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

Schmuckbild

 Adobe Stock / oatawa

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.

1.7 It is still possible in HE to participate as “Beneficiary not requesting EU funding” and does he have to submit a financial statement requesting 0€?

Question: In H2020, the MGA Art. 9 included some special references and provisions for “Beneficiaries not requesting EU funding”, e.g., no obligation to submit financial statements, audit requirements etc. In HE such provisions are no longer included in the MGA. However, we assume it is still possible for a HE beneficiary to request 0.0€ in the Requested EU Contribution column in Annex 2. In praxis this means that it is still possible in HE to participate as “Beneficiary not requesting EU funding”. Is this correctly understood? If so, will such a beneficiary in HE have to submit a financial statement requesting 0.0€? This seems like an unnecessary administrative procedure. However, if it is a contractual obligation, the beneficiary should know before they sign the Grant Agreement.

Answer: As you have noticed, the Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement does not include a provision equivalent to Article 9 of the H2020 Model Grant Agreement. Generally speaking, participants that participate in the action without funding should by default chose the status of ‘associated partners’ that cannot declare eligible cost and therefore are exempted from financial obligations of the grants. Yet, in HE it is still possible to participate as “Beneficiary requesting zero funding”.

Where participants without funding exceptionally participate as beneficiaries, at reporting stage, beneficiaries that are eligible for funding but requesting zero funding must submit financial reports. The beneficiary would normally decide whether to report in the financial statement no costs, i.e. to indicate “0” in the appropriate columns, or to report, in full or in part, its actual eligible costs, i.e. costs that comply with the eligibility conditions. For eligible costs covered by own resources for which 0 contribution is requested, the conditions for costs eligibility would need to be fulfilled but these costs and conditions will not be checked during an audit.

According to Article 25.1.3 of the Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement audits are not restricted to financial implementation of the action, they also concern the proper implementation of the action and compliance with the obligations under the Agreement. As a consequence, beneficiaries requesting zero funding are not exempt from audits. However, in the absence of funding, audits would focus on the records and supporting documentation that refer to the technical implementation of the action or compliance with other obligations under the Grant Agreement with no risk of financial errors involved.

1.8 When does Art. 10.1 (Non-EU participant) and when Art.9.1 (Associated Partners) apply?

Question: What is the difference between Art. 10.1 and 9.1. We understand that in 10.1 the institutions of non-EU countries sign the GA but in Art. 9.1. cannot the institution choose itself whether to become a 10.1 or 9.1 partner? This could be important for example Swiss partner that want to become coordinator or for the rest of the consortium if they do not want to be legally responsible for all associated partner. It would be helpful if you could clarify the situation when is it a case of Art. 10.1 when of Art. 9.1?

Answer: Please note that ‘Associated partners’ (Article 9.1 of the HE Model Grant Agreement) are a separate category of participants. They are entities that implement action tasks but without receiving EU funding and thus, they do not become party to the Grant Agreement (they do not sign the Grant Agreement).

Non-EU participants (Article 10.1 of the HE Model Grant Agreement) are not a separate category of participants, instead a participant (e.g. beneficiary, affiliated entity) that is not legally established in one of the Member States of the European Union would also fall in the scope of ‘non-EU’ participant. Secondly, to be a coordinator the entity concerned needs to be a beneficiary, i.e. eligible for both participation and funding under the grant. It is for the consortium and the entity concerned to determine in which category this entity participates, if the latter would meet the conditions for more than one category (e.g. an entity eligible for participation and funding may participate as a beneficiary but could decide to forego funding and participate as an associated partner). However, please note that in principle each entity should only participate in a single role in an action.

Finally, please note that the Commission services are working on updated annotations in the Model Grant Agreement and further batch(es) with the remaining annotations (including for Article 10) will be published later on this year. Therefore, the above explanations reflect preliminary views and do not prejudge any final position of the Commission.

1.9 Does this mean that all third countries not eligible for EU-funding can ONLY participate as associated partner?

Question: Does this mean that all third countries not eligible for EU-funding can ONLY participate as associated partner or is it also possible to include them as beneficiaries without EU-funding (as it was possible in H2020)?

Answer: Under HE the ‘beneficiary’ status refers to entities eligible for participation and funding. The legal status ‘beneficiaries not (eligible) to receiving EU funding’ is no longer foreseen in the Model Grant Agreement under Horizon Europe. Participants from non-associated third countries which are (not eligible for funding may participate ‘associated partners’. To note that UK entities will be treated as entities from an associated country, as long as the association agreement with the United Kingdom applies at the time of signature of the grant agreement.

1.10 Could an organisation from third Countries be a coordinator?

Question: In case organisation’s from third countries not eligible for funding can also participate as beneficiaries without EU-funding would it be possible for them to be coordinator (as in H2020)?

Answer: They cannot be coordinators. In order to be coordinator of a project, a legal entity must be a beneficiary in accordance with Article 7 of the Horizon Europe Model grant agreement. Only entities eligible for funding can sign the grant agreement and become a beneficiary.

1.11 Could an organisation from UK change their status and become a coordinator when the association of UK is in place?

Question: For projects that are currently replacing an UK coordinator because they only participate as associated partner would it be possible to change their status to beneficiary / coordinator during the course of the project via an amendment once the association of the UK is in place (even if they will be funded by the UK for this project)?

Answer: If requested by the consortium, an amendment of the grant agreement would be necessary to change the status of the UK entity from an associated partner to a beneficiary when the association is in place, is applicable.

1.12 Error regarding new Organisation category ‘International European Research Organization (IERO)?

Question: Error message appears in the portal referring to IERO Horizon Europe

Answer: The IERO status applies only to a very limited number of organisations (example: CERN). Due to a change of legal definitions in the transition from H2020 to Horizon Europe, this status became ‘undefined’ for all organisations. This lead to a blocking in the grant agreement preparation.

Applicable solution:

A patch was applied on 20 January, setting the IERO status to ‘No’ for the vast majority of organisations, thus unblocking the grant agreement preparation. For cases that cannot be corrected automatically, the Legal Entity Appointed Representative (LEAR) of the organisation (or one of the Account Administrators) has to modify the ‘International Organisation’ and ‘IERO’ attributes in the participant management module under the Funding & Tenders Portal.:

Go to My Organisation -> legal information-> edit organisation, and set the fields for 'International Organisation' and 'International European Research Organisation' to the value ('yes' or 'no') applicable to your organisation.

We would be grateful if you could distribute this information to your concerned constituencies. We apologize for the inconvenience caused.

