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Q: Should a Synergy proposal for the ERC funding (ERC-2019-SyG) be only a successful collaboration?
A:

Not only. The ultimate goal of the ERC Synergy (SyG) scheme is to allow for a close and genuine collaborative interaction that will enable transformative research at the forefront of science, capable of yielding unpredictable and ground-breaking scientific results and/or cross-fertilizing disciplines, leading to a result that is more than just the sum of Principal Investigators (PIs)' individual contributions.

More information about the ERC-2019-SYG Grant Call is available in the ERC Work Programme 2019 and the Information for Applicants to the Synergy Grant 2019 Call.

Q: How is synergy defined in an ERC Synergy grant (ERC-SyG-2019)?
A:

The term 'Synergy' cannot be defined in one single way. Synergy projects should generally involve composite teams that are capable of tackling bold new research themes that require novel approaches and unique fusions of researchers. Such teams are typically characterised by exceptional combinations of knowledge and skills, in which the 2,3 or 4 Principal Investigators hold a central role. Synergy projects require continuous interlinking, feedbacks and integration amongst the different research teams. A Synergy project could incorporate novel multi- or trans-disciplinary approaches or innovative combinations of knowledge and skills in a single discipline or research field. Each Synergy proposal must demonstrate that its objectives can only be achieved through the specific combination of knowledge and skills brought together by the participating PIs. In other words, a major scientific question of pressing significance, an integrated team and the transformative scientific potential are crucial elements in conceiving a Synergy proposal.

More information about the ERC-2019-SYG Grant Call is available in the Information for Applicants to the Synergy Grant 2019 Call.

Q: According to the conditions of the ERC Starting Grant 2019 call, how does the ERC treat the request to extend the eligibility time-window in the case of clinical training?
A:

For clinical training, the effective elapsed time since the award of the first PhD [for applicants whose first eligible degree is their MD such incidents can be considered from the date of the completion of their MD degree] will be considered reduced by the documented amount of clinical training actually received by the Principal Investigator after the award of the first eligible degree, and by up to 4 years maximum.

In case of part-time clinical training, the exact total training time will be calculated pro-rata to extend the eligibility window. Documented clinical training that has taken place between the award of the first eligible degree and the call deadline can be used to extend the eligibility window up to 4 years maximum.

Clinical training should be documented by an official signed testimonial from the employer indicating the start and end date of the training and preferably also the work pattern (full-time or part-time training).

Q: Are the open access related rules that apply to ERC grantee any different from those that apply to researchers funded under the rest of Horizon 2020?
A:

Indeed, although most of the rules applicable to other researchers funded under Horizon 2020 also apply in the same way to researchers funded by the ERC, there are a number of differences. In particular, in the case of the ERC the open access obligations described in Article 29.2 of the Model Grant Agreement apply not only to articles in scientific journals, but also to long-text publications such as monographs, edited volumes, or book chapters.

An overview of the open access related rules for ERC funded researchers can be found on the ERC website. Note that Article 29.2 of the ERC Model Grant Agreement is slightly different from the corresponding article in the general Horizon 2020 Model Grant Agreement. Details on the application of the article to ERC grants can be found in the ERC specific part of the Annotated Model Grant Agreement.

Q: Under FP7, what are eligible costs for ERC grants?
A:

Generally, costs are eligible if they are incurred during the lifetime of the project and provided that they are in line with the requirements for direct costs as listed in Article II.14 of the General Conditions of the ERC Grant Agreement (Single and Multi-Beneficiary). Costs must be actual, incurred by the beneficiary and according to the usual accounting and management principles and practices of the beneficiary. They must also be identifiable and verifiable.

For more information, see also the rules of the FP7 Guide to Financial Issues.

 

In FP7 ERC grants, the following costs are eligible under certain conditions:

 

- Travel and subsistence allowances:Should the Host Institution use flat rates for the daily subsistence costs, in accordance with the above mentioned rules and if allowed in the respective Work Programme, this should be mentioned in the Description of Work to be considered eligible.

