Regulations of the Research Foundation – Flanders governing the participation in and/or funding of international research infrastructure
Chapter 1. Preliminary provisions and scope of application
Pursuant to Article 18 of the Decree of 30 April 2009 on the organisation and financing of science and innovation policy and the decision of the Flemish Government of 19 January 2018 regulating the Flemish participation in and/or funding of international research infrastructure, the Flemish Government grants the Research Foundation - Flanders a subsidy for the purpose of supporting investments in international research infrastructure.
§1. These regulations govern the eligibility of applications, agreements, implementation, amendment and extension, selection, funding, and reporting on the participation in and/or funding of international research infrastructure.
§2. The internal and external peer review for selection of the applications is governed by the internal and external peer review regulations of the Research Foundation - Flanders.
§3. These regulations are without prejudice to the general regulations of the Research Foundation - Flanders.
§4. Any situation not provided for in these regulations or in the relevant regulatory framework (decrees, decisions) shall be governed by the other regulations and the jurisprudence of the Research Foundation - Flanders.
§5. Detailed information, full regulations, and forms are available online.
Art. 3. Research Infrastructure
Research infrastructure comprises all facilities and sources that promote the performance of frontier and strategic basic research across all scientific disciplines. Besides scientific infrastructure, this includes collections, natural habitats, corpora and databases (including digital opening up). They may be single-sited, distributed, or virtual.
Art. 4. Purpose of the programme
§1. The programme governing the participation in and/or funding of international research infrastructure aims to support the Flemish participation in and/or funding of international investment initiatives that are carried out at large-scale international or supranational facilities to which the Flemish Government contributes and/or whose strategic importance for Flanders can be demonstrated.
Such support may pertain to:
- the decision for Flanders to participate in the international research infrastructure;
- payment of the membership fee for participation;
- funding of the activities or investments associated with the participation.
§2. The subsidy is used for the participation in and funding of research infrastructure and for the institutional, operational and logistic costs of participating Flemish research groups.
§3. Expenditure for performance of the actual research cannot be budgeted under the international research infrastructure programme, but funding can be applied for through other financing channels.
Chapter 2. Eligibility of applications
§1. As part of the call for participation in and/or funding of international research infrastructure, applications can be submitted by a research group or research groups of a Flemish scientific institution, a Flemish university, a strategic research centre, an institution for post-initial education, the Flanders Marine Institute, the RZSA-CRC, the Botanic Garden Meise, or a Flemish museum with a research mission, a partnership between the above-mentioned bodies, or a partnership between at least one of the above-mentioned bodies and one or more third parties.
§2. Third parties cannot receive subsidies. "Third parties" is defined broadly and not limited to Flanders-based companies or research centres. Federal scientific institutions are considered third parties. Public entities that depend on, or were set up by, or are (partially) funded by the Flemish government, other Belgian authorities, foreign authorities and international or supranational organisations, may act as third parties. Foreign organisations (public and private education and/or research institutions, companies, etc.) may participate in infrastructure investment initiatives for international research infrastructures. From a legal viewpoint, they will be treated as third parties.
Third parties cannot receive any form of subsidies, directly or indirectly. They can make a real, financially assessable contribution to the project.
This means that (1) in return for their financially assessable contribution they acquire only a limited right to use or access the research infrastructure and (2) they can never be the beneficiary of subsidies, so that these subsidies can never be passed on to them or to a legal entity in which they participate alongside parties entitled to subsidies.
From the foregoing it follows that:
- third parties may at any time participate in the co-funding of international research infrastructure;
- third parties may participate in the joint construction of international research infrastructure, and
- researchers of third parties may be invited to work on or with the subsidised research infrastructure.
§1. Research groups are required to prove in the grant application that they have been mandated by the board of directors of the relevant body or bodies.
§2. If applicants already receive funding from other sources than the Research Foundation - Flanders, the grant application should prove the complementarity of the requested funds in order to avoid double funding.
§1. If a proposal is submitted by research groups from several of the bodies, the applicants will designate one supervisor who will act as spokesperson for the application. This supervisor is referred to as the supervisor-spokesperson. If subsidies are awarded, this person will act as the budget holder.
§2. If the supervisor-spokesperson is granted emeritus status or retires within three years of the application being granted, another person associated with the same institution shall act as co-supervisor alongside the supervisor-spokesperson. When the first reaches emeritus status or retires, the second will take over responsibility for the infrastructure as the new supervisor-spokesperson.