1.13 Does an international organisation in Art. 10.2 GA also apply to an international organisation of (subject of) public law (Völkerrechtssubjekt) which is officially internationally accepted?

Question: We have another question on the definition of art. 10.2 GA because the AGA on this Article has not yet been published, so far we know. We receive very often the question whether an organisation or union of organisations could be an Art. 10.2. GA. Is an international organisation of Art. 10.2 GA an international organisation of (subject of) public law (Völkerrechtssubjekt) which is officially internationally accepted? Or is any international organisation of private law like EEIG (European Economic Interest Grouping etc.) also an Art. 10.2 GA international organisation?

Answer: Under the Funding and Tenders Portal glossary an international organisation is defined as an intergovernmental organisation with legal personality under international public law, or any specialised agency set up by such an international organisation. Examples of international organisations are UN organisations and their specialised agencies (e.g. WHO, UNHCR, UNEP, UNESCO), ESA, ECMWF, OCCAR etc.

Moreover, under Article 156(2) and (3) of the EU Financial Regulation, an organization may be assimilated to an international organization if it meets specific conditions (e.g. the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies).

The main feature which distinguishes international organisations from other types of participants is that the international organisations are set up under international law and, differently from all other types of participants, they enjoy privileges and immunities as recognized by their constituent documents or by international law. The granting authority cannot take measures that would be contrary to their privileges and immunities and participating in an EU grant is not in any way waiving these privileges and immunities.

Therefore organisations (or unions of organisations) set up under private law, as well as organisations set up under Union law such as the European Economic Interest Groupings (EEIG) are not considered international organisations for the purpose of participation under HE rules and MGA. The EEIG legal status is governed by the EU Council Regulation No 2137/85 of 25 July 1985 on the European Economic Interest Grouping (EEIG) (OJ L 199, 31.7.1985).

1.14 What is the legal basis for measurements against Belarus?

Question: for the measure taken against Russia due to the actual political situation we found Council Regulation (EU) 2022/576 of 8 April 2022 amending Regulation (EU) No 833/2014. Which legal basis is it for Belarus? we couldn't find a link to Belarus in the regulation. Is there another regulation?

Answer: for Belarus pls see the following restrictive measures:

  • Council Decision 2012/642/CFSP of 15 October 2012 concerning restrictive measures against Belarus
  • Council Implementing Decision (CFSP) 2021/2125 of 2 December 2021 implementing Decision 2012/642/CFSP concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Belarus
  • Council Decision (CFSP) 2022/218 of 17 February 2022 amending Decision 2012/642/CFSP concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Belarus
  • Council Decision (CFSP) 2022/307 of 24 February 2022 amending Decision 2012/642/CFSP concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Belarus
  • Council Decision (CFSP) 2022/356 of 2 March 2022 amending Decision 2012/642/CFSP concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Belarus
  • Council Regulation No 765/2006 of 18 May 2006 concerning restrictive measures against Belarus
  • Council Regulation (EU) 2022/212 of 17 February 2022 amending Regulation (EC) No 765/2006 concerning restrictive measures in respect of Belarus
  • Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2022/300 of 24 February 2022 implementing Article 8a of Regulation (EC) No 765/2006 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Belarus
  • Council Regulation (EU) 2022/355 of 2 March 2022 amending Regulation (EC) No 765/2006 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Belarus

1.15 What are the consequences of the restrictive measurements against Belarus in a certain example

Question: in addition to the previous request (no Finance of partner from Belarus for the whole period of the project) under the reference number 319362, the action number of the ncp project concerned is the following:

Answer: According to our records this project ended on 31-12-2021 and the Belarusian State University was part of the consortium. If I interpret well the comments on the excel table, the final payment for this project has been done deducting the costs incurred by the Belarusian entity. The reasons behind it is that the payment to the entity is now subject to further assessment following introduction of EU restrictive measures. I do not see any further update on this project.

For the general context with Belorussia, please observe the following:
Since October 2020, the EU has progressively expanded its restrictive measures in light of the situation in Belarus.

On 15 November 2021, the Council amended the designation criteria to allow for the application of targeted restrictive measures against those organising or contributing to activities by the Lukashenko regime that facilitate the illegal crossing of the external EU borders.

Most recently, the legal framework for restrictive measures in view of the internal situation in Belarus was prolonged for one year, until 28 February 2023.

As concerns international developments, since February 2022, the EU has condemned in the strongest possible terms Belarus' involvement in Russia's unprovoked and unjustified military invasion of Ukraine, and consequently adopted a variety of restrictive measures.

On 3 June 2022 the Council decided to impose restrictive measures on an additional 12 individuals and 8 entities for their role in the ongoing internal repression and human rights abuses in Belarus. These measures are in addition to those adopted in the context of Belarus’ involvement in Russia’s war against Ukraine and constitute sixth round of sanctions against the Lukashenko regime linked to the domestic situation in Belarus

The decision targets prominent individuals responsible for continued human rights violation or seriously undermining democracy and the rule of law in Belarus. The listed individuals are responsible for the repression of civil society and the democratic opposition, or benefit from and support the Lukashenko regime. The new listings include high ranking state officials, businessmen and their family, members of the judicial branch, and prominent propagandists, responsible for spreading disinformation and calling for violence.

Today's round of sanctions, the sixth since October 2020, also targets companies such as Belaruskali, Belarus’s main potash producer, and its export arm, Belarusian Potash Co., the state television and radio broadcasting company Belteleradio, as well as other companies manufacturing tobacco and public transport vehicles.

Altogether, EU restrictive measures on Belarus now apply to a total of 195 individuals and 35 entities. Those designated are subject to an asset freeze and EU citizens and companies are forbidden from making funds available to them. Natural persons are additionally subject to a travel ban, which impedes them from entering or transiting through EU territories.

The relevant legal acts, including the names of the persons concerned, have been published in the Official Journal.

The EU stands ready to support a peaceful, democratic transition in Belarus. It is also ready to adopt further restrictive measures, if the situation in the country does not improve.

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 When does the list of “Researchers involved in the proposal” needs to be updated during the course of a Project?

Question: This is a follow-up question on reply no 1534556. My question was not referring to the identifiers for researchers but if and when the list of researchers needs to be updated during the course of a project.

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

2.5 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: http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/other/hi/ethics-guide-advisors_en.pdf

2.6 What is the “structural guarantee” relevant for the Financial Capacity Check for coordinators and is it possible to choose a guarantor?

