Review of MSCA unit costs in preparation of Horizon Europe

The European Commission is preparing for the launch of the largest research & innovation programme ever, Horizon Europe, a part of which – the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) – will continue supporting career development and training of researchers in all disciplines, based on trans-national, cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary mobility. Based on the Commission’s proposal (yet to be adopted by the EP and the Council), the MSCA will also have the most ambitious budget yet – a total of EUR 6.8 billion for the period 2021-2027.

In order to offer attractive working conditions for researchers from all over the world and reduce the red tape related to using reimbursement on the basis of real costs, the system of MCSA unit costs was established since 2014 and used during the whole period of Horizon 2020. Looking forward to Horizon Europe, the Commission wishes to ensure that the MSCA continue to support:

  • Excellent researchers with competitive salaries and attractive working conditions, and;
  • Host organisations with appropriate research, training and networking costs, management and indirect costs.

In the interests of non-discrimination and equal opportunities, the Commission intends to adapt the system to make it fairer and more inclusive, notably in case a change in the personal situation of the researcher/staff member occurs. The increased budget under Horizon Europe will enable the MSCA to improve further the conditions for funding and participation. In concrete terms, this will allow, above other things, keeping the grants competitive and attractive and enabling a better combination between family and work life through more flexible working and employment conditions.

The objective of this study is to carry out a review of the MSCA unit cost system in line with the above-mentioned Commission policy priorities and Horizon Europe proposal, and to determine the future eligible researcher and institutional unit costs for each Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action. In addition, the study also explores new possibilities for calculating and covering new types of costs, such as those linked to changes in the personal situation of a researcher during the lifetime of the grant (e.g. additional costs for the employer in case of maternity, parental or sick leave), special needs of researchers/staff members with a disability, and costs related to research dissemination as well as outreach or public awareness events (such as the European Researchers’ Night).

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