Regulations of the Research Foundation – Flanders governing fundamental research projects

22 November 2017

Chapter 1. Preliminary provisions and scope of application

Art. 1.

§1. 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 10 November 2011 on subsidisation by the Research Foundation - Flanders, the Flemish Government grants the Research Foundation - Flanders a subsidy for the purpose of supporting non-specific research projects.

§2. The Research Foundation - Flanders administers the federal subsidy from the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy as received by the Interuniversity Institute for Nuclear Sciences.

§3. The Research Foundation - Flanders administers the federal subsidy from the Federal Ministry of Public Health as received by the Foundation for Medical Scientific Research.

Art. 2. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees of 18/09/2019)

§1. These regulations govern the eligibility of applications, agreements, implementation, amendment and extension, evaluation, subsidy and costs, aspects of personnel, operation and equipment, general financial provisions, payment, financial reporting and auditing of junior and senior fundamental research projects of the Research Foundation - Flanders.

For specific types of projects such as those for humanitarian action, those at a EU, bilateral or other level, deviating provisions may apply, which will be specified in the associated calls.

§2. The internal and external peer review with regard to the selection of the submitted project applications is governed by the FWO regulations "Internal and external peer review".

§3. These regulations are without prejudice to the general regulations of the Research Foundation.

§4. Any situation not provided for in these regulations 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. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees of 18/09/2019)

For the purposes of these regulations, the following terms shall have the following meanings:

1° supervisor-spokesperson: the main applicant of the project;

2° supervisor: the main applicant of a partner main host institution within the project;

3° co-supervisor: the co-applicant within the same main host institution or another eligible host institution within the project the main applicant or a co-applicant within another eligible partner host institution within the project. 

Art. 4.

The fundamental research projects of the Research Foundation - Flanders are aimed at promoting fundamental research that is carried out at the initiative of researchers in all scientific disciplines.

Chapter 2. Eligibility of applications

Art. 5.

Two types of research project can be awarded: a 'junior' type and a 'senior' type, each type having specific application requirements as set out in these regulations.

Art. 6. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees of 28.03.2018)

§1. Applications for fundamental research projects must be submitted in English using online completed forms.

§2. The forms must be submitted no later than the submission date and time stated in the call.

Art. 7. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees of 18/09/2019)

§1. The Board of Trustees of the Research Foundation - Flanders may award grants for project research carried out at the principal host institutions referred to in § 2 of this article.  The supervisor-spokesperson or supervisor must be affiliated to one of these institutions.

§2. The principal host institutions in the context of this article are the universities in the Flemish Community, the Evangelical Protestant Faculty in Leuven, the Faculty for Protestant Theology in Brussels for research related to religious studies or theology, the Maritime Academy for research related to nautical sciences, the Vlerick Business School and the Antwerp Management School for research related to management sciences, and the Institute of Tropical Medicine for research related to tropical medicine, veterinary medicine or healthcare in developing countries.

§3. Where appropriate, the principal host institutions from the preceding paragraph can carry out their research in collaboration with a Flemish or Federal scientific institution and/or Flemish higher education institution and/or non-Flemish research institution.

Art. 8.

A research project is carried out under the supervision of one supervisor per main host institution, possibly in collaboration with one or more co-supervisors.

Art. 9. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees of 28/03/2018, 28/11/2018 and 18/09/2019)

§1. A researcher can, per call, act as supervisor-spokesperson, supervisor or co-supervisor for maximum two fundamental research projects,regardless of whether budget is requested or not. 

§2. The total of requested and ongoing fundamental research projects on behalf of a single supervisor-spokesperson, supervisor or co-supervisor may not exceed two. The date on which a newly awarded research project fundamental research would normally start, is used as reference date to calculate this total.

§3. The first and second paragraphs of this article do not apply to the fundamental research projects carried out under ERA-NET, Bilateral research cooperations and humanitarian actions or any other level where specified. 

§4. The second paragraph of this article does not apply to projects for which a supervisor or co-supervisor has not requested any budget for the entire duration of the project, provided that the project is a cross-institutional project.

Art. 10. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees of 28/03/2018 and 18/09/2019)

§1. Any supervisor-spokesperson or supervisor of a junior or senior project must hold at least one of the following appointments or research fellowships:

  • a ZAP appointment or equivalent appointment with PhD of minimum 50 percent at a principal host institution referred to in Article 7 §2 of these regulations;
  • an appointment as research director of the Research Foundation - Flanders;
  • an ERC Grant at a principal host institution referred to in Article 7 §2 of these regulations;
  • an Odysseus II grant with a Flemish university as principal host institution.