Question: I have a Question regarding the financial capacity check for coordinators. In the "Rules on Legal Entity Validation, LEAR Appointment and Financial Capacity Assessment" (p.25) the possibility of being covered by a guarantor is mentioned. What is the difference to the "structural guarantee" mentioned in the General Annexes (p.15)?

Has a small private coordinator the possibility to choose a guarantor as a backup for the financial capacity e.g. a bank or another member of the consortium?

Answer: We understand that your question relates to the financial capacity of coordinators participating in Horizon Europe, and you would like to know which is the difference between the ‘guarantee’ mentioned in the General annexes to HE Work Programme 2021-2022 (p. 15) and in the Rules for Legal Entity Validation, LEAR Appointment and Financial Capacity Assessment (p.25), and if coordinators could be guaranteed by a bank or another member of the consortium.
Regarding your first question, please note that the two documents mentioned above refer to the same type of guarantee, which is the ‘structural guarantee’ provided by Article 27(3) of the Horizon Europe Regulation. According to this provision, if the financial capacity of applicants – including coordinators is “structurally guaranteed” by any other legal entity (i.e. the “guarantor”), the financial capacity of that other legal entity shall be verified, and then, if there are no grounds to doubt about the financial capacity of the guarantor, that guarantee can be accepted.

However, be aware that this ‘structural guarantee’ has to be already established either by law or in the internal statute of the applicant to cover all its obligations (i.e. the guarantor has assumed full joint liability for all debts), and it cannot be limited to the HE Programme or participations in EU grants.

Therefore, to answer your second question, a guarantee from a bank or financial institution or from another member of the consortium can only be accepted if the guarantee can be considered a structural guarantee as mentioned above.

2.7 Do the coordinators have to conclude an additional so-called coordination agreement with the associated partners or Art. 10.1 partners to legally involve them into the action?

Question: We have a question on the legal relation between the consortium/beneficiaries and the associated partners (Art. 9.1 and 10.1).

As we understand from Art.7 and 9.1 GA the associated partners do not sign the GA, 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 Art. 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 GA? If you could clarify the situation it would be very helpful. Thanks for your assistance,

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 (HE MGA) (available at general-mga_horizon-euratom_en.pdf (europa.eu)), 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 HE MGA 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 MGA 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 was 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 HE MGA, 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.

2.8 Who is obliged to sign a GA? Is it only the beneficiaries according to Art.7 GA (partner from MST and Associated countries) or also associated partner and art 10 participants?

Question: We have a question on the consortium agreements in Horizon Europe. According to Art.7 GA and Nr. 1 of the data Sheet of the GA 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 Art. 7 GA (partner from MST and Associated countries) or also associated partner and art 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.

2.9 Does the Coordinator need to have written confirmations on the participation from all partners?

Question: We received some questions regarding concerns in the proposal phase in Horizon Europe. In the Online Manual it is stated as follows: „Tasks of the Coordinator: • Mandate: Make sure that you have the mandate of all participants to submit the application (explicit agreement to participate).” Does this mean, that the coordinator needs from all partners a written confirmation on their participation although you cannot upload it in the system? Does anybody check whether the coordinator has all confirmations? What happens if the proposal will be funded bud the coordinator does not have all confirmations?

Answer: The coordinator must have the mandate of all participants to submit the application, but we will not request to submit any support document. However, note that every time the coordinator adds a participant in a proposal in the submission tool, the LEAR of the organisation will receive a notification. With this we want to avoid cases where coordinators add participants to proposal without their consent.

2.10 What is the understanding of Art. 10.3. GA. pillar-assessed participants?

Question: We have difficulties in understanding Art. 10.3. GA. pillar-assessed participants. In Art.10.3. they are defined but in which cases do you have or need a pillar assessment? Is it a requirement in specific programs or specific groups of participants? As the AGA do not cover Art. 10. GA yet, we have difficulties in answering these kinds of questions to our participants in Horizon Europe.

Answer: ‘Pillar-assessed participants’, as defined in Article 10.3 of the Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement, means that, in line with the EU Financial regulation 2018/1046 (Article 154), an entity has been subject to an (ex-ante) audit of its rules, systems and procedures that proves that the entity can offer a similar level of protection for handling EU funds than the granting authority.

Pillar assessments are compliance assessments which the European Commission requires partner organisations to pass before implementing EU funds under indirect management. They enable the Commission to rely as much as possible on the systems, rules and procedures of those persons and entities which are positively assessed. They do not concern any mandatory requirement that should be complied with to participate in a given HE action grant.

‘Pillar-assessed’ entities are not a separate category of participants (like affiliated entities) instead, in principle any participant could have been also pillar-assessed. In most cases, pillar-assessed entities will be international organisations.

Finally, please note that the Commission services are working on updated annotations in the Model Grant Agreement and further batch(es) with the remaining annotations (including for Article 10) will be published later on this year. Therefore, the above explanations concerning ‘Pillar-assessed participants’ reflect preliminary views and do not prejudge any final position of the Commission.

2.11 When is the deadline for the consortium agreement to be signed?

Question: We understand that the signing of a consortium agreement is mandatory when it is mentioned in the data sheet and the work programme. But there is no information on the timing. Coordinators let us know, that the Agencies ask for the consortium agreement quite some time before the signing of the Grant Agreement. So that given early deadline by the agencies comes a bit surprisingly for the consortia so that it is not easy to organise the negotiations and signing by time. When do the consortia have to sign the consortium agreements latest? Where can the consortia get information on the deadline for the signing so that they can organize internally the negotiations of the consortium agreement by time?

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 (see Data Sheet, Point 1).

As best practice, in view of their importance for avoiding disputes and ensuring a smooth implementation of the grant, we strongly recommend that every consortium sets up a consortium agreement, even if not mandatory.

Regarding the deadline when the consortium agreement has to be signed, please note that the Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement does not stipulate that this agreement has to be concluded before the grant agreement is signed. However, we recommend that the consortium agreement should in principle be negotiated and concluded before signature of the grant agreement (i.e. each beneficiary should sign the consortium agreement before signing the Accession Form to accede to the grant agreement). Otherwise, there is usually a serious risk that prolonged disagreement jeopardises the action. In view of the above, the Commission will not stop the grant preparation phase if it should become aware that the applicants have not yet concluded a consortium agreement. However, if it is mandatory to have a consortium agreement and the consortium does not have one, this may be considered a breach of grant agreement obligations.

