NEF versus FORCE

NEF, FORCE - two tools with very similar applications. The finance help desk recently published a comparison of these tools in their newsletter.

Both of these tools are accessed through the Participant Portal. NEF stands for "Negotiation Facility" (however, in fact, it covers Negotiation, Amendments and Periodic Reports). FORCE stands for "Form C editor" and is used for Periodic Reports.

It depends on which unit your project is with as to which tool is used to produce your Financial Reports. From the user's point of view, this choice is academic, as the correct tool will appear automatically from the project link in your participant's portal.

Here a summary of the NEF and FORCE usage:

- Negotiations: NEF is for all FP7 projects used to generate the Grant Preparation Form (GPF) and to access the legal information of partners involved in negotiated proposals such as contact persons, budget, bank account, and Description of Work
- Amendments: NEF is for all FP7 projects used to collect the information required to implement an amendment (mainly to implement budget restructuring)
- Periodic reporting: NEF is used to collect periodic reports such as cost declarations for a financial period in projects administered by DG INFSO, DG MOOV, and DG ENER. DG RTD uses FORCE for Periodic Reporting.

Please note that Firefox 3.x is not supported for both tools.

Commission to cut research funding red tape

The European Commission has set out its plans to simplify the procedures for taking part in EU-funded research projects. The Commission hopes that cutting red tape in this way will entice the very best researchers to get involved in the framework programmes. In the following, parts of the EC press release are quoted. Read the full release here.

'I want researchers to spend more time in the lab and less time in the office,' stated Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, the EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science. 'Our proposals aim to minimise administrative burdens in Europe's research programmes. We need to get the best researchers and most innovative companies taking part and we need to enable them to concentrate on results, not red tape.'

The simplification strategy, outlined in a Communication from the Commission, is split into three parts. The first part concerns changes that can be made under the current legal and regulatory framework. For example, better user support reduces the time taken to award grants and make payments.

The Commission has also committed to ensuring that rules are applied consistently and that calls for proposals and deadlines are timed to take into account major holiday periods. Finally, the Commission plans to investigate the use of prizes, noting that these are administratively simple to run and encourage other investors to spend money on research to win the prize. The Commission will run a pilot action for prizes under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

The second strand of the simplification plan is devoted to more radical changes to the current financial rules. Both the European Parliament and Council must give the green light in order for these changes to take place. Ideas put forward here include a wider use of 'average cost methodologies', which would free projects from accounting separately for each small item of expenditure.

Recording personnel time for accounting purposes is cited as a problem by many grant beneficiaries; the Commission suggests paying a lump sum for personnel based on an agreement of the personnel costs during grant negotiations. The Commission also proposes allowing projects to use the same accounting methods for EU projects as they do for national research schemes.

The third and final part of the Communication concerns changes which could be implemented under future framework programmes. Here the Commission plans to explore options which would work on a 'payment by results' principle. 'The Court of Auditors itself has asked whether instead of the current system of 'payment by input', we could move towards 'payment by output',' explained Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn. 'Agreed objectives would be set in return for funding. Payment of full amounts would be linked to whether those objectives are achieved.'

Mrs Geoghegan-Quinn emphasised that simplification could be achieved without compromising on financial control. 'I am a former member of the Court of Auditors,' she pointed out. 'I can tell you that multiplying different and overlapping procedures equals confusion. Clear and simple rules, consistently applied, equal good financial control.'

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