§2. A supervisor-spokesperson or supervisor who does not hold any of the appointments listed in the first paragraph of the article and holds a ZAP appointment or equivalent with PhD of minimum 10 percent at a principal host institution as referred to in article 7 §2 of these regulations, may act as supervisor-spokesperson or supervisor of a research project under these regulations, if he/she

  • holds a research fellowship of the Research Foundation - Flanders;

or is appointed at one of the following institutions:

  • a principal host institution as referred to in article 7 §2 of these regulations, which may already serve as a principal host institution for a research project of the Research Foundation - Flanders;
  • a Flemish academic hospital;
  • a Flemish hospital with an academic character;
  • a recognised Flemish or federal research institution;
  • a Strategic Research Centre (SOC);
  • an academic programme of a Flemish School of Arts.

The total employment percentage at a principal host institution as referred to in article 7 §2 of these regulations, and at one or more of the institutions referred to in this paragraph must amount to at least 70% of a full-time equivalent.

§3. A supervisor-spokesperson or supervisor holding both a ZAP appointment of minimum 5 percent and an appointment as clinical head or assistant clinical head or equivalent function at a Flemish Academic Hospital may also act as supervisor-spokesperson or supervisor under these regulations.

§4. For junior projects fundamental research, an additional eligibility requirement applies in that a supervisor-spokesperson and (co-)supervisor must have obtained his/her first PhD degree maximum 12 years before the submission deadline of the project application.

§5. For each continuous period of 365 days between the date of the PhD degree and the application, maximum one extension of one year of the maximum limit defined in paragraph 4 may be granted if during this period continuous periods of at least 3 months, regardless of the number, have occurred because of maternity leave, full-time parental leave, full-time sickness leave or military service/compulsory civilian service in the country of which they are citizen. The maximum extension of the limit as defined in paragraph 4 of this article, is three years.

§6. For senior projects fundamental research, the additional eligibility requirement is met if the supervisor-spokesperson or the (co-)supervisor has obtained his/her first PhD degree more than 12 years before the submission deadline of the project application.

Art. 11. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees of 18/09/2019)

§1. All co-supervisors have to be researchers of at least postdoctoral level.

§2. Co-supervisors must hold a remunerated appointment at one of the following institutions: 

  • a host institution as referred to in Article 7 § 2 of these regulations;
  • an academic programme of a Flemish School of Arts;
  • another recognised Flemish research institute;
  • a recognised federal scientific institute, with the co-supervisor belonging to the Dutch-speaking staff;
  • a non-Flemish research institution.

§3. A co-supervisor of a non-Flemish research institution can be involved in the research project and, where appropriate, receive funding under the awarded FWO project via the main host institution of the supervisor-spokesperson, provided the collaboration is relevant for the project and the funding does not exceed 10 percent of the total project budget for all co-supervisors of non-Flemish research institutions combined and provided a collaboration agreement is concluded between the main host institution of the supervisor-spokesperson and the non-Flemish research institution. This collaboration agreement shall contain at least a detailed description of the collaboration, arrangements on ownership and usage rights to the project results, and liability, and shall be concluded and transmitted to the FWO within nine months after the start of the project. The FWO may suspend payment of the subsidy for as long as the signed collaboration agreement has not been transmitted to the FWO.

Art. 12. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees of 28.03.2018)

If the eligibility requirements set out in articles 10 and 11 of these regulations are not met at the time of the application, the applicant needs to prove that this will be the case at the start of the agreement.

Chapter 3. Agreement with regard to the research project

Art. 13. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees of 18/09/2019)

§1. The research funds awarded by the Research Foundation - Flanders are set out in detail in an agreement. Parties to this agreement are the supervisor-spokesperson, the supervisor and/or the co-supervisors. These parties undertake to complete or continue the subsidised research.

§2. All correspondence with the FWO on the agreement goes through the supervisor-spokesperson. The supervisors and co-supervisors receive a copy of the correspondence.

§3. Where the project research is carried out jointly by a supervisor-spokesperson and one or more (co-)supervisors of different host institutions, each (co-)supervisor(-spokesperson) and each host institution must be party to the agreement referred to in the first paragraph.