Finally, please note specific rules may apply, for example in the exceptional case where the work programme would stipulate for the call/topic that a consortium agreement must be concluded before the signature of the grant agreement, this would be an additional eligibility condition. Consequently, if the Commission became aware of the absence of the conclusion of a consortium agreement it would not sign the grant agreement.

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.

3.3 Mistake in the IT implementation of the eligibility criterion on GEP ?

Question: There have been many IT issues with the eligibility criterion on GEP affecting beneficiaries currently in grant agreement preparation.

Answer: :

There was a mistake in the IT implementation of the eligibility criterion on gender equality plans (GEPs). They become obligatory only for calls with deadline after 1.1.2022.
Due to a technical issue, the check for existence of a GEP has been activated for all projects entering grant preparation in 2022. The issue is now corrected. In case your beneficiaries (from 2021 calls) still see the error ,message gender plan missing’, they should re-apply the ‘validate’ button. In the unlikely event that the issue persists, they should contact the service desk.

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).

4.4 Is it possible to give subcontracts to an affiliated entity in case it is the usual provider for the beneficiary?

Question: I have a question concerning the exceptional subcontracting to an affiliated entity in case it is the usual provider for the beneficiary. (MGA: Subcontracting to affiliates — Is NOT allowed, unless they have a framework contract or the affiliate is their 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 under Article 8 and declare their own costs.)
If the affiliated as the usual provider is located in a third country that is not eligible for funding (e. g. the United States) would it be possible to get the subcontracting costs reimbursed? In this case the US entity needs to provide special wavers that are very expensive (400.000 EUR) and there are no other providers in Europe.

Answer: : Thank you for consulting the legal and financial helpdesk. Please kindly note that the Research Enquiry Service provides general guidance only but cannot comment on the specificities of a particular case.

Indeed, as an exception, subcontracting to affiliates may be allowed if they have a framework contract or the affiliate is their usual provider, and the subcontract is priced at market conditions.

Unless there are specific provisions applying to a given grant agreement in relation to the place of performance of the subcontracting (see notably, Option 1 of Article 6.2.B. and Article 6.3(e)(i) of the HE MGA, specific case of pre-commercial procurement (PCP) or procurement of innovative solutions, with possible call conditions restrict participation or control due to security reasons), the general rule is that the eligibility of costs of the subcontracts does not depend on where the subcontractor is established (inside or outside the EU).  However, subcontracting may not be used to circumvent the rules on eligibility for funding, in particular the eligibility rules for funding applicable to participants, which are set out in Article 23 of the Horizon Europe Regulation.

But, in any case, the subcontracting costs must comply with the general and specific eligibility conditions set out in Article 6.1 and 6.2.B of the Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement.

Finally, we advise that the specific subcontract envisaged is discussed with the Commission/Agency's Project Officer in charge of the project.

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.

5.5 Guiding remarks in the HEU AGA on p.38 to parental leave

Question: as a L&F NCP I was contacted by a client concerning the guiding remarks in the HEU AGA on p.38 to parental leave.

The GA states in Art.6.2.A.1 "The actual time spent on parental leave by a person assigned to the action may be deducted from the 215 days indicated in the above formula."
On p.38 in the AGA it is written "“Parental leave (HE, HUMA) — If provided in the Grant Agreement, if you incur cost for parental leave (i.e. are not fully reimbursed by other sources such as national schemes) for personnel working on the action, days on parental leave during the reporting period may be deducted for the calculation of the maximum declarable days and the calculation of the daily rate […]”

Can you please clarify, under which conditions the days of parental leave can be deducted from the max. declarable days? Only when the beneficiary/ employer has occurring costs?

In Germany the employer itself has costs only in the beginning for the time of maternity leave - the parental allowance during the parental leave is paid for by the state as the parental allowance is a replacement benefit for the previous income.

Can the days of the parental leave still be deducted from the max.declarable days?

Answer: As regards parental leave and the daily rate calculation, please note that:
For the calculation of the actual personnel costs over the reporting period duration (numerator): you may only include personnel costs you actually and definitely incurred for that person. From what you indicated in your question, this would mean, in your case, only the maternity leave-related costs but not the parental leave-related costs as the latter are paid for by the State.

For the calculation of the maximum declarable days-equivalent (denominator): A beneficiary can always deduct the number of day-equivalents spent on parental leave (regardless if paid by the beneficiary or not).

5.6 Eligible costs and the calculation of the hourly rate there has been a change from H2020 to HE

Question: In the Horizon Europe AGA, art. 6.1(a)(ii) states: “eligible costs must be incurred in the period set out in Article 4”.
This is the same wording as in the H2020 AGA, art 6.1.
However, as we understand it, concerning eligible costs and the calculation of the hourly rate there has been a change from H2020 to HE.
In H2020, some costs had to be “apportioned” to be eligible.
For instance, the 13th salary or special holiday allowance had to be apportioned with 1/12 of the cost to be allocated and recorded on a monthly basis.
This was a rather time consuming and manual procedure that often led to errors.
Horizon Europe introduces a new methodology for the calculation of the Daily Rate.
If the reporting period is 12 months, all the salary costs recorded for the person during this period have to be summarized and divided by 215.
As we understand it, this could also include costs generated before the 12 months period if these costs are recorded and booked in line with the beneficiary´s normal internal procedures.
Please confirm if this is correctly understood?
If so, the HE AGA art.6.1(a)(ii) might need a short explanation concerning the meaning of “incurred in the period”.
An example might illustrate the challenge.
A beneficiary has recently had an audit of an EIT Health KIC project following the new HE rules.
In this case, the auditor insisted that eligible costs could not include any costs generated outside the reporting period – even if these costs are recorded and booked in line with the beneficiary´s normal internal procedure.

Answer: In Horizon Europe, the total eligible personnel costs incurred over the reporting period duration (numerator of the daily rate formula) will have to be calculated on the basis of the usual cost accounting practices of the beneficiary. This means that for the cases of 13th salary entitlement (or similar entitlement), the beneficiary will apply its usual accounting practice, i.e.:

  1. Either include the accrued amounts over the reporting period duration (as this would be the case you seem to refer to in your query),
  2. Or include the full amount paid in a given month covered by the reporting period.

In this respect, the ‘generating event’ will depend on the beneficiary’s usual practices: being either each monthly accrued amount or being the full amount paid of the 13th salary.