- Meals (lunch/evening) during travels:

If the team member already received a daily allowance for travel expenses from the Host Institution, meals are considered to be covered by this allowance; hence they are not considered eligible.However, if the general practice of the Host Institution is to reimburse costs separately, upon presentation of a receipt, and if costs do not constitute reckless or excessive spending, they can be claimed as direct costs.

- Recruitment of a replacement for a team member on parental leave:

While recruitment costs would generally be covered by the overheads, in the light of ERC's specificity some recruitment costs may be accepted as direct eligible costs if they are: justified, part of the general practice of the Host Institution, clearly attributable to the project, and in line with the general requirements.

 

- Maintenance and repair of equipment, of failures due to the general usage of the equipment:

Any services or other costs related to certain equipment, such as delivery, handling, installation, maintenance or repair of items that are not covered by separate subcontracts, are part of equipment purchase and can be charged accordingly. In case of a separate subcontract for specific services (after-sales service, maintenance), the general rules for subcontracting apply.

 

- Purchase of spare parts:

Spare parts are eligible for funding as long as they meet the general eligibility criteria for consumables.

 

- Payments for patent applications:

Intellectual property activities such as the process of applying for a patent, if complying with all general eligibility requirements are direct eligible costs.

- Travel and other costs for experts and regular visitors: Reimbursement of travel expenses for experts who are not employed by the Host Institution may be considered direct eligible costs to the extent that the general requirements for direct costs are fulfilled and that the participation of these experts/visitors is duly foreseen in the Description of Work.

 

- Scientific text books:

For these costs to be considered eligible, the link between scientific text books and the ERC project needs to be demonstrated for the purchase of these books. Funding must be used for the sole purpose of achieving the objectives of the project and its expected results, in a manner consistent with the principles of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

 

- Translation costs:

Translation costs are not the same as publishing costs and should be included under subcontracting if the translation is to be done by an organisation or person external to the beneficiary.If, however, a set of translators is working directly on the core research funded by the project and under direct instructions and supervision of the Principal Investigator, the costs concerned can be considered as personnel costs under the ERC grant.

- Climate compensation fees in addition to travel/ticket cost:

If by climate compensation fee is meant a sort of ecological tax that is identifiable on the invoice, it is not an eligible cost. However, if the payment of this fee is required by an institution to be paid for every plane ride, they can be eligible if:1/ This cost is an airport tax, which is an ecological charge applicable to all the tickets and mandatory under national legislation. It lies in the responsibility of the beneficiary to prove the "non-tax" nature of the "charge"; or2/ If it is included in the overall price and thereof not identifiable, i.e. it is part of the airline ticket.

 

- Costs charged by journal publishers for the provision of immediate open access to publications (article processing charges - APCs):

These costs are eligible if they are incurred during the lifetime of the project and provided that they are in line with the general requirements for all direct costs.

 

In case the journal tallows 'green open access' with an embargo period of six months, but "gold open access" is chosen resulting in an article processing charge (ACP), the cost is still eligible provided that they have been incurred during the lifetime of the project and that they are in line with the general rules for eligibility of direct costs as described in the Grant Agreement.If 'gold open access' is chosen, the publication must still be deposited in a repository for scientific publications and open access must be provided immediately to that deposited version (no embargo period).

 

In case there are several authors, there is no requirement to split open access related costs between the authors. If the costs have been incurred during the lifetime of the project and they are in line with the general requirements for direct costs, then they are eligible in full, regardless of the number of co-authors. However, grantees should consider whether it would be appropriate to ask other authors for a contribution to the costs.

 

If a former team member of an ERC project publishes an article based on his/her work related to the project and wants to provide immediate open access to it by paying an article processing charge to the publisher, this cost can be considered an eligible cost if it incurred during the lifetime of the project and provided that it is in line with the general requirements for direct costs.

 

- Open access fees for monographs:

These costs are eligible if they are incurred during the lifetime of the project and provided that they are in line with the general requirements for direct costs.

