Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) in H2020 support individual researchers at all stages of their research careers.
There are different types of MSCA, some of which have their own unique financial and technical terms and conditions, details of which can be found in the 'Scheme Specific Guidance' section below. The types of MSCA schemes are as follows:
- Individual Fellowships for experienced researchers (IF) - European Fellowships (EF) based solely at a host institution within Europe, and Global Fellowships (GF) where a period of time is also spent at an international host institution
- Innovative Training Networks (ITN) - multi-partner networks involved in the recruitment and training of PhD students
- Research and Innovation Staff Exchange (RISE) - multi-partner networks designed around staff exchange secondments
The actions are particularly concerned with inter-disciplinary research, mobility across countries, transfer of knowledge across institutions/industry as well as offering training opportunities to help further develop a researchers’ career.
The European Commission (EC) fixes the budget allowances awarded under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie scheme. We must adhere to specific contractual and financial requirements when managing these awards.
Available guidance on managing Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions can be found below:
Welcome Pack for New Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellows
The EU team have put together the attached Welcome Pack which we hope you find useful. The pack includes a lot of information about Marie Sklodowska-Curie awards including how the salary allowances are calculated and who to contact for information if you need it.
The handbook also includes information on our Marie Curie Forum and our buddy scheme if you are not already a part of this. If you are already a member you can access the MSCA Fellow Forum here. If you are interested in joining or wish to sign up to the buddy scheme please contact Jessica Clarke.
Guidance for Human Resources (HR) departments
Guidance document for HR
There are 2 main types of schemes funded under the Marie Curie programme;
- Individual fellowships (IFs) which are awarded to specific researchers named in the grant proposal and;
- Multi-partner networks, called Innovative Training Networks (ITNs) which involve recruitment of eligible researchers once the project has been awarded.
There are also several strands or sub-schemes under the different Marie Curie schemes, further information of which can be found throughout this HR guidance document. Depending on the scheme, fellows will be employed by the University from anywhere between 2 and 36 months. Some schemes also involve secondments to and from Leeds, for Leeds’ staff and non-Leeds’ staff.
The cost categories awarded on all Marie Curie projects are based on flat rates fixed annually by the European Commission. Salary is paid based on two of these categories:
- Living Allowance (a fixed annual salary) and;
- Mobility Allowance (a monthly allowance to allow adjustment of the Fellow and family to a new country and culture).
H2020 also introduced an additional Family Allowance which is paid to researchers who at the time of recruitment have a qualifying family status (married/have dependents/have a relationship recognised as equivalent to marriage by law).
This approach can raise questions within the University on how these projects should be administered; the HR guidance above specifically designed for HR departments aims to address these questions.
Please note this guidance and the contractual information included relates to Marie Curie fellows appointed at the University of Leeds or where the project has been awarded to Leeds. It does not cover instances where a member of staff at Leeds has applied for and been awarded a Marie Curie project at another institution; in these instances, that institution will receive the budget for the project and there will be no requirement on Leeds to administer this project or the researcher.
Please find below the salary calculators which will need to be completed before a contract can be issued for a Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellow. These calculators automatically calculate the deductions needed for employer's social security and pension contributions. These calculators are updated each time we're informed there has been change in employer's National Insurance or Pension contributions.
Understanding the Marie Skłodowska-Curie budget allowances
Marie Sklodowska-Curie awards are made up of a number of budget allowances:
Living allowance is the EU contribution to the gross salary costs of the researcher and is subject to compulsory deductions under national law, such as employer and employee social security contributions and direct taxes. The monthly allowance varies depending on the experience of the researcher and the MSCA scheme but is generally between €3270 - €4880. A country correction co-efficient (CCC) is applied to the Living allowance which increases the monthly salary to allow for the cost of living in various countries; in H2020 this was 139.8% for the UK.
Mobility allowance is a monthly allowance of €600 to be used by the recruited researcher to cover costs related to their mobility, such as travel and accommodation. It is to be used to cover the private costs of the researcher. The Mobility allowance should not be used to cover professional costs such as visa costs, as these are covered by the 'Research, Training and Networking' budget. The mobility allowance is added to the Living allowance as part of the researcher's monthly salary.