5.7 Parental leave costs in Horizon Europe

Question: In H2020, the AMGA stated that for beneficiaries using the monthly hourly rate: “Beneficiaries may declare personnel costs incurred in periods of parental leave in proportion to the time the person worked on the action in that financial year.”
However, in Horizon Europe the reference to “in proportion to the time” seems to have been abandoned.
Instead, the Horizon Europe AMGA states: “The actual time spent on parental leave by a person assigned to the action may be deducted from the 215 days indicated in the above formula”.
This is indeed a simplification, but several beneficiaries have doubts how this will work in practice.
An example might illustrate the challenge.
Assume a Horizon Europe project starts 1 of Jan. 2023 and the first reporting period is 12 months.
Ms. X starts working on the project as of 1 of Jan. 2023.
However, as of 1 of Feb. 2023 Ms. X goes on 11 months parental leave.
Assuming Ms. X has a normal salary of 2000 €/month and during her parental leave the beneficiary incurs a parental leave cost of 1000 €/month.
In that case, the total annual salary costs for Ms. X would be (2000 + 11 x 1000) = 13.000 €.
However, Ms. X only worked for one month = 18 days on the action during 2023.
This would mean that for 2023 the daily rate for Ms. X would be 13.000 €/ 18 days = 722€/day.
Please confirm if this calculation is correct?
We know this is a rather special case, but we would like to have clarified if we have overlooked any details.

Answer: As a first remark, the reference to ‘beneficiaries may declare personnel costs incurred in periods of parental leave in proportion to the time the person worked on the action in that financial year’ was indeed relevant for the monthly calculation option in H2020. Otherwise, without this specific/side calculation, it would not have been possible to declare such costs for the beneficiaries.  

Then, both in H2020 for the annual daily rate calculation and in HE for the daily rate over the reporting period, the formulas for deducting parental leave are similar (i.e. they both refer to the possibility to deduct actual time spent on parental leave).

In accordance with Article 6.2.A.1 of the Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement (HE MGA), the costs incurred during periods of parental leave which are not fully covered by other sources can be charged to the grant and the actual time spent on parental leave by a given individual may be deducted from the denominator of the daily rate formula and for the calculation of the maximum declarable days. In other words, the maximum declarable day-equivalents may be reduced by the number of day-equivalents spent on parental leave.

Against that background, the correct methodology according to Article 6.2.A.1 and based on the information you provided would be the following:

  • Daily rate  = {annual personnel costs for the person divided by 215 minus day-equivalents spent on parental leave}
    = (2000+11*1000) / [215 - (215/12*11)]
    = 13.000 / [215 – 197]
    = 13.000 / 18
    = 722 € par day

     
  • Personnel costs = {daily rate for the person multiplied by number of day-equivalents worked on the action (rounded up or down to the nearest half-day) capped at the maximum declarable day-equivalents resulting from the deduction}
    = 722 * 18
    = 13.000€

Although the result of your calculation is correct, please note that the step 13.000/18 could be source of confusion. In this regard we underline the importance of subtracting the number of day-equivalents spent on parental leave for the calculation of the maximum declarable days and the daily rate.

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.

6.6 When are equipment costs fully eligible under Article 6.2.C.2 of the Horizon Europe General Model Grant Agreement (HE General MGA), and in particular costs for prototypes?

Question: Equipment costs eligibility under Article 6.2.C.2 of the Horizon Europe General Model Grant Agreement (HE General MGA), and in particular eligibility of costs for prototypes.

Answer: Your question concerns equipment costs eligibility under Article 6.2.C.2 of the Horizon Europe General Model Grant Agreement (HE General MGA), and in particular eligibility of costs for prototypes.

As you correctly pointed out, the option 1 (i.e. depreciation costs only) is a standard obligation for all EU grants. The three other options (option 2 full  cost only, option 3 depreciation and full cost for listed equipment, and option 4 full cost and depreciation for listed equipment) will thus be used as an exception (see HE General MGA pages 28-29, footnotes 21, 22 and 23), only if justified by the nature of the actions and the context of the use of the equipment or assets. In Horizon Europe, the intention would be to use these three other options for a limited number of calls, notably for calls for which the purpose is generally to have beneficiaries developing prototypes.

Against that background, a full cost option can only be activated in a specific grant if it was selected for the call by the granting authority; i.e. if the call for proposals explicitly authorises its use in grants awarded under such call. If not included in the call, beneficiaries will not be able to charge the full purchase costs of the equipment used for a prototype. In practice, you can check if the call and topic includes any conditions for equipment costs eligibility in the topic conditions table that can be found at the beginning of each call and at the beginning of each topic. As an example, option 3 (depreciation costs and full cost for listed equipment) can be found in Cluster 4 Work Programme under the Specific conditions applying to HORIZON-CL4-SSA-SST-MS, HORIZON-CL4-SSA-SST-STM-AE, HORIZON-CL4-SSA-SST-SB, HORIZON-CL4-SSA-SST-SP, HORIZON-CL4-SSA-SST-SD (see page 435-437).

The call CLIMATE NEUTRAL, CIRCULAR AND DIGITISED PRODUCTION 2022 (HORIZON-CL4-2022-TWIN-TRANSITION-01) you refer to has not authorised the use of a full cost option and, consequently, only depreciation costs (i.e. option 1 by default) would be eligible for funding, including for a prototype.

6.7 Are the costs for the prototype´s assurance eligible as direct costs?

Question: I would like to raise your attention to the following question. A client
 developed several prototypes in his Horizon 2020 innovation action. For the
 transport to a partner they were assured. Are the costs for the assurance eligible as
 direct costs? They are in line with the usual accounting practices of the entity.

Answer: : The insurance costs of the transported prototypes are eligible direct costs
for the Horizon 2020 action if:

  • It is the usual practice of the beneficiary to get an insurance for the transport of comparable items; and
  • It is the usual cost accounting practice of the beneficiary to consider such cost as direct costs (otherwise the cost would be covered by the 25 % indirect cost flat-rate); and
  • The costs comply with the general cost eligibility conditions of Article 6.1 of the Horizon 2020 Grant Agreement (i.e. necessary for the action, reasonable and justified, etc.); and
  • The costs comply with the specific cost eligibility conditions of Article 6.2.D.3 of the Horizon 2020 Grant Agreement; notably that the service provider was selected ensuring the best value for money and avoiding any conflict of interest.

