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Getting ready for the next EU innovation framework programme, discussions on researchers’ remuneration
Getting ready for the next EU innovation framework programme, discussions on researchers’ remuneration
12 April 2018
Modified: 27 June 2019
Reading time: 5 minute(s)
For the researcher community working in Hungarian public institutions, it is a key issue to be able to offer competitive salaries to Hungarian researchers from the Horizon 2020 funds won directly from Brussels in an EU-wide competition. It is however difficult because, according to the Horizon 2020 financial regulations, assignment contracts ensuring the competitiveness of researchers’ salaries are not automatically eligible for funding.

That is why the National Research, Development and Innovation Office (NRDI Office) initiated discussions with the European Commission on the experience resulting from the latest amendments in the regulatory framework (i.e. the Annotated Grant Agreement) introduced last year and urges funding rules to become more favourable for the Hungarian researcher community in the new innovation framework programme beyond 2020. 

The consultation process continued on 12 April in Budapest, at an information forum where researchers were provided detailed information of current provisions.

In his presentation delivered at the event focusing on the reimbursement rules of Horizon 2020 József Pálinkás, President of the NRDI Office pointed out: “Hungary agrees with EU efforts to have transparent and coherent funding rules, however it is of great importance to narrow the gap between researchers’ remuneration in the old Member States and the EU13”. He also added: “New Member States significantly lag behind in terms of their share of the budget in joint EU innovation projects, but that is partly reasoned by the significant difference in researcher remuneration paid by the consortium members coming from the new and old Member States.” At bilateral talks with Anna Panagopoulou, Director of the Common Support Service at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Research and Innovation visiting Hungary, József Pálinkás discussed the practical experience of the simplification measures introduced last February on the reimbursement rules of salaries in Horizon 2020 as well as Hungarian proposals about the next framework programme. 

The National Research, Development and Innovation Office acted from the beginning as an active participant initiating the amendment of the reimbursement rules of researchers’ salaries in Horizon 2020. These reimbursement rules hit mainly researchers coming from Member States that have joined the EU since 2004 – the so-called EU13 – who tend to receive less funding anyway. Pursuant to the original regulation for Horizon 2020, project budgets primarily included the base salary of researchers, who in addition to their base salaries were eligible only for a small amount of supplementary payment for their participation in H2020 projects. This resulted in a serious tension in terms of salaries between West-European researchers with higher base salaries and Central and East-European researchers paid as public employees, because in these countries, including Hungary, financial compensation for researchers’ additional performance is usually granted from project budgets in practice. 

The NRDI Office in cooperation with the concerned EU13 Member States has been urging the European Commission to find a solution, as a result of which new rules were introduced, which in theory have opened up the way for the broader applicability of project-based salary supplements, however, several questions remain unanswered as for the compliance of Hungarian legislation and institutional practice with the rules pertaining to the framework programme. Therefore, the NRDI Office initiated bilateral consultations with the European Commission in the autumn of 2017 in order to clarify questions which cannot be resolved on the basis of the financial guidance document. The outcome of this consultation – i.e. correspondence concerning the eligibility of the Hungarian researchers’ remuneration consisting of multiple components, the eligibility of these components and eligibility criteria – was published by the NRDI Office on its website.

The Hungarian position elaborated by the NRDI Office on the 9th EU Research and Innovation Framework Programme (FP9) to be launched as of 2021 calls for reducing the salary gap between the EU15 and EU13 countries and thereby reducing brain drain. According to the Hungarian position a solution at European level could be found in the coming period by introducing a H2020 minimum hourly rate acknowledging the prestige of the work done in the framework programme, which also takes into account the price level differences in Member States, can be optionally applied and adjusted according to researcher categories, and which is determined independently from the hourly base rate fixed by the Hungarian public service salary table and the project bonus hourly rate which is, according to the current regulations, very difficult to regulate generally. Hungary, as the president of the V4, wishes to initiate a constructive proposal for a solution which in the preparatory phase of the FP9 could also enjoy the support of the Visegrád countries and the other EU13 Member States hit by the current situation.  

At the event of 12 April 2018 organised jointly by the NRDI Office and the DG RTD participants received direct information from the experts of the European Commission on financial rules regarding projects supported under the Horizon 2020 programme. The NRDI Office by publishing information on its website and providing consultation opportunities with the National Contact Points also provides assistance for domestic applicants on how to comply with rules of financial accounting.

Presentation by Vincent Canart and Gheorghe Bancos can be downloaded here: Model Grant Agreement - Financial issues PDF (5 896 KB)

Budapest, 12 April 2018

Updated: 27 June 2019
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