 

- Attendance at Conference Costs:Normally researchers participating in a conference are expected to play an active part, e.g. present a paper or a poster.  As well as the usual documents needed to support the costs claimed (purchase orders, invoices and payment (conference, travel and hotel) and evidence of payments), an auditor would expect to see conference registration and conference agenda with names and roles. 

As a best practice it is recommended that a small note is produced by the researcher describing his/her role and the link to the project.

 

 - Costs for management of the project:

Management costs directly linked to the project and respecting the general eligibility criteria can be considered as direct eligible costs.See also Article 33.4 of the FP7 Rules of participation.

However, management costs such as administrative, technical or logistical costs are cross-cutting costs for all operations of the beneficiary and cannot be attributed in full to the project. These costs should be covered by the 20% flat rate of indirect costs.

- Membership fees of society publisher:

If the net effect of taking out a membership in the society is a reduction in the cost of the article processing charges (APCs) that is higher than the cost of the membership fee, then the membership fee (for the year concerned) is an eligible cost, provided that it is in line with the general requirements for direct costs.

 

- Costs for the deposit of research data in an open access data repository (run by an external organization):

Yes, these costs are eligible if they generated or collected as part of an ERC project and provided that they are in line with the general requirements for direct costs.

 

- Consumables for people formally not paid by an ERC grant (e.g. undergraduate students) :

They are eligible as long as they can be attributed directly to a project and are identifiable by the Host Institution as such, in accordance with its accounting principles and its general internal rules (i.e. there is a proven track record of each consumed amount).

 

- Redundancy payments:

Employment-related costs and termination/redundancy payments are considered eligible costs as long as they are in accordance with the usual accounting practice of the beneficiary, are fair and justified and recognised by national law. It is the Host Institution's duty to foresee possible project changes and include corresponding provisions in the (employment) contract. The ERCEA will examine each case individually.

Q: For ERC projects under FP7, can the Principal Investigator sign timesheets for him/herself?
A:

A Principal Investigator should not validate his/her own timesheet because the person validating a timesheet should have an independent view of the work of the Principal Investigator within the Host Institution (e.g. the Principal Investigator's hierarchical superior).

Q: For ERC projects under FP7, does the Principal Investigator need to dedicate an equal proportion of his/her working time each year to the project?
A:

Under FP7, the Principal Investigator is not obliged to spend an equal amount of his/her working time each year on the project, as long as the distribution is in line with achieving the scientific objectives of the project. However, ERCEA encourages an even distribution throughout the duration of the project. Any special time arrangements need to be agreed with the ERCEA beforehand.Timesheets or other means of proof must reflect the actual productive hours spent on the project.

Q: In FP7 (ERC), if the Host Institution requests the reimbursement of the Principal Investigator's salary for less time that s(he) actually spent on the project, should the timesheet reflect the hours to be charged or the actual hours worked on the grant?
A:

In FP7, the Host Institution cannot charge more costs than the reimbursement for the time the Principal Investigator actually worked on the project, but it can charge less.

In such a case, timesheets should record the actual hours worked on the project for auditing purposes but it should be made clear in the breakdown table or in the explanatory text of the financial report that total actual hours worked were X but the charged hours are only X-Y.The hourly rate should be calculated based on the total hours (and not only based on the charged hours).

In brief, time charged to the project can always be less (but not more) than indicated in the timesheets.

Q: Under FP7, if a Principal Investigator's salary is not charged to the ERC grant, is (s)he expected to keep time records?
A:

Although in principle Principal Investigators do not need to keep time records if their salary is not charged to an FP7 ERC grant, they should be able to provide evidence of their compliance with the time commitment requirements provided in the corresponding Work Programme (see ERC Work Programmes here).