§3. Each research group participating in the application other than that to which the supervisor-spokesperson belongs, shall appoint at least one co-supervisor. These co-supervisors are not budget holders. They must make a real, financially assessable contribution to the application through their research group or institution.
§4. If third parties are involved in the submission of a proposal, each of them shall appoint a person who will be responsible for the application within their respective organisation. Third parties are not considered applicants.
§5. All correspondence with the Research Foundation - Flanders goes through the supervisor-spokesperson. The co-supervisors are informed by the supervisor-spokesperson.
§1. As a rule, calls for international research infrastructure are organised every two years. If an applicant has already received funding under a call, that same applicant or the consortium to which the applicant belongs, cannot submit a new application for the same infrastructure (investments and recurrent costs) under the next new call, unless, due to exceptional circumstances, the investment initiative or the consortium composition has changed substantially during the term of the funding.
§2. Grant applications are to be submitted in English, via the host institution of the supervisor, using online forms.
§3. The forms must be submitted no later than the submission date and time stated in the call.
§4. Applicants that have not yet received ESFRI (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures) or Big Science funding, are required to participate in an intake interview prior to the submission deadline. For the other applicants this intake interview is optional.
Chapter 3. Selection
Article 9 of the decision regulating the Flemish participation in and/or funding of international research infrastructures stipulates that the decisions of the Board of Trustees of the FWO shall be based on the advice of experts who shall evaluate the scientific merit of the applications and, for applications that are rated 'excellent' or 'very good', examine whether the investment plans presented are realistic, feasible and of strategic importance for the Flemish Region or the Flemish Community.
Pursuant to the provisions of this decision, two expert commissions are set up: the Science and Strategy Commissions, which are defined in the regulations for internal and external peer reviews of the Research Foundation - Flanders.
Chapter 4. Funding percentage
§1. The subsidy for selected proposals for international research infrastructure amounts to 80% of the eligible costs.
§2. The subsidy is raised to 90% if the investment initiative originates from one or more research groups with more than one applicant, and if the application file proves that all applicants bear at least half of the amount that they would have to pay if the remaining 10% of the eligible costs were divided proportionally, so as to demonstrate the effective contribution and commitment.
§3. The operational plan shows which costs will be covered in-kind as a financially assessable contribution, via co-funding or via income. The operational plan provides clarity about the annually expected costs and how they will be financed, via one-off or recurrent costs, throughout the term of the project.
§4. If the consortium is able to prove in the operational plan that, due to the nature of the infrastructure, no co-funding is possible and the conditions referred to in article 10(2) are fulfilled, the subsidy percentage may be raised to 100% provided the participation, support and commitment of the relevant bodies is demonstrated. Infrastructures are very diverse in nature and co-funding options vary widely. In these exceptional cases, this aspect can be taken into account in the financing.
Chapter 5. Parties, duration and modalities of the agreement
§1. The subsidies awarded by the FWO are set out in detail in an agreement.
§2. The subsidised research infrastructure is contractually managed by a demonstrable host institution that has a right in rem or special right to the infrastructure under the agreement and also the responsibility for the optimal use of the infrastructure and the management of the associated costs.
In the case of international research infrastructure, the host institution is:
- either a Flemish university, a Flemish Scientific institution, a strategic research centre, an institution for post-initial education, the Flanders Marine Institute, the RZSA-CRC, the Botanic Garden Meise, or a Flemish museum with a research mission;
- or a mandated body of a Flemish university, a Flemish Scientific institution, a strategic research centre, an institution for post-initial education, the Flanders Marine Institute, the RZSA-CRC, the Botanic Garden Meise, or a Flemish museum with a research mission;
- or a partnership between one or more Flemish universities, Flemish Scientific institutions, a strategic research centre, an institution for post-initial education, the Flanders Marine Institute, the RZSA-CRC, the Botanic Garden Meise, or a Flemish museum with a research mission;
- or an association, foundation or company controlled by one or more Flemish universities, Flemish Scientific institutions, a strategic research centre, an institution for post-initial education, the Flanders Marine Institute, the RZSA-CRC, the Botanic Garden Meise, or a Flemish museum with a research mission. The control of an association or foundation must coincide with possession of the majority of votes in the board of directors. The control of a company shall be interpreted within the meaning of Article 5 of the Companies Code.
