Home Education Higher Education Institutions in the EU: Between Competition and Public Service
Commissioning of Research
The interviewees explained that there is much variation between calls from public funders as to who can apply. Sometimes they are limited to universities and sometimes a consortium of partners is required and they may even stipulate what kinds of partners need to be involved. Within a call, the rules applicable to the individual partners might also vary. Universities might only be allowed to apply for direct costs for their share of the research, while private partners apply with full cost, but do not get 100 % of them funded. Non-HEI research organisations can only apply under limited conditions. Some calls would also be clearly marked as commissioning research, are open to industry and those who tender are specifically alerted to the state aid rules.
If public calls constitute economic activities, they would need to be commissioned according to the Altmark criteria or the rules set out in the Research Framework which require them to be generally non-discriminatory and reflect market value. While this is apparently the case with some calls which are also clearly marked as contract research, other calls could potentially also be classified as economic in nature. An interviewee working on legal aspects also pointed out that the university is sometimes just given research contracts and that they would not examine whether this should have been commissioned as they assume this to be the responsibility of the public authority. As the university would potentially have to pay back illegally obtained aid, this could, however, also put universities at risk. In this respect more caution might thus be indicated.
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