Q: For ERC projects under FP7, is the use of timesheets mandatory?
A:

In FP7, costs of actual hours worked should be substantiated by a time recording system or by alternative evidence providing the same level of reliability as to the reality, accuracy and completeness of the information provided, to allow auditors to verify the financial reports.If a person works 100% on a project and has a contract to this effect, in the absence of timesheets, other appropriate and sufficient alternative evidence to support the declared work arrangements should be provided, provided that it is compliant with the usual practices of the beneficiary.

Q: For ERC projects under FP7, is there a minimum time to be spent on the office premises by the staff recruited for the project so that staff costs are eligible?
A:

For FP7 projects, the time necessary to be spent in the office by the staff recruited for the project depends on the rules of the Host Institution and the applicable national legislation. However, according to Article II.15.1 of the General Conditions to the ERC Grant Agreements (Single and Multi-Beneficiary), only the costs of the actual hours worked by the persons directly carrying out work under the project can be charged.

Q: For ERC projects under FP7, can expenses linked to the recruitment of project staff (such as relocation expenses, advertising and travel costs to interviews) be considered as recruitment costs?
A:

In principle, it is expected from the host institutions to have the human resources necessary for the action at the start of the project.However, for ERC grants in FP7, recruitment costs may be eligible as direct costs.

To be eligible, expenses linked to the recruitment of project staff have to be in line with the general management practice and rules of the Host Institution/beneficiary and comply with the eligibility criteria of Article II.14 of the General Conditions to the ERC Grant Agreement (Single and Multi-Beneficiary), being directly traceable to the ERC project.

Q: Under FP7, can a retired researcher be paid out of an ERC grant? Which form can the payment take?
A:

In FP7, payments for retired researchers can be charged to the project if they are in line with applicable national law and practice, as well as with the specific rules applicable to and in the Host Institution.

Costs must also be compliant with the eligibility criteria of Article II.14 of the General Conditions to the ERC Grant Agreement (Single and Multi-Beneficiary).

The payments should be made via the Human Resources Payroll system.

Q: For ERC projects under FP7, how many hours make a person-month?
A:

For ERC projects under FP7, the number of hours that makes a person-month can vary between different Host Institutions.  Beneficiaries must calculate their specific productive hours according to the general practice in the Host Institution.

In case different categories of personnel have different working conditions, individual productive hours may be calculated. For the calculation method and examples, please refer to Part 2 B, section 1 on art.II.15 of ECGA, sub-section 1.(a), in the FP7 Guide to Financial Issues.The benchmark is 1680 hours based on 210 workable days and a 8 hour working day (Guide to financial issues Part 2B, section 1 on article II.15 of ECGA, sub-section 1.(a.2), in the FP7 Guide to Financial Issues).

Q: Under FP7, are tuition fees for PhD students working in an ERC project eligible costs?
A:

Academic fees may be due by post-graduate students back to their respective universities. In FP7, sometimes, in cases of work performed by the student for the university, the student may be exempt to pay (part of) the fee. This predetermined income for the university is eligible as personnel cost when there is a labour contract with the student in which the amount is indicated.

The other conditions of Article II.14.1 of the ECGA (Single and Multi-Beneficiary) have to be fulfilled as well.

See also in this regard Part 2B, section 1 on art II.15 ECGA, sub-section 1.(a.4), in the FP7 Guide to Financial Issues.

Q: Under FP7, which staff/personnel costs are eligible and therefore covered by the ERC Grant Agreement ? In addition, where should these costs be included?
A:

In FP7, the following costs related to the staff/personnel are covered by the ERC Grant Agreement:                                                                                                                                 - Salary of Principal Investigator:

According to Article II.15.1 of the General Conditions to the ERC Grant Agreement (Single and Multi-Beneficiary), the salary costs of the Principal Investigator can be covered by the ERC Grant Agreement. The amount charged can only represent the costs of the actual hours worked by the Principal Investigator on the ERC project (pro-rata to the Principal Investigator's involvement).

- Salary or costs of team members  These costs can  be covered, including for staff of HI   and  from third parties. At the time of the submission of the interim financial reports, costs should be declared for each staff member in the table "breakdown of direct costs" (Annex I to the Grant Agreement).