6.8 Cost (in)eligibility of in-kind contributions

Question: I would like to kindly request your understanding about a specific case in Turkiye and cost (in)eligibility about in-kind contributions.
We have research infrastructures established and operated by Law No. 6550 and they implement their activities by using two types of personnel: Own personnel and seconded personnel (academicians) from universities.
Specific articles in Law 6550 define rules, limits, scope of that secondment.
Besides, these infrastructures are able to pay an extra monthly salary to those seconded personnels in compliance with Law no 6550 but there is a limit defined in the Law. For example, an academician is able to get 2.000 EUR/monthly from his/her university, and if they are seconded to the research infrastructure for a period including that month, they are able to get 500 EUR an extra monthly salary directly from the infrastructure (paid directly by the infrastructure to the academician) for their effort. As I understand, according to Article 6.2.A.3, only 500 EUR is eligible as 1 PM personnel cost when research infra is a beneficiary in a HE project and wish to declare it in financial reporting, because 500 EUR is the only expense incurred by the research infra. In other means, 2.000 EUR cost is incurred and paid directly by the university and so that ineligible.
The question is that, if university is willing to offer that personnel to the infrastructure free of charge, does it mean that infrastructure will be able to declare 2.500 EUR expense for 1 PM work of that personnel according to the Article 6.1 (in-kind for free) of AGA HE? (500 EUR as direct personnel cost + 2.000 EUR as in-kind contribution free of charge). Or is it eligible to declare 2.500 EUR personnel cost for 1 PM effort for that personnel according to the other rules & articles defined in AGA?

Answer: : We understand from your query that a research organisation who is a beneficiary in a Horizon Europe action has at its disposal personnel seconded from a third party (academicians from universities) and is making an extra payment directly to this personnel. Yet, it is not entirely clear to us whether the ‘500 EUR extra monthly salary directly from the infrastructure’ is to be covered under 1) an extra employment contract to be signed with the seconded academician or 2) under the secondment agreement.
In the first case, this extra amount can be declared by the research infrastructure in compliance with Article 6.2.A.1 (personnel costs for employees). In the second case, this extra amount can be declared by the research infrastructure in compliance with Article 6.2.A.3 (personnel costs for seconded persons against payment).
Now, this does not preclude the research infrastructure to also declare the other part of the remuneration incurred by the university (i.e. the EUR 2000 monthly remuneration in your example that are not repaid by the research infrastructure) as in-kind contribution free of charge. In that case, and in practice, please note that in Horizon Europe costs related personnel costs of persons seconded free of charge will have to be declared under category A.1 ‘Employees’, as if this person was the beneficiary’s own employee (i.e. declared by the research infrastructure as if the seconded academician were its own employee, in your example).
In any case, in order to be considered eligible, the costs under both budget categories must fulfil the general eligibility conditions set out in Article 6.1 and the applicable specific eligibility conditions laid down in Article 6.2.A.1 or 6.2.A.3 of the HE MGA as explained above. For additional information, you may consult the annotations to the abovementioned articles in the Annotated Grant Agreement (see version 0.2 of 30 November 2021).
This being said, as mentioned above, the Research Enquiry Service can only provide general guidance and is not in a position to assess whether the above conditions are fulfilled in your particular case.

6.9 Eligibility of costs for an open innovation test bed

Question: A Client takes part in a H2020-Call within a consortium and whilst preparing the proposal was given the adivce acccording to p.85 of H2020 AGA (Prototype or pilot plants constructed by the beneficiary as part of the action tasks) that the costs for the equipment to be procured for setting up the test lines does not have to be depreciated but can be fully eligible if the laid down conditions on p.85 are fulfilled.

The consortium´s coordinator confirmed this approach as it was matching his experience in earlier H2020-projects, where equipment costs for test beds were declared as consumables ( cost category D.3 "other goods, works and services").

As the first reporting is coming to an end their PO stated the equipment costs for the test lines would only be eligible when being declared as equipment costs and also only the depreciation costs would be eligible.

Can you please confirm, that the full costs of the equipment to be procured for setting up the test lines do not have to be depreciated but can be fully eligible if the laid down conditions on p.85 are fulfilled?

In addition, can you please explain, which is the right cost category for prototype costs - category D.2 "Equipment" or category D.3 "other goods, works and services" while declaring the full price

As the client planned his budget for the costs of the equipment to be procured for setting up the test lines in category D.3 he might need to ask for an amendment for changing the cost category.

Answer: In general terms, for the full purchase cost of equipment to be eligible in a specific grant, the corresponding option (option 2) would have to be activated under Article 6.2.D.2. You can see the text of that specific option in the Horizon 2020 General Model Grant Agreement  

If that option is not activated in the grant agreement, the Horizon 2020 Annotated model grant agreement explains indeed in page 85 the particular case of eligibility of costs of prototypes or pilot plants constructed by the beneficiary as part of the action tasks. That is an assessment to be done on a case by case basis, notably to determine if the action task do qualify as a prototype or pilot plant. The beneficiary should, therefore, discuss the issue with the EU project Officer in charge of the specific grant.  

If none of the two cases above apply to the specific grant, the general provisions for equipment, i.e. eligibility of depreciation costs of equipment, infrastructure or other assets, would apply.

Regarding the category under which the costs would have to be declared, if the items are recorded in the accounts of the beneficiary as fixed assets, they should be declared under 6.2.D.2.

6.10 A question regarding the eligibility of maintanance costs for test facilities in Horizon Europe.

Question: I received a question regarding the eligibility of maintanance costs for test facilities in Horizon Europe. The maintenance costs are incurred regularly and they are necessary for the operation of the test stand. Our client wants to know if he can report these costs partially as project costs in the category C3 other goods works and services or C2 equipment.

Answer: Thank you for consulting the legal and financial helpdesk. Please kindly note that the Research Enquiry Service provides general guidance only but cannot comment on the specificities of a particular case.

Regarding costs for equipment, as a general rule, day-to-day maintenance costs typically qualify as indirect costs under Horizon Europe. Therefore, they would be covered by the 25% flat rate under Article 6.2.E of the Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement and cannot be declared as direct costs.

Only in very exceptional cases maintenance costs could be declared as direct costs for the action. This may be the case if the maintenance cost for the action has been directly measured and is justified by supporting evidence showing the link with the action (i.e. to qualify as 'direct cost' the cost for the action cannot be calculated by using apportionment methods, key drivers or proxies). In addition, considering maintenance costs as direct costs would have to be the usual cost accounting practice of the beneficiary.

