The Lump Sum Pilot – virtue or curse?

European Commission building in Brussels

A new development in the European framework programs for research and innovation is catching attention: the lump sum pilot. First implementations are in progress already in Horizon 2020 and intensified for the next framework program Horizon Europe. What does it mean for the research community and which changes do we expect?

The lump sum pilot as planned by the European Commission (EC) has the intention to significantly facilitate the administrative efforts while conducting an EU project. The EC wants researchers to focus on the scientific implementation and to spend less time for audits, time sheets or recordings about machine hours or depreciation costs. You got it right – the duties of cost reporting are lapsed in lump sum pilot projects. Sounds like heaven for the brilliant scientist who abhors the boring administrative obligations. What is the catch?

“Postponed” is not abandoned

Of course, the EC is eager to know, how the research money is spent and they want to make sure that each Euro is well invested. A legitimate approach from the tax payers point of view! The difference to the actual cost model is that the evaluation of the financing plan is happening much earlier. You do not justify your actual costs during project life time anymore but you have to justify your financing plan for the work plan appropriately before you even get the grant. You might foresee – this requires an intense planning effort. An additional xls-template needs to be uploaded to the participant portal that demonstrates the detailed budget for the whole consortium.

Money for results

In lump sum pilot projects, payments are dependent on performance. For every closed work package in a reporting period you get the parts of interim payments. Thus, applicants are advised to plan smaller work packages and to design them in a way that enables to clearly identify whether the action has been completed. This is also true for the management and dissemination/exploitation work packages. Another challenge of the performance-dependent payment regulation might be the consortium. If one partner in a work package team does not deliver in time, there will be no payment for the whole work package in this reporting period. All for one and one for all, as Bryan Adams would sing.

No “legislate in haste and repent a leisure”!

Therefore, the planning of milestones becomes more important regarding go- or no-go decisions. Efficient risk management is going to get key and the demand for additional paragraphs in the consortium agreement is huge. According to our national contact point, FFG, the experts are already working on adaptations in the DESCA model agreement.

But hey – although this might sound somehow threatening: the conclusion is that the lump sum pilot demands for a more intensive planning; something that is anyway a good idea when starting a project with big consortia. Even if this time and personnel effort is not covered by the grant (and this might be even more challenging for several organisations), you will hold a well planned project in hands at the end. And if you get the grant, you can focus on what you are best at: scientific brilliance.

Picture credits: Pixabay