EU gives boost to innovation funding

New measures will make it easier for researchers to get grants

The European Commission has vowed to make the application process for technological innovation funding easier and more efficient.

On Monday, Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn announced new measures aimed at reducing the paperwork required to take advantage of European research grants under the Seventh Framework Programme, or FP7. The goal of the measures is to reduce red tape and encourage more small and medium-size companies as well as high-tech startups to take advantage of innovation funding.

FP7 has funded almost 8,000 projects out of more than 40,000 applications since 2007. Nearly all European universities participate and about 15 percent of the participants are SMEs. The budget for FP7 is more than €50 billion (US$68 billion) for the period 2007 to 2013.

Three concrete changes were announced on Monday. More flexibility was allowed for how personnel costs are calculated so that grant holders can use their usual accounting methods when requesting reimbursement, rather than having to set up an entire second accounting system just for FP7.

In addition, SME owners whose salaries are not formally registered can now be reimbursed on an hourly rate for their work on research projects. This will vary from about €24 for early stage researchers to approximately €55 for very experienced researchers.

Finally, a new steering group will be set up to coordinate the various Commission departments involved in research funding. These include Research and Innovation, Information Society and Media, Enterprise and Industry, and the Research Executive Agency, among others.

In most cases the Commission will allow participants in ongoing projects to benefit immediately from these changes. "A pre-requisite for delivering the best results is that research programs are highly attractive and accessible to researchers, European industry and entrepreneurs, universities and other research and innovation actors. This requires clarity of objectives and instruments, consistency and stability of rules, and lightness and speed of administrative procedures," explained the Commission.

The new measures must be approved by the European Council and the European Parliament.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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