Research Centre. The researcher wants to apply for an ERC grant with the Research Centre. What is considered as full-time equivalent?
As I understand your presentation on this matter correct the full time equivalent at the Host Institution counts. Here he has a 20% working contract. Does this mean, that the Letter of Commitment has to confirm 50% out of 20% for the Starting Grant?

Answer: As stated in the ERC Work Programme 2022, Principal Investigators funded through the main ERC grants must spend a minimum percentage of their working time on the ERC project and a minimum percentage of their working time in a Member State or Associated Country as set out in the table on page 29. These two obligations are further clarified in the Horizon Europe Annotated Grant Agreement, pages 177-178, where the following is explained:
The two time commitment obligations are as follows:

  • % of working time that the Principal Investigator must work on the action;
  • % of working time that the Principal Investigator must work in an EU Member State or Horizon Europe associated country.

To be operational, these two percentages must be translated into working days, i.e.:

  • minimum number of days that the Principal Investigator I must work in the action over its duration;
  • minimum number of days that the Principal Investigator must work in an EU Member State or Horizon Europe associated country over the duration of the action.

The calculation should be done as follows:

  1. Step 1:
    For each year of the action, the percentages of PI commitment are applied to 215 fixed annual days.
    The 215 fixed annual days work as a ceiling: they apply even if the Principal Investigator works in total more days (i.e. has other parallel affiliations, freelance activities or work-related obligations or works more days on the action). In this case, the time commitment is capped at 100% and the days are calculated on the 215 fixed annual days).
    By contrast, if the Principal Investigator works in total less days than the 215 fixed annual days, the time commitment obligation will be reduced proportionally (e.g. in cases of part-time employment, maternity leave, sick leave …). The total work of the Principal Investigator will be determined by adding up all her / his days of remunerated work, including under contracts with entities other than the host institution.
    Example: The % of Principal Investigator commitment to the ERC action is 50%. The Principal Investigator works 129 annual days at the host institution and has another contract with a different entity to work 35 days over the year. The days that the Principal Investigator works in total are 164 days (129 + 35). Since this amount is lower than the 215 fixed annual days, the time commitment obligation will be: 164 x 50 % = 82 days.
  2. Step 2:
    Sum up the results for each year of Step 1 to get the total number of days over the action duration. The percentages must be reached for the overall action duration (NOT annually or per reporting period).
    The percentages must be reached for the overall action duration (NOT annually or per reporting period).
    Therefore, the calculation of the required percentages for time commitment is made on the basis of 215 annual working days, even if these days correspond to more than one employers. In this sense, a Principal Investigator applying for a Starting Grant should spend at least 50% of these 215 working days on the ERC project and in a Member State / Associated Country. If the Principal Investigator’s working days are in total fewer than 215, as in the example above, the calculation should be based on the amount of this Principal Investigator's working days per year.