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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: 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, what is meant by 'portability' of a grant?
A:

In FP7, portability means the transfer of the entire project or part of it to a new beneficiary. Like the initial Host Institution, the new Host Institution must comply with the requirements of the Rules for participation and be established under national law in an EU Member State or Associated Country. Exceptions from the establishment requirement apply for the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, for International European interest organisations and for entities created under EU law.

A transfer of the project may happen before signature of the grant agreement or during the implementation of the project.

  • For a transfer of the project proposal before signature of the grant agreement:

The project officer should be informed as indicated in the invitation letter. The change of Host Institution must be formally accepted by the ERCEA.

  • For a transfer of the project during the implementation of the project:

The new and the initial Host Institution will need to agree on the transfer of the project and all the related aspects so that the project can be pursued. The total Union contribution will not be adjusted.The Principal Investigator has to explain the nature and reasons for the move of the project to another institution, as well as the added value of the move to the scientific output of the project or their career.

The initial Host Institution must introduce the request for the amendment of the Grant Agreement by the ERCEA (Articles II.2.d).vii) and II.34.3 (Single Beneficiary) and II.2.3.vii) and II.36.3 (Multi-Beneficiary) of the General Conditions to the ERC Grant Agreement).

Once the amendment has been approved, the initial Host Institution must transfer documentation/ foreground and the part of the pre-financing received for the grant, depending on the case, to the new beneficiary.

Q: For ERC projects under FP7, is an amendment needed if the contribution/ time commitment of the Principal Investigator changes during the implementation?
A:

In FP7, the need for an amendment of the Grant Agreement is assessed by the ERCEA on a case-by-case basis.

All changes of the Principal Investigator time commitment on the project or/and in total working time spent in an EU Member State or Associated country have to be previously agreed with the ERC Executive Agency. Otherwise there may be a risk for some costs to be declared ineligible or even the grant to be terminated.

For instance, for Synergy Grants from the Ideas Work Programme 2012 onwards:

Principal Investigators should devote at least 30% of their working time to the ERC-funded project, while spending at least 50% of their total working time in an EU Member State or Associated Country. 

Q: For ERC projects under FP7, is it possible to change the authorised representative for several projects with one request?
A:

In FP7 ERC projects, the request can be grouped per grant type, but only if the former authorised representative, the new authorised representative and the contact person are the same in all the projects of the amendment request.

Further advice can be provided via the ERCEA amendments functional mailbox (ERC-C2-AMENDMENTS@ec.europa.eu ).

Q: Under FP7, is it possible to reduce the duration of the project in order to allow the Principal Investigator to apply for another ERC Grant?
A:

In the context of FP7 and according to the Ideas Work Programme 2013, a Principal Investigator may hold only one frontier research grant from the ERC at any one time. In particular, a PI may not submit a proposal for another ERC frontier research grant, unless the existing project ends no more than two years after the call deadline.

A request for a reduction of the duration of the project entails the following consequences:

  • Once a project's duration was reduced, it cannot be extended afterwards (even in case of failure in the application/evaluation process), unless force majeure, maternity or parental leave;
  • A request for the reduction of the duration of a project has to be approved by the Scientific Department. It will evaluate if the goals of the project can be reached in a shorter time;
  • Shortening of the project duration might trigger a reduction of the maximum Union contribution.

Nevertheless, it is possible that an ERC grantee (Starting/Consolidator/Advanced/Synergy Grant) also holds a Proof of Concept Grant.

Q: For ERC projects under FP7, if for any substantive and justified reason the effective start date of the project is delayed from the start date specified in the grant agreement, does it require an amendment?
A:

In FP7, unless a fixed start date is indicated in the grant agreement, ERC frontier research grants are required to start on the first day of the month following the signature of the grant agreement by the ERCEA.

Exceptionally, for duly justified reasons and with the acceptance of the ERCEA, the project start date can be delayed (see the FP7 Guide for Amendments and the ERC Guidance Notes for preparing the Grant Agreement).  Such a delay might require an amendment.

If a delay in the start date is accepted without an amendment, such delay is expected to be caught up during the implementation of the project (no automatic extension).

