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FAQ on opportunities in Horizon 2020 for US researchers and organisations

May 11, 2016

It might sound surprising to many readers, but the European Commission does encourage participation of US researchers and organisations in research and innovation projects funded under selected sub-pillars of Horizon 2020.

Until now, 62 Horizon 2020 projects have involved US organisations or researchers on a wide range of topics: nine in Excellent Science, including four ERC funded projects; 12 in the pillar of Industrial Leadership, 39 in the Societal Challenges pillar; one in Science with and for Society, and one under Euratom.

Whether you are a European organisation willing to involve a US institution, or conversely a US organisation wishing to be part of the European research and innovation landscape, the following set of advice might be useful for you.

How can US organisations and researchers participate in Horizon 2020?

If you are an individual researcher, you are eligible to apply:

1. For individual grants under the European Research Council

These allow excellent researchers in different stages of their career to carry out a frontier research project at the premises of a European research institution. Two features of this type of grants make them particularly attractive to US researchers. Firstly, additional funding is available for researchers coming from outside Europe to cover start up costs. Secondly, researchers are required to spend only a minimum of 50% of their work time on the project and in an EU Member State or Associated Country, while they can spend the other half of their time in the United States. It is advisable to contact early the selected European host institution, which may provide assistance and guidelines in the preparation of the proposal, to make it fitting to the ERC standards.

 2. For European Fellowships under Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions

These fellowships offer US researchers funding for conducting a PhD within European host organisations for up to two years, and include monthly living, mobility and family allowances for the researcher. Researchers should write the proposal in consultation with their supervisor at the host institution, and the supervisor will formally submit the application. Please note that US researchers on sabbatical are not eligible, and it is also not possible to obtain double funding for the activities carried out in the frame of the funded action.

 3. As member of an Advisory Board in a collaborative project

Research and innovation projects at times foresee an “Advisory Board” that comprises known experts in specific disciplines. These experts participate in the project on an individual basis; they are not required to sign the Grant Agreement and may receive a monetary compensation for the activities they carry out – typically providing advice on strategic direction to the project or reviewing selected outputs.

4. As Expert for the European Commission

Excellent researchers who are expert in their scientific field may register on the Participant Portal to assist the European Commission in evaluating proposals, monitoring actions, and drafting upcoming Horizon 2020 policies and work programmes. Such experts may be nationals of any country, although European citizens are the majority. If you are an organisation, you are eligible to apply:

  • As a host institution for European researchers under ERC grants

A US-based research institution may host researchers who are part of an ERC-funded project and be financially supported to do this if the activity is essential for the project.

  • As a host institution for Global Fellowships under Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions

US research organisations may host European postdoctoral or more senior European researchers for one or two years. US institutions do not have to write a proposal, nor sign a grant agreement: they need to submit a letter of commitment at proposal stage, providing a description of the research and training they will provide to European researchers.

US institutions will not sign the Grant Agreement, nor receive funding from the European Commission. However, European partners may cover the costs of delivering training in the US institution.

  • As a full partner in collaborative projects

US organisations may participate – on a self-funded basis, in exchanges with European organisations within the framework of Research and Innovation Staff Exchanges, in MSCA grants.

For the sub-pillars of Future and Emerging Technologies, Leadership in Enabling and Innovative Technologies, and for all Societal Challenges, US organisations are always eligible to participate on a self-funded basis. They may receive funding from the Commission by requesting it at the proposal stage, and only if evaluators find their participation as essential to the success of the project. In order to be successful, they must demonstrate that a) the project would not meet its objectives without their contribution and b) there is no European researcher able to make the same kind of scientific and innovative contribution – for example, because he/she has unique expertise or access to unique research infrastructure.

On rare occasions, the Work Programmes foresee particular topics in which US organisations are explicitly eligible for funding.

One bilateral agreement between the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the European Commission provides for automatic eligibility for funding to US legal entities for all topics under the Societal Challenge “Health, Demographic Change and Well-Being”.

Do US organisations have to sign the Grant Agreement?

Not necessarily, it will depend on the specific grant.

Whenever US legal entities are obliged to sign the Grant Agreement, it is advisable to include:

  • Article 9, which exempts entities not receiving EU financial contribution from the requirements to submit financial reports, certificates on financial statements (CFS) and financial audits;
  • Article 57.2, in order to exempt the US partner not receiving EU support from the jurisdiction of the General Court or the Court of Justice of the EU.

Can I recover currency losses?

Since the European Commission’s payments are made exclusively in Euros, US legal entities may incur losses (or gains!) when changing currency. These losses, however, are not eligible costs.

How can I find an appropriate call for proposal where US organisations and researchers can be involved?

On the Participant Portal, under “Funding Opportunities”, and by selecting on the left menu “Search Topics”, it is possible to insert “United States” or “United States of America” as a keyword to have the list of open, forthcoming or closed calls for proposals under Horizon 2020 or other EU programmes that foresee the participation of US legal entities.

Moreover, on the same website, again by clicking on “Search Topics”, on the bottom left it is possible to further filter calls in which “International Cooperation” with Third Countries is encouraged.

Where can I find more information?

Europa Media is a partner in BILAT USA 4.0, an EU-funded project aiming at strengthening transatlantic cooperation on research and innovation. Amongst other activities, the project provides guidelines and support to involve US researchers and organisations in Horizon 2020 projects. As an example, check this informative Guide for US researchers.

By: Valentina Zuri

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