§3. The Research Foundation - Flanders will enter into a contract with the host institution and the supervisor-spokesperson. For research at large international research institutions that is conducted jointly by a supervisor or co-supervisors within different host institutions, each supervisor and host institution is a contracting party.
§4. In the case of a consortium application, this contract will not be concluded until the FWO is presented with a partnership agreement concluded between the various research groups involved or their respective institutions. This partnership agreement shall establish the modalities governing the cooperation among the various research groups and their respective institutions as part of the implementation of the international research infrastructure project.
The cooperation agreement contains, inter alia, provisions concerning the following subjects:
- the rights in rem or special rights under agreements that the various institutions to which the research belong might exercise on the subsidised international research infrastructure;
- the financially assessable contribution of the various research groups, or their respective institutions, to the purchase, installation, construction, maintenance and/or operation of the subsidised international research infrastructure and the associated costs;
- the issue if and how VAT will be charged between different institutions;
- the (potential) repercussions of the FWO's granting of subsidies on the various institutions’ participation and their position in other research financing mechanisms;
- the access to and use of the subsidised international research infrastructure by the various research groups, possibly with prioritisation, and
- a mediation mechanism in case of disputes over the interpretation and performance of the partnership agreement or other matters relating to the implementation of the international research infrastructure project subsidised by the FWO.
For an application involving a third party or third parties, the contract between the FWO and the host institution and the supervisor-spokesperson will not be concluded until the FWO is presented with the agreement(s) relating to the implementation of the research infrastructure project concluded between the relevant research group(s) or its/their (respective) institution(s) and the third party/parties involved.
Third parties can never be the beneficiary of the subsidy. This subsidy can never be passed on to third parties or to a legal entity in which third parties and parties entitled to subsidies participate.
Third parties may at any time participate in a subsidised investment initiative. In return for a financially assessable contribution, i.e. a given financial, personnel or material contribution to the investment initiative, they may acquire a limited right to use or access the research infrastructure. An estimate of the value in euros of the contributions by third parties must be provided.
The contracts will, in principle, have a duration of four years, renewable for maximum two years. For projects for which the legal basis of the international infrastructure remains to be defined or for which a phase-out scenario will apply, the project duration may be shortened.
The agreement must contain a provision or provisions making it possible for the contracting parties to unilaterally terminate the agreement. The agreement must also contain a provision or provisions on notice periods.
The FWO will invite the host institutions to prepare a usage plan including information and access provisions for researchers from other institutions to the installations financed by the FWO.
Since the subsidies are granted exclusively for the participation in and funding of international research infrastructure and for the institutional, operational and logistic costs of participating Flemish research groups, the supervisors are required to spend them exclusively on this purpose. As soon as their use no longer meets this requirement, the subsidies or their balances shall return to the FWO.
Any fundamental change to the approved application must be communicated to the FWO and shall be the subject of an investigation, equal to that for a new application, and be included in an amendment to the contract, that does not extend the original contract. Any partial modification of the research project, as well as any change in the planned expenditure, is subject to prior approval by the FWO.
Chapter 6. Cost categories
Art. 18. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees of 27/11/2019)
§1. Eligible costs include both one-off and recurrent costs associated with the participation in and/or funding of international research infrastructures.
§2. The subsidy is used for the financing of equipment, personnel, institutional, operational and logistic costs. This includes the following cost categories, not all of which need to be present simultaneously in each project application:
1° equipment: costs for research investments, notably costs for the acquisition or building and connection of (components) of the international research infrastructure, and for substantial upgrades, including the non-recoverable portion of VAT;
2° personnel costs for the development, construction or building of the international research infrastructure. This also includes personnel costs for upgrading the international research infrastructure and costs for operating or maintenance personnel once the infrastructure is up and running;
3° operational costs such as maintenance costs throughout the depreciation period, notably costs arising out of maintenance contracts or upgrades of the international research infrastructure and equipment repair costs, coordination costs arising out of the multilateral nature including coordination costs to establish partnerships between international projects, institutional costs such as contributions and commitments entered into under international cooperation agreements and being a condition precedent for participation, and logistic costs that are necessary to carry out research at international research facilities, such as the accommodation of researchers.