6.11 Associated partner in lump sums projects?

Question: I have a question concerning associated partner in lump sums projects. How will the Commission proceed in case a work package for which beneficiary A) and an associated partner are responsible. In case the WP is not completed only because the associated partner has not finished its work but the beneficiary A) has completed all its tasks. Will the budget for WP to the beneficiary A) be paid full? Or will it be reduced because the associated partner has not finished its work even if he does not get any EU contribution?

Answer: We understand that your enquiry concerns a situation where only one beneficiary and an associated partner are responsible for the same work package (WP) in a Horizon Europe lump sum action.

Firstly, we would like to recall that the EU contribution in a lump sum grant is paid for the accomplishment of work packages (“lump sum shares”). As set out in Art. 22 of the specific lump sum MGA, one lump sum share is fixed in the grant agreement for each work package (Annex 2 of the grant agreement, “Estimated lump sum breakdown”).

In this respect, if a given work package is partially accomplished, for instance due to the non-completion of some action tasks attributed to an associated partner like in your example, this will have consequences on the payment of the corresponding lump sum share. More precisely, and in compliance with Article 21.2 of the Lump sum MGA:

- At interim payment, no payment of the lump sum share will be performed for uncompleted work packages. Yet, these work packages can be completed in subsequent reporting periods and declared accordingly.

- At final payment, the beneficiaries may exceptionally also declare partial lump sum contributions for work packages that were not completed (e.g. due to force majeure or technical impossibility). In that respect, If a work package is still incomplete at the end of the project, the lump sum share may be paid partially in line with the degree of completion. The beneficiaries will have the possibility to submit observations to the decision of the granting authority.

In any case, and in accordance with Article 7 of the lump sum MGA, beneficiaries retain sole responsibility towards the granting authority and the other beneficiaries when relying on other participants (including associated partner).

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.

7.2 Roles in the F&T Portal: What exactly is the difference between an “Audit contact” and an “Audit Contact at audit level”?

Question: After several exchanges with the IT Helpdesk, part of our questions regarding roles in the Funding & Tender Portal in the context of financial audits are still pending. Based on these exchanges and on the content of the www pages/ Portal we have been referred to, we kindly ask you to provide further information on the interface between ‘My Organisation(s)’ and ‘My Audit(s)’ sections. For the first two questions, we would like to also understand the differences in terms of validity/ duration of the roles and access to a specific financial audit:

  • What exactly is the difference between an “Audit contact” and an “Audit Contact at audit level”?
  • What exactly is the difference between an “Audit contact” generated automatically and an “Audit Contact” added by the beneficiary?

Further questions are:

  • If we tick the audit in the “My Audit(s)” section and choose the TEAM defined in the “My Organisation(s)” section, does this mean that the TEAM mentioned in the My Audit(s) section is automatically composed by the corresponding Audit Contacts?
  • Is it possible to have several Audit Primary Audit Contacts?

Answer: We invite you to consult the guidance available in the IT How to: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/funding-tenders-opportunities/display/IT/Roles+and+access+rights#Rolesandaccessrights-AuditRoles
For further clarifications please contact the IT Helpdesk; https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/portal/screen/support/helpdesks/contact-form

7.3 How should auditors deal with changes according to a new version of the ISRS 4400 affecting the CFS in H2020?

Question: We have a question concerning the terms of reference for the CFS in H2020. There is a new version of the ISRS 4400 that auditors have to use since January 2022. According to our auditing company there are a few new terms in the revised ISRS that do not correspond with the wording of the ToR of Annex 5 for the certificate, . g. no limitation to financial information, factual results (findings), engaging party etc.  Will there be a new version of the H2020 Annex 5 incorporating these changes? If not, how should auditors proceed in case of discrepancies between the terms of the ISRS 4400 (revised) and Annex 5?

Answer: Please note that we cannot validate individual cases, but only provide general guidance and that the answer provided is only based on the information you have provided within your query.

In principle, a new version of the Annex 5 of the H2020 Gran Agreement is not foreseen.

In the event of elements in the new terms of the ISRS 4400 (revised) preventing the auditors from completing the report in the terms defined in Annex 5, the auditors should disclose the nature of such discrepancies and their impact in the ‘Agreed-upon procedures and standard factual findings to be confirmed by the auditor’ as a further remark in the specific section for that purpose in the report.

7.4 Is it possible that Time records in Word or Excel are signed with an electronic signature

Question: I have a question regarding time records. Project partners can choose between paper based and computer-based time recording systems. But it is possible to sign a document (i.e. Word, Excel) with an electronic signature? We have several systems for certified electronic signatures in Germany with a growing acceptance. Universities often use "DFN-Zertifikat". The system is OpenSSL based. Users have to ask personal client certificates (certificate Signing Request) using their university log-in-account (e-mail and personal password). Afterwards they can download and install their client certificates.
The technical standard is described here.
I hope the description is sufficient to answer my question. If electronic signatures of this kind can be accepted, it would be great if this could be included in the Annotated Grant Agreement.

Answer: As regards the technical standards for certified electronic signatures used within your organisation, please be aware that we cannot validate individual cases.
Having said that, as a general rule, it is indeed possible to sign a document (i.e. Word, Excel) with an electronic signature as long as this is accepted as such under the applicable national law, in line with the Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market and repealing Directive 1999/93/EC.

7.5 Does the result of a third level audit will be of use for any upcoming first level audit and affecting the EUR 325 000 threshold for a CFS? How does an organisation verify the audit results of their third level audits and the costs it covered without the audit report?

Question: We have a case of a third level audit in H2020 by the Court of Auditors where only the Commission receives an audit report. The audited organisation just received an email stating that there were no findings and the error rate was so low that it will not be reported.
In case the organisation faces a first level audit in the same project will there be the same simplification as in case of a second level audit according to page 190 of the AGA: “However, costs previously audited by the Commission/Agency are NOT counted for the EUR 325 000 threshold and they do not need to be covered (again) by the certificate).”
If yes, how does the organisation verify the audit results of the third level audits and the costs it covered without the audit report? Will this be clarified by the Commission services internally?

Answer: Indeed, according to paragraph 4. “Financial report: Individual financial statements — Explanation of the use of resources — Summary financial statement — Certificates on the financial statements (CFS)”, Article 20, Section 2 of the H2020 AGA — Annotated Model Grant Agreement, it is explicitly stipulated that:

“For the final reporting period, some beneficiaries/linked third parties will also have to submit a certificate on the financial statement (CFS).
Such a certificate is needed if the beneficiary/linked third party requests a total financial contribution of EUR 325 000 (or more) as reimbursement for actual costs and unit costs calculated according to its usual accounting practices (average personnel costs and costs for internally invoiced goods and services).However, costs previously audited by the Commission/Agency are NOT counted for the EUR 325 000 threshold and they do not need to be covered (again) by the certificate).”

