Traineeship from 01 February to 31 July 2012.
At the time of Douglas Armendone's entry, he was completing a Master in Public Management at the University of Geneva. He served as our Trainee from February to July 2012. Douglas worked in the field of research and had a look at the Rules of Participations in Horizon 2020. The executive summary can be found hereunder.
Safeguarding Swiss interests in Rules for Participation & Dissemination of Horizon 2020
Under the Cypriot presidency in the second half of 2012, the Rules for Participation and Dissemination (RfP) of the future Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (Horizon 2020) will be discussed and the amount and distribution of the funding should also be settled. The legislative developments of Horizon 2020 and its RfP, though well structured, are indeed a complex process. Therefore, in order to give answers to concerns raised by several European constituencies, also in Switzerland, SwissCore, together with its funders, decided that their Student Trainee in Brussels, Douglas Armendone, would carry out a master research on this specific subject. It concerns the first such master thesis, which was written during a traineeship at SwissCore.
To start with, the subject of the research has an interesting horizontal nature. It covers multi-disciplinary topics, ranging from pure policy matters to scientific, legal and financial ones. It takes into consideration Swiss managerial, administrative and research interests in Horizon 2020 and not only provides an analysis of the proposal from the European Commission (EC) concerning the RfP proposed for Horizon 2020, but also sheds light on the influence of a nonmember state like Switzerland with regards to European Union (EU) legislation. The research shows that the current RfP are of key importance (in comparison with former RfP) due to the proposed broader scope and foreseen simplification. As the RfP cover, for instance, funding rates and cost reimbursement, reporting and auditing, and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and dissemination rules which will apply to the results of research and innovation activities performed with Horizon 2020 funds, they should not be overlooked by research stakeholders and governments.
With the Swiss case taken into consideration, the conclusions in this study are coupled with a few recommendations that could be useful not only to the Swiss science and research community, but also to other stakeholders. For instance, in order to preserve excellence as the only criterion in Horizon 2020, beneficiaries could consider underlining the need to make a distinction between participation in every programme (e.g. Structural Funds), while fostering the development of a ‘stairway of excellence’, which leads less developed regions to fully participate in Horizon 2020, through capacity-building measures. Although Value Added Tax (VAT) is included as eligible cost and that it is seen as positive by beneficiaries, they could still emphasise that the EC should provide clarity, consistency and unambiguity with regard to VAT recoverability. The RfP should be clarified especially in cases of contradictory rules at the national and European levels.
The main objective of Horizon 2020 is to couple research and innovation. However, if public research organisations have to provide even more co-financing in close-to-market activities, they might not be willing to participate. This discussion on whether the proposals for direct and indirect reimbursement rates will lead to an increase or loss of participation, should not be overlooked by the European institutions and the participants themselves. Following the critics on the proposed flat rate of 20% for indirect costs, in the current context, the point is whether a higher rate of the reintroduction of real indirect costs would correspond better to researchers interests (but, noting that the higher the rate, the lower the number of projects which will be funded in Horizon 2020). In order to improve reporting and auditing procedures, participants could emphasise that a coherent interpretation of rules between EC officers and auditors and the traceability of officers decisions is necessary and should be ensured.
Finally, the conclusion in the research is that the presence of multiple access points at EU level poses a challenge for Swiss stakeholders, for the European institutions are different in both their composition and informational needs. Having described the EU legislative procedure, it is concluded that there are windows for Swiss stakeholders to bring input to the discussions in Brussels. Thus, the hypothesis of the thesis, that Switzerland as a non-member of the EU cannot influence decisions at EU level, could be refuted. For Switzerland, both EC and European Parliament are relevant places to safeguard its interests and the case of RfP of Horizon 2020 studied suggests Switzerland succeeded in achieving this.
The RfP are of strategic importance for the concrete participation of Swiss researchers and institutions in Horizon 2020 and will influence the implementation of the programme. This study might add to the inspiration of Swiss and European stakeholders and operators alike.see complete report