The agreement must contain all necessary provisions regarding the hiring of staff, the management of the grants and the ownership of the equipment provided.

Art. 14. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees of 18/09/2019)

In principle, agreements in connection with research projects fundamental research cover a period of four years and in any case at least two years. New project applications can substantively build on previous FWO and/or other research projects.

Art. 15.

The agreement on the research project must contain a provision or provisions making it possible for one of the contract parties to terminate the agreement unilaterally. The agreement must also contain a provision or provisions on notice periods. 

Chapter 4. Execution, modification and extension of the research project

Art. 16.

§1. The Research Foundation - Flanders asks the host institution to give its consent for the execution of the FWO-funded research at their premises.

§2. The head of the host institution will be asked to give its approval for access by researchers from other institutions to the facilities made available. 

Art. 17.

§1. The funds are granted exclusively for the execution of fundamental research projects approved by the Research Foundation - Flanders.

§2.The supervisor-spokesperson and the supervisor are required to use the grants exclusively for the execution of the research project as approved by the FWO.

§3. In case the supervisor-spokesperson or supervisor fails to use the funds exclusively for the execution of the research project, the funds or the remaining balance will return to the FWO.

Art. 18.

§1. Any fundamental modification of the research project in progress must be the subject of an assessment similar to those for a new research application.

§2. Any fundamental modification of the research project in progress is included in the agreement referred to in articles 13, 14 and 15 of these regulations. The agreement will not be extended.

§3. Any partial modification of the research project, as well as any change in the planned expenditure, is subject to prior approval by the Research Foundation - Flanders.

Art. 19. (deleted by decision of the Board of Trustees of 23/10/2019)

Exceptional and duly justified requests for extension must be submitted to 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, and are limited to maximum six months.

Chapter 5. Evaluation

Art. 20.

§1. For the ex-ante, intermediate and ex-post evaluation of the files, the Board of Trustees of the Research Foundation - Flanders calls on qualified expert panels appointed for this purpose.

For the ex-ante evaluation, they also call on external referees, in accordance with the FWO regulations for internal and external peer review.

Art. 21.

§1. For the fundamental research projects in progress, the supervisor-spokesperson must, during the last project year of the agreement, submit to the Research Foundation - Flanders a scientific report including the progress report on the research as well as the part of the research still to be carried out, together with the list of scientific publications resulting from the relevant project, if any.

§2. For the fully completed projects, the supervisor-spokesperson must, after the expiry of the agreement, submit to the Research Foundation - Flanders a final report on the scientific activities, together with a list of publications in connection with the project;

Art. 22.

§1. For the execution of fundamental research projects, the Research Foundation - Flanders may grant funds for two cost categories:

1st category: funds for staff and consumables

2nd category: funds for equipment

§2. These funds cannot be transferred from the 1st category to the 2nd category and vice versa.

Art. 23. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees of 18/09/2019)

§1. For each project and for each host institution, an amount of €45,000 to €130,000 per project year for staff and consumables can be applied for.

§2. For cross-institutional projects fundamental research these limits apply per institution, but the lower limit for the partner can be reduced to 0 or €20,000 per working year.

§3. If required from a scientific perspective, the expert panels can reduce the requested budget referred to in paragraph 1 of this article.

Art. 24. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees of 18/09/2019)

For equipment a maximum amount of €150,000 for the entire project can be applied for. Matching funding from outside the FWO is possible.

Art. 25. (deleted by decision of the Board of Trustees of 18/09/2019)

Art. 26.

Supervisors-spokespersons, supervisors and co-supervisors are not allowed any remuneration or accumulation with a remuneration under a research project funded by the Research Foundation - Flanders, unless an exception is granted by the Board of Trustees of the FWO.

Chapter 6. Staff and consumables

Costs

Art. 27. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees of 27/11/2019)

§1. The following costs can be charged to the awarded staff and consumables funding, provided they are specified in the original application:

  1. staff costs of scientific and/or technical employees;
  2. normal consumables required for the execution of the project;
  3. fees for job students, pollsters and expenses resulting from the invitation of a guest researcher in the research department;
  4. small equipment of less than €20,000 per unit, required for the project;
  5. fees for student stays and participation in conferences abroad provided they are in line with the awarded research project;
  6. costs for a CO2 contribution linked to research-related air travel, to the extent that such travel is in line with the awarded research project;
  7. access to and dissemination of research results;
  8. travel costs in Belgium;
  9. use of the infrastructure of the Flemish Supercomputer Centre as set out in the regulations and the tariffs at www.vscentrum.be/nl/systemen-en-toegang/projecttoegang-tier1.

