Review of MSCA unit costs in preparation of Horizon Europe

The objective of this study was to carry out a review of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) unit costs system in line with the Commission’s 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 explored 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 of a researcher), special needs of researchers/staff members with a disability, and costs related to research dissemination and outreach or public awareness events (such as the European Researchers’ Night).

The methodology for this study included the following key methods:

  • Large-scale survey/structured interview programme with the MSCA researchers and organisations (3,913 responses in total).
  • Expert interview programme (32 interviews) with the key stakeholders, National Contact Points (NCPs) and disability experts.
  • Desk/market research to establish real prices of various cost items incurred by MSCA researchers and organisations.
  • Analysis of monitoring data from the European Commission's CORDA and Compass databases.

The key outcome of this study was an integrated and complete proposal for the MSCA funding system in 2021-2027, covering all types of actions. While the study recommended many adjustments for the current system, the key highlight was a suggestion to significantly increase the family allowance. The study found that researchers, who are parents, face the strongest obstacles to mobility. In addition to this, the study also recommended introducing a simplified funding system based on lump sums for the European Researchers' Night, and creating new funding arrangements for the disabled researchers and for the researchers going on maternity, paternity, sickness or special leave, while on MSCA mobility.

The study team took a very thoughtful approach towards developing recommendations. For all the proposed recommendations, the study offered several options, discussed their pros and cons, and suggests the preferred option. For some of the options, the study also suggested ranges of possible changes in certain unit cost rates for further consideration by the Commission in light of the emerging clarity about the size of the future budget allocated for Horizon Europe and the MSCA, as well as in light of any changes in policy priorities.

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