European researchers warned on FP7 funding rules

Singleimage, a company that helps European researchers and research administrators win bids for and execute European research programs , has warned that recent EU rules that impose accurate time recording procedures on maverick staff has created a major headache for finance managers supporting collaborative research projects.

In a recent survey, Singleimage (St. Ives, England) has found that this, and the challenge of calculating overheads correctly in order not to lose out on funding, are the major priorities for action for many finance managers from both public institutions and private companies.

FP7 is the European Union’s current research and development funding programme, with a budget of Euros 50bn to spend between 2007 and 2013. Two thirds of this is for collaborative research between companies, universities, government labs, not-for-profit institutes and other research organizations.

The EC requires finance teams to understand and apply accounting rules that are not only different from those required by other funding bodies, but frequently more complex. While the underlying financial accounting for FP is standard, translating this into cost claims can be complicated.

There is a choice of four methods for accounting overheads, and it is essential to use the right one. It is not unusual for public and private sector organizations working together on a project to use different methods. If this is not realized then it can have major implications including costs being discounted.

Many institutions still do not realize that timesheets are a requirement, since one of the major project costs is the researchers’ time and the EC will pay only for the productive hours worked. Getting accurate records of time spent on the project and all other activities can be problematic. Often researchers are unused to monitoring their time, or simply can’t see the value in doing it.

Finance managers on these projects must have a thorough grasp of the specific rules, and how they impact their organization. As well as everyday matters, they may need to deal with indirect taxes, management overheads and asset re-valuations ” potentially across several centers.”

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