§2. Staff costs can only be justified if all of the following conditions are met:

  • the recruitment of staff is included in the original application;
  • the staff were recruited under an employment agreement or a grant agreement for the appointment of a PhD or postdoctoral fellow by the host institution;
  • in the case of an appointment based on a grant award, the grant is subject to social security tax,

§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 fundamental research projects of the Research Foundation - Flanders 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.

Art. 28. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees of 18/09/2019)

Positive balances of the awarded staff and consumables funding may be used for the charging of costs as set out in the first paragraph of article 27, up to two years after the end date of the agreement.

Chapter 7. Recruitment and appointment

Art. 29.

§1. To initiate the recruitment process, the supervisor-spokesperson or the supervisor must have received permission from the Research Foundation - Flanders under the agreement concluded with regard to the research project.

§2. Recruitment shall comply with the provisions of the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers of the European Commission, as established in the European Charter for Researchers as published in 2005.

§3. Appointment shall comply with the applicable legal provisions, with the regulations in force at the host institution and with the compensations payable at the host institutions, 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.

Art. 30.

§1. Scientific staff must either meet the requirements to enrol for a PhD at a university in the Flemish Community or hold a PhD by thesis or a degree or certificate recognised as equivalent by law or in accordance with European Union directives or a bilateral agreement, in compliance with the provisions of Article V.20 of the Decision of the Flemish Government of 11 October 2013 on codification of the decree provisions concerning higher education.

§2. As far as is possible within the project objectives, the research shall be organised so as to enable pre-doctoral researchers to obtain a PhD by thesis.

Art. 31.

Each year, the host institution shall submit to the Research Foundation - Flanders a list containing an overview of the staff working on the various FWO projects before 15 March of the following year. The list is to be broken down by project/budget and should include 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 under FWO research projects that does not meet these requirements shall be rejected.

Chapter 8. Equipment

Art. 32.

§1. All materials acquired under a bench fee or an equipment grant of the Research Foundation - Flanders will become the property of the principal host institution to which the grant holder is affiliated, or of the host institution, by virtue of the agreement made with the principal host institution that must be included in the application.

§2. The institution or principal host institution undertakes to keep the said material at the disposal of the researcher for the time that is needed to complete the research for which the grant was awarded.

§3. The host institution or principal host institution undertakes to neither sell nor lend out the material without prior permission of the FWO.

§4. If the material could be purchased only with the contribution of foreign funds, the Board of Trustees of the FWO shall decide on the ownership issue in consultation with the relevant authorities, as set out in paragraph 1 of this article.

§5. Material purchased under a grant of the FWO by a researcher who does not belong to the staff of a university, an assimilated institution or a Flemish or Federal research institution, shall remain the property of the FWO. The holder of such material undertakes to return it in perfect condition - except for normal wear and tear and in case of force majeure - when it is no longer needed.

Art. 33. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees of 18/09/2019)

§1. Only equipment that is needed for the project and that is specified in the application, can be charged to this category. The maximum amount for this category is limited to €150,000 for the entire project. Matching funding from outside the FWO is possible.

§2. For the purchase of equipment other than that specified in the application form, an application must first be submitted to the FWO.

§3. Expenses for equipment are accepted if they are dated during the first two project years.

§4. Bench fees and/or staff costs cannot be charged to the equipment category.

Art. 34.

§1. If allowed by the government, overheads can be paid to the host institutions in accordance with guidelines to be laid down by the government and the Research Foundation - Flanders.

§2. Apart from these overheads, the following items shall not be charged to an FWO grant:

  • costs of renting, heating, lighting and maintaining premises and furniture;
  • management or administration costs.

The costs mentioned under the first indent are normally borne by the host institution.

Chapter 9. Payment and financial reports

Art. 35.

§1. For each research project, throughout its term as specified in the agreement, two advance payments - one of 40 percent in the month of April and one of 35 percent in the month of May - on the awarded grant of the relevant grant year, including, where applicable, the overhead on the awarded grant in proportion to the advance payment, are payable to the host institution. The staff administration costs are included in the awarded grant.

