By Claire West

The European Commission has adopted measures to make participation in the EU's current Seventh Framework Programme for Research more attractive and more accessible to the best researchers and most innovative companies, especially Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs).

Based on the simplification plan unveiled by the Commission in April 2010, these measures will take effect at once.

Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: "Today's measures will allow the many thousands of excellent people we fund to save time and effort on paperwork and concentrate on what they do best - working to boost growth and jobs and improve our quality of life in Europe through world class research and innovation. We want to attract even more and better applicants, including dynamic small businesses which can't cope with reams of red tape.

This is only the start: the Commission has already proposed big changes to the overall financial rules governing all EU funding programmes, and if the Parliament and Council agree with those, we will put forward more radical simplification measures for the successor programme to FP7."

Three concrete measures

The Commission adopted three concrete measures with immediate effect on the management of EU research grants in the current EU research programme (FP7). Each of these steps responds to concerns repeatedly expressed by participants and would-be participants in FP7:

- Allowing more flexibility in how personnel costs are calculated so that EU research grant-holders can apply their usual accounting methods when requesting reimbursement for average personnel costs. They will no longer need to set up entire parallel accounting systems just for this purpose;

- SME owners whose salaries are not formally registered in their accounts can now be reimbursed, through flat-rate payments, for their contribution to work on research projects.

- A new steering group of senior officials from all the Commission departments and agencies involved will remove inconsistencies in the application of the rules on research funding.

Next steps

The Commission considers simplification as one of the basic design principles for the next EU research and innovation programme, and it will continue to push for substantive improvement. The Commission will present its legislative proposals for the next EU research and innovation programme by the end of this year, following an open consultation to be launched in the early spring.