The administrative burden on those applying for and managing research grants under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme has been reduced, according to a new report from the European Court of Auditors. Most of the simplification measures introduced by the European Commission have been effective, say the auditors, although there is still room for improvement.
Horizon 2020 provides funding to researchers, research institutes, universities, private companies and public bodies, either individually or in consortia as part of collaborative research projects. With a budget of €76.4 billion for the period from 2014 to 2020, it ranks as the world’s largest public research and innovation programme.
Simplification and cutting red tape is a central aim of Horizon 2020. The auditors assessed whether the European Commission’s simplification measures had reduced the administrative burden for beneficiaries. They found that most of the measures had been effective, although not all had produced the desired results, and that there was still room for improvement. Stability in the rules is also important, say the auditors, because beneficiaries can adapt to complexity, but frequent modifications cause confusion and uncertainty.
“The simplification of research and innovation funding has been on the EU’s agenda for many years,” said Alex Brenninkmeijer, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report. ”The process of obtaining a grant is now made more accessible for a larger population of researchers, but the Commission can still improve its support by making more effective the various interface tools, such as the helpdesk function and National Contact Points.”