ERC Grant Agreement
If a proposal has been successfully evaluated and the Principal Investigator accepts the ERC Grant, the ERC prepares a Grant Agreement, which is based on the application. The Grant Agreement is signed by the European Commission (represented by the ERC Executive Agency, ERCEA) and the Host Institution, which is the beneficiary of the ERC grant. For Horizon 2020, there is a specific ERC Model Grant Agreement used.
The agreement as a whole and its provisions are not negotiable. Only the elements that are important for the financial and contractual management, such as the reporting periods and the amount of the pre-financing, are negotiable for adjustment to the specific administrative context of each project.
The Grant Agreement sets out the rights and obligations of the contracting parties, especially as regards the project implementation, the financial contribution of the EC and its use, as well as reporting duties of the beneficiaries.
Additionally to the Grant Agreement, the Principal Investigator and the Host Institution conclude a Supplementary Agreement by which the institution is committed to accord sufficient support and scientific independence to the Principal Investigator in order to assure a proper project implementation. A minimum amount of support through the host institution is also already fixed by the Grant Agreement.
Provisions of the Supplementary Agreement which are not in accordance with the Grant Agreement are considered invalid. The ERC only signs the Grant Agreement after submission of a successfully concluded Supplementary Agreement.
The funding rates of ERC projects are identical to those of other Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Actions (RIA): 100 % of the direct eligible costs are reimbursed by the EU. The indirect costs are reimbursed through a flat rate of 25 % of the direct costs. Costs for subcontracting and costs for resources made available by Third Parties which are not used on the beneficiary’s premises may not be taken into account for the flat rate calculation.
In ERC projects funded under the EU’s 7th research framework programme (2007-2013) the overhead is limited to 20 % of the direct costs.
For ERC projects, the same documentation obligations apply as for other Horizon 2020 projects: Individuals who work only partly on the project have to keep timesheets or comparable recording methods. If a researcher works 100 % on an ERC project it might be acceptable not to record productive hours spent on the project. However, there should be an appropriate alternative evidence to support the declared working arrangements or it should be compliant with the beneficiary’s standard practices. It is highly recommendable to keep time sheets. The European Commission provides a Model for time sheets.
The ERC pays a pre-financing at the beginning of the project. The pre-financing can be paid within 30 days from the entry into force of the action, within 30 days from the starting of the action or until up to 45 days prior to the starting date of the project.
Further specificities of the ERC Grant Agreement concern the possibility for the Principal Investigator to change his or her Host Institution (Portability of Grants), as well as the provisions concerning the commitment of the Principal Investigator to invest a specific amount of his/her working time into the project (time commitment). Furthermore, the agreement contains specific clauses in case of a premature termination of the project due to scientific reasons or unavailability of the Principal Investigator.
Budget shifts during the project time span, e. g. personnel costs which have not been spent in one period, or the shifting of budget to the second reporting period are possible. In case of doubt, it is always useful to ask the Project Officer for advice.
In any case, the budget needs to be updated/adjusted and justified in the next financial report. In the template for financial reports there is a section called "budget follow-up" where redistributions of budget for the next reporting period can be indicated.
However, some changes need a formal amendment of the Grant Agreement, this includes:
- introduction of subcontracts
- changes which have an impact on the scientific work
All Horizon 2020 projects have to submit their reports via the electronic Funding & tender opportunities portal.
The requirements for the reporting are laid down in the individual ERC Grant Agreement of the project.
For ERC actions, the principal investigator must submit two scientific reports, one mid-term report and one final report. The mid-term report contains information about the scientific progress of the project, the achievements and results of the action as well as publications and a declaration of any major change in scientific strategy.
The final scientific report contains the final results, achievements and conclusions of the action, and how they have been disseminated (including via scientific publications) as well as a publishable summary of the project.
In addition to the scientific report, the host institution has to submit a “financial report” at the end of each financial reporting period.
The ERC General Grant Agreement foresees different reporting periods for financial and scientific reports.
Normally, the financial reporting period is 18 month. For a five-year grant, there are four financial reporting periods; the last financial reporting period is only six month.
The "financial report" contains a narrative part with information on eligible costs, including an
individual financial statement for each beneficiary covering the whole reporting period, a “breakdown of direct costs” table and a budget follow-up table.
A summary financial statement is created automatically by the electronic system on the basis of all financial statements submitted by the host institutions, additional institutions or linked third parties for the reporting period.
In Horizon 2020, the beneficiary has to submit a certificate on the financial statement (CFS) only with the final report if the total financial EU contribution for the respective beneficiary is 325 000 Euro or more. In ERC projects under the EU’s 7th research framework programme (2007-2013) CFS’ can also be required in earlier financial reports (if more than 375 000 Euros were spent during that period).
Specific rules for the Proof of Concept Lump Sum
The ERC is piloting a lump sum approach for ERC Proof of Concept Grants under the Work Programme 2019. This means that each succesful project will be granted the amount of EUR 150,000. No budget request has to be formulated at the submission stage. Nevertheless, the costs that will occur during the project have to be described in a narrative way in the proposal. Only costs that would be eligible for an actual costs grant can be financed by the lump sum. This can comprise personal costs, subcontracting and other direct and indirect costs, which can relate to verification of work, validation of results, clarification of IPR or knowledge transfer strategy, market analysis, etc.
Unlike in an actual cost grant, no cost reporting will be necessary for Proof of Concept Grants. Also, there won’t be financial checkings or audits at project implementation. Nevertheless, the project is required to fulfil certain quality conditions and to deliver the described output, otherwise the lump sum cannot be fully payed and the grant will be reduced accordingly.