Horizon Europe is the framework program established by the European Commission as a tool to finance research and innovation activities. Within this programme, we have the Grant Agreements; namely the contract signed between beneficiaries (single entities and/or project consortiums) and the Commission (the funding agency). When your proposal gets selected for funding within the EU Framework Programme (currently Horizon Europe replacing the former Horizon 2020) the successful companies are invited to prepare the Grant Agreement (GA). This contract includes the general terms and conditions concerning the action/grant as well as the rights and obligations of the parties involved. The Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement and its signature by all parties is a prerequisite for the project to start.
What does Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement include?
The new Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement includes 44 articles, as well as specific Annexes for the financial forms, a form for the commitment on availability of funds and a model for the statement on the use of the previous pre-financing instalment. It is split into the following chapters:
Chapter 1 – General.
An introductory chapter regarding the subject of the agreement and the major definitions.
Chapter 2 – Action.
Duration and starting dates
Chapter 3 – Grant.
Everything about the grant (form, maximum amounts, budget flexibility), as well as eligible and ineligible costs and contribution are included here.
Chapter 4 – Grant Implementation.
This chapter is split into three sections
Section 4.1 – Beneficiaries, affiliated entities and other participants. This sub-section is defining the actual consortiums, going into specific details if needed (e.g. participants with special status such as Non-EU ones or international organizations)
Section 4.2 – Rules to carry out the action. This covers topics from confidentiality and security, data protection, ethics and values to conflict of interests and intellectual property rights (IPR). It also include visibility (communication and dissemination and specific rules (if any)
Section 4.3 – Administration. This sub-section includes general information obligations and issues like reporting (reporting language, periodic reports, consequences of non-compliance etc.), guarantees, certificates, payments and recoveries, impact evaluations and checks, reviews and audits.
Chapter 5 – Consequences of Non-compliance.
This is a very important chapter that must be thoroughly studies by the beneficiaries. It consists of four sections.
Section 5.1 – Rejection and Grant reduction. A description of conditions, procedures and effects.
Section 5.2 – Suspension and Termination. On top of relevant conditions and procedures, this sub-section also includes the processes for Grant Agreement suspension and/or termination initiated either from EU or from the beneficiaries.
Section 5.3 – Other consequences. These could be damages (liability of the granting authority or the beneficiaries) or administrative sanctions and other MEASURES
Section 5.4 – Force Majeure.
Chapter 6 – Final Provisions.
These includes articles about the communication between the parties, period/deadline calculations, potential amendments, applicable law and dispute settlements and transfer of the agreement among others. The final article (no. 44) is the Entry into force (on the day of signature by the granting authority or the coordinator).
To help users understand and interpret the Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement and provide answers to common issues and questions, the European Commission also published in November 2021 the so-called Annotated Model Grant Agreement (AGA), which explains the details of the General MGA (Model Grant Agreement). It has more than 180 pages and it is continuously updated with new examples and explanations.
The main differences of the Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement vs. the Horizon 2020 one
The new EU Research & Innovation Programme, Horizon Europe, has just started and the Grant Agreement remains compulsory and indispensable. The good news is that it was elaborated with a relatively more user-friendly structure and readability, possibly resulting to a single Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement that would facilitate the synergies between all managed funding programmes.
Below we have summarized the major changes of the new Horizon Europe MGA compared to the former Horizon 2020 one:
- User friendly & Consistency: now there is only a single Model Grant Agreement that uses a common corpus of rules, while in Horizon 2020 there was the General Model Grant Agreement (General MGA) was provided for Research and Innovation Actions (RIA), Innovation Actions (IA), and Coordination and Support Actions (CSA), while Specific Model Grant Agreements (Specific MGAs) were adopted for specific programmes, such as the ERC, MSCA and SME Instrument. The articles have been reduced from 58 to 44 and their format is more straightforward and easy to interpret; the use of the same terminology across programmes ensures a consistent interpretation of rules.
- Accuracy: a new Data Sheet summarises the project’s key information, covering not only general data such as a summary of the project, the start and end date, the acronym, and the participants list, but also includes its financial data, reporting and payments scheduling and consequences of non-compliance. To further ease the interpretation of the GA, a new article dedicated to definitions was added.
- Simplified financial provisions: personnel costs are based on a single calculation formula, using a common factor of 215 working days per year. This is one of the biggest changes in the programme, which we have further analysed in our previous article "How to calculate Horizon Europe personnel costs". Timesheets can now be replaced with monthly declarations, while there is the possibility to accept actual indirect costs for internally invoiced goods and services (produced or provided within the beneficiary’s organisation directly for the action). At the same time, only one Certificate on Financial Statement (CFS) is needed, at payment of the balance, if the beneficiary/linked third party requests a total financial contribution of at least EUR 430 000.
Note: The EC stressed that organisations can continue to record personnel effort using their existing processes and that the daily rate will only be required to report personnel costs to the EC.
- Streamlined audit process: the Systems and Process Audit (SPA) aims to detect emerging risks of irregularity early on and relies on the internal control system of the beneficiaries; SPAs will be conducted on selected beneficiaries, with further consultation with beneficiaries, member states and with the Central Services of the Commission.
- Exploitation & Open Science: a communication and dissemination plan is now mandatory during the first six months of the projects and there is no option for opting out of Research Data Management. Making use of R&I results through third party exploitation is highly encouraged. After the first year of the project, and if no exploitation takes place, beneficiaries must use the Horizon Results Platform to make their exploitable results visible. Moreover, the beneficiaries must ensure open access to peer-reviewed scientific publications at the latest at the time of publication and in terms of publication fees only those for full open access venues for peer-reviewed scientific publications are considered as eligible costs. Publications should be deposited in the newly launched open access publishing platform under the Creative Commons Attribution International Public Licence or a licence with equivalent rights.
- International cooperation: there is a wider openness for association with non-European countries not geographically with good capacity in science, technology and innovation, and there is the overall intention to access the world’s best talents, expertise and resources.
- Highlighted EU values: respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights, including the rights of minorities is now a required commitment from all beneficiaries. The promotion of equal opportunities between men and women remains a priority.