The European Commission has a COVID-19 FAQ page on the Funding and Tenders portal which they are updating with new questions as these arise. Where collaborative projects are affected by COVID-19 containment measures beneficiaries should discuss issues with their project coordinator who should in turn contact the EC project officer. For ERC projects and for MSCA Individual Fellowships where COVID-19 is having an impact on the implementation of projects, PIs should contact their project officers through the communications tab on their project’s page on the Funding and Tenders portal. Please ensure that the Research Services European & International team is aware of any communications with project officers by emailing email@example.com. Projects are advised to keep full and clear records of the impact of COVID-19. These will be required in due course if projects need to rely on the force majeure condition in the grant agreement to explain either additional costs or changes to the implementation plan. It is also worth noting that the staff of the Commission Services and Agencies are working remotely and that, due to this non-standard way of working, their response time may be longer than normal.
EC guidance is that where staff cannot work (and cannot telework) on grants due to national or regional COVID-19 lockdown, time lost can be included in calculations of eligible time claimed on EC grants. Their expectation is that only the difference between salary costs and any furlough claimed would be met from the grant.
However, while there are different methods available to EC grant beneficiaries to claim staff costs, COVID-19 lockdown time can only be claimed using one of these and Oxford (in common with most UK universities) cannot use this method for staff time (we are precluded from doing so by the conditions attached to it). Stakeholder groups are lobbying the Commission to extend their provisions for claiming staff time lost to COVID-19 lockdown. In the meantime departments and faculties should be aware that, unless the Commission’s provisions change, they will need to be prepared to carry the cost of the difference between full salary and furlough for any staff furloughed on EC funded projects.
For more information please contact the Research Services European & International Team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
European Research Council
The ERC does not envisage any delays with ongoing evaluation timelines. Normal processes are continuing with panel meetings (and interviews where relevant) taking place remotely. More information is available on the ERC website (last updated 2 July).
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions
Information relating to the impact of the coronavirus on MSCA fellows is maintained on the Coronavirus: information for the MSCA Community page. The Research Executive Agency (REA) will adopt a flexible approach towards projects that fail to meet grant agreement obligations due to the COVID-19 containment measures, and may apply the rules on force majeure, or agree nil-cost extensions for projects. Projects will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and fellows should speak to their REA project officer and to the Research Services European & International team (email@example.com) if they require support.
The Commission has released a statement explaining that it will apply maximum flexibility in the implementation of the programme, within the limits of the applicable legal framework. To deal with participants being unable to travel, or return home, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Erasmus+ National Agencies are now permitted to invoke force majeure clauses whereby they may accept additional costs up to a maximum grant amount. Planned activities may also be postponed by up to 12 months per project. Following the Commission's statement, the UK National Agency has published dedicated travel advice for regions affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Furthermore, the UK government has issued its own advice for UK education providers regarding staff and student overseas travel and project participants are advised to speak to their providers about arrangements. Participants under 18 are advised against all overseas education trips, while those over 18 who are due to travel should consult their education institutions on whether the travel should continue as planned. For any UK participants already overseas, they should continue to monitor the latest FCO travel advice and comply with any COVID-19 control measures put in place in their current host nation.
The Commission has released a statement saying that it understands that containment measures may have consequences for Creative Europe projects, and are adopting a position of maximum flexibility in implementing the programme, while still working within the applicable legal framework. They are also in close communication with the national Creative Europe desks.
The COST Association has recommended that, from 13 March 2020 to 3 April 2020 (minimum), all physical meetings, training schools and short-term scientific missions be suspended or cancelled. They encourage participants to explore video conferencing and remote networking tools as an alternative. Any participants currently attending COST events should follow the instructions of the host country and host institution.