Any increase of salary (relating to indexations, years of service, steps in grades, increased responsibilities etc.) during the lifetime of a funded project.

However, the maximum contribution to the costs of the project is fixed in the Grant Agreement and cannot be increased (see Article II.18.4 of the General Conditions to the ERC Grant Agreement, Single and Multi- Beneficiary, and Part 1 on art. 5.1 of ECGA in the FP7 Guide to Financial Issues.

- Stipends/ Scholarships: Typically, a scholarship or stipend has the purpose that the awardee works on its own project. However if the person works on an ERC project, stipends or scholarships may be eligible pro rata provided that:• The stipend/scholarship is paid according to the general management and accounting practices of the Host Institution, which awards the stipend to the student.• The beneficiary has a written agreement with the stipend holder defining the work to be carried out on the ERC project and the amount of the stipend to be paid (letter of engagement, contract, or other official document).• The amount can be attributed directly to the project.• The conditions of the stipend/scholarship meet the general eligibility criteria of Article II.14 and Annex II General conditions to the ERC Grant Agreement (Single and Multi-Beneficiary).• The stipend/scholarship is not being reimbursed by another party.

- Bonus:Bonuses have to comply with all of the following criteria to be eligible:

  • be provided by internal regulations and/or practices of the organisation (calculation method, category of employees falling under this scheme, maximum amount, etc.);
  • apply to all projects (EU and non-EU projects, national and international) of the same kind; i.e. the bonus must be given to all international (EU and non EU) or to all national projects;
  • not result in a level of remuneration inconsistent with the current market conditions for a worker of the same category/grade/experience;
  • be recorded in the accounts as personnel costs and be subject to taxes and social security charges applicable to salaries or be specifically exempt from such taxes and/or charges;
  • and, finally, bonuses can only be paid as part of the employee's gross remuneration and only be reimbursed pro-rata according to the time spent on the project (e.g. If the researcher works only part of his/her working hours on the project, then only the part of the bonus related to the remuneration charged to the project will be eligible).

The criteria (qualitative or financial targets, research activities carried out, contractor's profitability, etc.) used to calculate the amount of the bonus can be accepted provided they are of general application within the beneficiary's organisation and are objective. 

Q: Under FP7, can projects that have more than one partner institution be funded by an ERC grant?
A:

Yes, in FP7, multi-beneficiary Grant Agreements are possible.

Q: For ERC projects under FP7, in case of a change of Host Institution, under which conditions does the Host institution have the right to terminate the Grant Agreement as well as the Supplementary Agreement?
A:

In FP7, if the Principal Investigator permanently moves to a third country which is not associated to FP7 and he/she is no longer in the position to continue leading an ERC funded research project, the Host Institution has the right to terminate the Supplementary Agreement with the  Principal Investigator.

The termination of the Supplementary Agreement compels the Host Institution to initiate the procedure of termination for the Grant Agreement.

The termination remains at the discretion of the ERCEA, following an evaluation of the situation on a case-by-case basis. Alternatives to the termination may be considered.

Q: Under FP7, on what grounds can ERCEA decide to terminate a Grant Agreement?
A:

In FP7, the cases where the ERCEA may terminate the Grant Agreement as per text law are outlined in Article II.35 (Single) and Article II.37 (Multi-Beneficiary) of the General Conditions to the ERC Grant Agreement.

Q: For ERC projects under FP7, what is the procedure if a Principal Investigator leaves (for whatever reason) the Host Institution?
A:

In FP7, if the Principal Investigator leaves the Host Institution, the participation of the Host Institution in the grant shall be terminated. Articles II.33 (Single) and II.35 (Multi-Beneficiary) of the General Conditions to the ERC Grant Agreement are applicable.The Host Institution is strongly advised to contact the ERCEA by sending a request to ERC-C2-AMENDMENTS@ec.europa.eu to receive a tailor made response and further guidance.