Q: For ERC projects under FP7, are changes/amendments possible and how can they be implemented in the Grant Agreement?
A:

In FP7, changes in an ERC project can be requested via direct communication with the Project Officer or sending an email to ERC-C2@ec.europa.eu

For questions related specifically to amendments, you can use: erc-c2-amendments@ec.europa.eu. An amendment officer will be attributed to your request and you will receive a template for the request letter and a list of supporting documents that are needed.Changes to the original proposal can be introduced both:

1/ during the preparation phase of the Grant Agreement; and2/ during the implementation of the action.

Both types of changes require the ERC Scientific Department's approval.If the change comes after the signature of the grant agreement, usually an amendment is required (cases of amendments are listed in the FP7 Guide for Amendments).

An amendment of the Description of Work (Annex I) is always needed for:

  1. A change in the scientific work or a change in the project's objectives;
  2. The removal/addition of tasks, or substantial changes in the distribution of the work between beneficiaries (in case of multi-beneficiary grants);
  3. The introduction/ removal of third parties and/or subcontractor (exception for subcontracting of minor tasks);
  4. The addition or removal of a beneficiary (including change of host institution).

Other changes require only an information letter, such as requests for sabbatical leaves or a change of authorised representative of the Host Institution. With regard to this last case, a change in the Portal (NEF) is no longer required from the beneficiary; this is done directly by the ERC Amendment Officer. The specimen signature of the new authorised representatives will be included in the template for the request.

Other changes do not require any amendment, such as changes in budget breakdown in between costs categories or in between reporting periods, etc. The Project Officer should be informed.

When in doubt whether an amendment is needed, beneficiaries are encouraged to contact the ERCEA via the amendments functional mailbox: ERC-C2-AMENDMENTS@ec.europa.eu.  

General information about amendments can be found in the Amendment Guide for FP7 Grant Agreements and in the Guide for ERC Grant Holders.    

Q: Under FP7, in the ERC financial reporting, what are "receipts" in Point 2 of the Financial Statement (Form C)?
A:

There are three kind of receipts in the ERC financial reporting under FP7 (Article II.17 of the General Conditions to the ERC Grant Agreement (Single and Multi-Beneficiary) and Part 2B, section 1 on Art II.17 of ECGA, in the FP7 Guide to Financial Issues):

  • Financial transfers or their equivalent from third parties to the beneficiary;

  • Contributions in kind, free of charge from third parties, if they are specifically to be used for this ERC-project only;

  • Income generated by the project, excluding the cases when it was generated from the use of foreground.

Receipts are to be taken into account at the moment of the final payment (see Part 2B, section 1, on Article II.17 of ECGA (specific mention of Article II.18.3), in the FP7 Guide to Financial Issues).

Beneficiaries must take into account and declare receipts which are established (revenue that has been collected and entered in the accounts), generated or confirmed (revenue that has not yet been collected, but which has been generated or for which the beneficiary has a commitment or written confirmation) at the time of the submission of the last financial statement.

 

Q: Under FP7, what are the financial reporting requirements for an ERC grant and how are they submitted?
A:

In FP7, the financial reports shall be submitted by the Host Institution in consultation with the Principal Investigator. (See the General Conditions to the ERC Grant Agreement, Article II.3.1.b for Single, or Article II.3.bis.1.b for Multi-Beneficiary Grant Agreements.)The financial reports provide the following parts:

- a declaration of honour;

- a description to which extent the objectives have been reached;

- information about how the project has been managed during the reporting period; and

- a chapter on the description of the scientific implementation of the project.

 

The financial reports also contain several annexes:

- Financial Statements;

- a breakdown of direct costs table; and

- a Budget follow-up table.

 

Depending on the amount of the costs claimed (cumulated amounts equal or superior to €375.000) the report also includes a Certificate on Financial Statements.In Proof of Concept Grants, given the shorter length, the project's reports will normally be required only once, at the end of the project. This report will combine the technical and financial aspects in one single document.

Article 4 of the ERC Grant Agreement defines the reporting periods and the language that has to be used for the reports.For submission of the Financial Statements (Form C) of the financial report, it must be distinguished whether grants that do have electronic submission and those that do not have electronic submission:- Grants with electronic submission (those signed from 01/01/2013 onwards plus those which were signed before and that opted-in through an amendment): the Financial Statements need to be introduced via the FORCE application only.- Grants without electronic submission: the Financial Statements need to be introduced via the FORCE application in addition to the paper file that has to be provided to the ERCEA.