In the first year after the end date of the project, 15 percent of the total grant is paid out.

At the time of the final settlement of the project, upon receipt of the financial report, the balance is paid out.

§2. The host institution submits a forecast of the expenditure on research projects of the relevant grant year to the Research Foundation - Flanders before February 15 of the following grant year.

Art. 36. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees of 27/11/2019)

§1. Each year, a financial report on the expenditure of the relevant grant year is submitted per project to the Research Foundation - Flanders before March 15 of the following grant year.

§2. The financial report includes a breakdown by category/grant and posting number and posting date or invoice date and an overall total year. 

The overall financial report includes the totals per year, per project and per category.

§3. This financial report is signed by the head of the Finance department and a second manager (e.g. head of the research administration) to confirm that the necessary audits have been carried out. They certify the financial report to be "true and accurate".

§4. Completed projects for which no more expenses can be justified are definitively settled on the basis of the submitted financial reports and, if applicable, the project audit by the auditor of the Research Foundation - Flanders.

§5. This procedure of articles 35 and 36 applies throughout the term of the project.

§6. Within the framework of a sustainable travel policy where the CO2 contribution is accepted as an admissible cost, the relevant guidelines of the host institution involved must be complied with and the host institutions are required to annually report on the compliance to the FWO. Such reporting shall coincide with the financial reporting on research projects.

Art. 37.

Non-submission or late submission of the reports referred to in article 36 will result in suspension of the payments under these regulations.

Chapter 10. Audit

System audit

Art. 38.

The host institution submits the auditor's report on the audited annual accounts of the past financial year to the Research Foundation - Flanders each year before April 30.

Overall reconciliation

Art. 39.

Before March 15, each host institution submits to the Research Foundation - Flanders a certificate from its own independent auditor on the past financial year, stating that, without taking into account the awarded and charged overhead (if applicable), the expenditure relating to the past financial year as reported by the host institution via the financial reports, corresponds with the accounting records of the host institution.

Project audit

Art. 40.

§1. For projects with a total grant amount of €450,000 and upwards an on-site audit is conducted by the independent auditor of the Research Foundation - Flanders at the end of the project.   The project audit forms the basis for the final settlement.

§2. The independent auditor of the FWO has to confirm whether the financial reporting by the host institution to the FWO represents a fair account of the use of the resources.

§3. The audit by the independent auditor is conducted in accordance with the standards and recommendations of the Institute of Independent Auditors.

§4. The independent auditor of the FWO shall, upon request, be granted access to all documents that he/she deems necessary to perform the audit task.

§5. The costs of the project audits are borne by the Research Foundation - Flanders.

Art. 41.

In addition to the audit in article 40, each year a number of research projects will be selected at random by the Research Foundation - Flanders. The number of project audits in article 42 is limited, per year and per host institution, to maximum 30% of the number of research projects.

These projects, too, will be audited on-site by the independent auditor of the FWO.

Random audit

Art. 42.

§1. The administration of the Research Foundation - Flanders randomly requests and audits documents, including salary slips, during the term of the projects. The documents can be transmitted electronically. The requested documents shall be forwarded to the FWO within 3 months.

At the time of the request, the supporting documents are reconciled with the project application file.

The procedure in this paragraph will be maintained until the final closure of the research project.

§2. If the random audits reveal significant gaps for projects carried out at a host institution, the FWO may instruct its independent auditor to perform a project audit also for projects of less than €450,000, in accordance with the provisions of Article 41 of these regulations.

§3. The host institution shall in any case retain a right of reply and may, in support of its case, grant the independent auditor of the FWO access to the records of its independent auditor. The purpose of these procedures is to avoid double audits.

Art. 43.

Non-submission or late submission of the certificates referred to in articles 39, 40, 41, 42 and 43 will result in suspension of the payments under these regulations.

Chapter 11. General financial provisions

Art. 44. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees of 18/09/2019)

Under no circumstances can expenditure be charged to research funding awarded for future financial years. This also implies that invoices dated before the start date of the research project shall not be accepted.

Art. 45. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees of 18/09/2019)

The management of the awarded research funding is entrusted to the accounting department of the university or the scientific institution to which the supervisor-spokesperson or supervisor is affiliated. 

Art. 46.

The financial year begins on 1 January and ends on 31 December.