On Monday, 5 July 2010 Mr Benoît Cerexhe, the Brussels Minister for the Economy and Employment, in his capacity as President of the Competitiveness Council of the EU - Research Section, received the representatives of the ‘Trust Researchers' petition, led by Dr Sabine Herlitschka (Austria). The ‘Trust Researchers' representatives delivered to the President of the Competitiveness Council - Research Section a petition of over 13 500 signatures calling for the European authorities to implement as quickly as possible the administrative simplification programme for researchers throughout Europe.
In fact, everyone now agrees that the European programmes and the rules for participating in them have reached a degree of complexity that is at odds with their original objectives. There are many different procedures, the checks are too numerous and the waiting periods before agreements are made and funding can be received are too long. This ends up discouraging both researchers and businesses.
Perfectly aware of this problem, the Minister, Benoît Cerexhe, reminded the representatives that this simplification work was vital at all decision-making levels, including for the Regions, since the Regions are often the level closest to operators, particularly SMEs, research centres and universities.
In the name of the Belgian Presidency, Benoît Cerexhe informed the ‘Trust Researchers' representatives that he had agreed to make the ‘Simplification of the EU's research and innovation programmes' a focus for the Belgian Presidency. ‘Researchers need to rack their brains, not sift through papers', explained the President of the Competitiveness Council - Research Section. Simplification will also be one of the two priorities on the agenda of the informal ‘Research' Council to be held on 15 and 16 July 2010 in Brussels.
The Belgian Presidency wishes to present new conclusions containing advances with regard to simplification to the Council that will take place on 12 October. In Benoît Cerexhe's view, ‘the issue is the confidence that ought to be placed in researchers and finding the right balance between that confidence and the monitoring of the use of public funds. One of the avenues that we want to explore is moving away from the current approach, based on costs, to an approach based on results, while remaining aware that research always contains a certain proportion of risks and uncertainties'.
Consequently, the Belgian Presidency will ask the questions:
• about the awarding of fixed amounts instead of a detailed breakdown of expenses;
• about the levels of permitted error risk for the research sphere, since the costs of inspections may be greater than the amounts recovered in respect of errors identified during inspections.
Contact: Kathrine Jacobs +32 (0)2 508 79 17