4° travel costs to and from abroad and costs for a CO2 contribution linked to research-related air travel, to the extent that such costs are in line with the development, construction, upgrading, operation and/or maintenance of the international research infrastructure.
Additional funding of operating costs can be applied for if the Flemish consortium, or its members, assume a visible and demonstrable additional role within the international consortium in support of the international infrastructure.
§3. The overhead percentage applicable to international research infrastructure projects is 6%.
§4. Operating costs for research carried out with the international research infrastructure, expenditure for performance of the actual research and costs for infrastructural provisions such as costs for buildings, provisions that are considering being part of standard accommodation, with the exception of costs for modifications to buildings and connection costs for the international research infrastructure, are not eligible costs. These costs will normally be charged to the research projects using the infrastructure.
§5. Positive balances of the awarded operating, staff and equipment funding may be used for the charging of costs as set out in points 1° to 3° of paragraph 2, up to two years after the end date of the agreement.
§6. Exceptional and duly justified requests for extension of the period of use must be submitted to the FWO no later than by 30 November of the last year of the period of use permitted under the regulations, i.e. the term of the signed contract plus two years. Extensions are limited to maximum six months.
§1. Personnel costs are only justified if:
- the recruitment of staff is included in the original application;
- the staff were recruited under an employment contract.
§2. To calculate the personnel costs, the real wage costs of already employed personnel are used; otherwise, an estimate of the cost for the personnel to be recruited shall be specified. Systems used to estimate the real wage cost are available from the personnel department of each institution.
§3. Holiday pay upon termination in the case of staff having worked either for three-fourths of the project's duration, or for at least three consecutive years on one or more projects of the FWO, can be charged to a budget item specially provided for this purpose. For staff that do not meet the applicable requirements, however, it shall be charged to the project.
§4. Supervisors may recruit both full-time and part-time scientific or technical personnel.
§5. Costs for training, education and retraining of personnel on the use of international research infrastructure are eligible for subsidy. These are in fact maintenance costs, more particularly personnel costs for permanent maintenance and operation of the research infrastructure. To enable the operation of the research infrastructure, either competent personnel must be recruited or already employed personnel must be trained and/or retrained.
§1. If, under the terms of contracts supported by the FWO, the supervisors are allowed to recruit staff, such recruitment shall comply with the provisions of the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers, as published in 2005 by the European Commission, together with the European Charter for Researchers.
Furthermore, all appointments must comply with the applicable legal provisions and in accordance with the compensations and regulations in force at the host institution (and therefore in the large majority of cases in accordance with the system applicable at the universities in the Flemish Community) as regards the hierarchy of grades, the requirements for recruitment and promotion, and the remunerations. The host institutions may impose additional requirements if deemed necessary.
§2. Each year, before 15 April of the following year, the host institution shall submit to FWO a list containing an overview of the staff working on the various FWO projects. The list is broken down by project/budget and includes the following information: surname, first name, date of birth, nationality, date of start of employment, date of end of employment, employment percentage, type of contract, statute (BAP - PhD fellow, BAP – WM, ATP…) and highest degree obtained, and a certificate of the host institution stating that the scientific staff meet the applicable requirements. Staff expenditure that does not meet these requirements, shall be rejected.
Chapter 7. Scientific and financial evaluation
§1. The supervisor-spokesperson must submit a report to the FWO:
- for ongoing projects: two years after the entry into force of the agreement, a progress report including a description of already completed activities cf. the KPIs defined in the grant agreement, the status of the construction and use of the infrastructure, its accessibility to researchers, an update of the business plan and the funding already spent
- for fully completed projects: upon expiry of the agreement, a final report on the scientific activities, together with a list of publications related to the project, and an update of the progress report.
§2. Based on the results of the interim evaluation, the Science and Strategy Commission may advise the Board of Trustees of the FWO to adapt the already awarded funding, i.e. to reduce the funding or the phase-out scenario for projects performing less well than anticipated.
Chapter 8. Payment and financial reports
Payments, reports and audits shall be undertaken in accordance with the provisions of the FWO regulations for research projects.
Chapter 9. General financial provisions
Under no circumstances can expenditure be charged to grants awarded for future financial years. This also implies that invoices dated before the start date of the contract shall not be accepted.
The management of the awarded grants is entrusted to the accounting department of the university or scientific institution to which the supervisors are affiliated.
The financial year begins on 1 January and ends on 31 December.