Furthermore, the H2020 AGA in Article 22 — CHECKS, REVIEWS, AUDITS AND INVESTIGATIONS — EXTENSION OF FINDINGS provides two separate sections for the audits carried out by the Commission and the audits carried by the European Court of Auditors, i.e:

  • “22.1.3 Right to carry out audits The [Agency or the] Commission may — during the implementation of the action or afterwards — carry out audits on the proper implementation of the action and compliance with the obligations under the Agreement.”
  • “22.3 Checks and audits by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) Under Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Article 161 of the Financial Regulation No 966/201243, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) may — at any moment during implementation of the action or afterwards — carry out audits.”

The exception provided for the CFS in Article 20 refers only to the costs previously audited by the Commission/Agency, i.e to the section 22.1.3, whereas there is no such a provision for the audits covered by the section 22.3.

7.6 Consequences of a reduced requested EU-contribution in an Audit?

Question:

we received a question from one of our clients. In this regard we would like to ask for a clarification regarding the audit process. Our client wants to voluntarily reduce his personal costs by a fixed percentage. This means he would like to declare all eligible personnel costs but would like to reduce the requested EU Contribution (=all personnel costs incurred are declared, but the beneficiary asks for a much lower reimbursement).
We are now wondering what the possible outcome would be if after a check/an audit a part of the declared direct costs are found to be not eligible or are rejected. In case of such a reduction, what will be reduced: the declared costs or the requested EU-contribution?
The H2020-AMGA gives the following advice: Beneficiaries/linked third parties should declare ALL their eligible costs — even if they are above the estimated budget in Annex 2 (cost overruns). The grant will be capped at the maximum grant amount, but cost overruns may turn out useful, if the Commission/Agency should reject some of the costs (at payment or later on).
According to this, we would assume that the declared costs will be reduced. Can we expect in such a case that the payment for the beneficiary will not change at least if the amount of the voluntarily reduced requested contribution for personnel costs is higher than the capped amount?

Answer: At the time of reporting, the system calculates the ‘Maximum EU Contribution’ automatically by multiplying the reimbursement rate by the total eligible costs accepted. The beneficiary can then request a lower amount (‘EU Requested Contribution’). This lower amount requested does not impact on the eligibility of the costs, neither reduces the Maximum EU Contribution.

If following an audit part of the costs initially accepted are rejected as ineligible, this will consequently reduce the Maximum EU Contribution, which would be recalculated based on the costs eligible after the audit. However, if the EU Requested Contribution (i.e. in this example the lower amount requested by the beneficiary) is still below the recalculated Maximum EU Contribution, the audit adjustment would not have any financial impact (i.e. it would not lead to a recovery). The reason is that, despite the audit adjustment, the beneficiary would still be entitled to an EU contribution higher than the contribution it actually requested.

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.

8.2 Evaluation of ERC-Proposals with a research focus on Russia

Question: I have a question about proposals with a research focus on Russia that are currently in the evaluation process. In one case, a region in Russia is foreseen for biological field research. How are these projects evaluated? At the time of the application, the selection of the research region did not pose a risk (from my point of view) so there was no need to comment on the feasibility or to mention an alternative and equivalent region. My questions are therefore:
1. Whether and how reviewers take this current situation into account in their review?
2. Do the applicants have the opportunity to comment (for example in the interview) on alternative locations or approaches for the field research if these would be just as suitable?

Answer: Please note that no updates on the content of the proposal can be done after the call deadline to a proposal that has been submitted. We refer to the 2022 Information for Applicants document, section 3. SUBMITTING AN APPLICATION, that indicates:
Up to the call deadline, it is possible to re-edit, download or withdraw a proposal. ONLY the last updated version of your proposal submitted before the deadline will be evaluated; no later version can be accepted and no earlier version can be recovered from the submission system. Once the deadline has passed, no further additions, corrections or resubmissions are accepted. However, a read-only access to the submitted proposal is available for 90 days after the call deadline.
Please also note that we are bound by the regulations and no exceptions can be made.  We refer to the erc-rules-for-submission-and-evaluation, pages 8 and 9:
The proposals submitted via the electronic submission system are entered into databases after the call closure. Versions of proposals or any other additional information affecting their content submitted on paper, by e-mail or any other electronic means will not be regarded as having been received by the ERCEA.[...]
Therefore, it is not possible for the applicant to submit an additional letter/document about the changes proposed for the fieldwork.

However, we can reassure you that all proposals will be assessed fairly and, considering that ‘force majeure’ may apply in the conduct of research, all ERC projects can change any time due to scientific or other circumstances (e.g. warzones, major disasters). At step1, the panel will be briefed that it should take into account the specific circumstances and not penalize the proposal for potential feasibility issues linked to the current situation in the country where fieldwork was planned.  The panel can consider whether a change of location of fieldwork would be in line with the initial objectives of the project.  If the proposal goes to step 2, the PI will be able to explain what changes are being considered during the interview.

8.3 What will happen if a researcher applies for an AdG (Call N) and for a SyG (Call N+1) at the same time?

Question: As in the past some researchers want to apply for e.g. an AdG in an ERC work programme. In the next work programme they also apply in a team for a SyG.
What will happen if they are successful in both? In the past, we had successful candidates for a AdG that got the chance to wait for the outcome of their SyG interview in order to decide afterwards which grant to take.
Will this be possible this year, so for researchers that applied in the AdG 2022 and will apply for a SyG 2023?

The problem is, that the SyG teams are forming now and in one team the already are thinking of excluding a researcher that applied for a AdG 2022 because of this uncertainty and risk.
Can you please let me know how to advise the team?

Answer: We do not expect any change about this. That is, in line with the annual ERC Work Programme (WP) and ERC Rules of Submission and Evaluation, applicants can submit a proposal as individual PI to the StG/CoG/AdG 202(N) call and as member of a synergy team to the SYG 202(N+1) call, being the calls published under different ERC WPs.

In case a proposal is selected for funding in an individual call of year N and the PI/HI signs the grant agreement with the ERCEA, this PI becomes ineligible for the SYG call of year N+1, and may therefore compromise the eligibility of the SyG proposal.

Therefore, in the case you outlined, the 2022 AdG PI will be informed of the consequences for the 2023 SyG PIs team and proposal in case the AdG2022 proposal is selected for funding.