Family allowance is an additional monthly allowance of €500 and will be paid in case the researcher has family obligations. In this context, family is defined as persons linked to the researcher:
(i) by marriage,
(ii) by a relationship with equivalent status to a marriage recognised by the legislation of the country or region where this relationship was formalised,
(iii) as dependent children who are actually being maintained by the researcher.
Again the Family allowance is added to the Living and Mobility allowances and paid as part of the researcher's monthly salary. The 'family status' of a researcher is determined at the time of their recruitment to the project and does not evolve during the lifetime of the project.
Research, Training and Networking is a monthly allowance of €800 (for individual fellowships) and €1800 (for multi-partner networks - ITNs) and is managed by the beneficiary to contribute to expenses related to:
- costs for training and networking activities that contribute directly to the researcher’s career development (e.g. participation in conferences, trips related to the project, training, language courses, seminars, lab material, books, library records, publication costs)
- costs for research expenses
- costs for visa-related fees and travel expenses
- additional costs arising from secondments (e.g. travel costs, accommodation costs for optional secondments).
Management and Indirect costs are a monthly allowance of €650 (for individual fellowships) and €1200 (for multi-partner networks - ITNs) to be used for the management and indirect costs of the action. These are transferred to a school account on a monthly basis. If we coordinate an ITN award we can use this budget to recruit a project manager.
Managing a central pot for Research, Training and Transfer of Knowledge
In Innovative Training Networks (ITNs) there is often the need for a 'central' pot for shared training events across the network. The Research, Training and Networking (RTN) budget is awarded to each beneficiary based on the number of person months they are recruiting, however the networking events are often not divided up in this way and some beneficiaries may be hosting multiple events.
To ensure the distribution of budget is fair, project coordinators may agree to set up a central pot for Research funds and ask each beneficiary to contribute a certain percentage of their budget to this pot. Event costs are then 'claimed' from the central budget by each host beneficiary and any unspent budget is often redistributed to beneficiaries alongside the final payment.
If you are being requested to do this or Leeds are the project coordinator of an ITN and wants to take advantage of this approach, please speak to the EU post award team to set this up. The project consortium agreement must be updated to reflect the redistribution of project funds.
All H2020 funding requires us to submit periodic financial and technical reports to the European Commission (EC) using the EU Funding and Tender Portal.
Article 20.2 of the Grant Agreement details when reports are due. The EU post-award team also keep an up to date claims and audit timetable to ensure reporting deadlines are met in a timely manner. We have 60 days following the end of each reporting period to submit our reports to the EC. However in most cases, where we are a beneficiary of a project, we will be required to submit our reports earlier to the project coordinator.
All financial reporting is completed on the EU Funding portal by the EU team.
Technical reporting to the EC is the responsibility of the PI and again must be completed within the 60 day deadline set by the Commission.
For multi-beneficiary projects the project coordinator has overall responsibility for completing the technical reporting, with input from the project beneficiaries.
All reporting templates can be found on the EU Funding and Tender Portal.
Please also find guidance on how to navigate the EU Funding and Tenders Portal and submit your technical report.
Top up payments for Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellows
One of the main conditions of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie award is that the full Euro allowance for Living, Mobility and Family allowance must be passed on for the full benefit of the researcher.
As an UK institution, the University of Leeds pay their researchers in GBP and for MSCAs the GBP-Euro conversion rate is only released at the end of each reporting period (typically 24 months). With this in mind, a 'safe' exchange rate is always applied to the researchers salary allowances at the start of their employment and this ensures the researcher receives a stable and consistent salary throughout the duration of their employment.
Once the exchange rate is released at the end of the reporting period, a reconciliation is carried to calculate the value of 'top up' due to the researcher. This will then be paid to the researcher shortly after the end of the reporting period.
Scheme specific guidance
As mentioned above, within the Marie Sklodowska-Curie framework there are a number of different schemes. Depending on the scheme, there are some unique financial and reporting requirements to be aware of.
Innovative Training Network (ITN)
ITNs involve recruiting researchers after the project has been awarded. Each time a researcher is recruited to the network, a researcher declaration must be completed on the EU Funding and Tender portal. Please consult our guidance on how to complete these researcher declarations.
Any secondments carried out as part of the network must also be logged on the EU portal in the same way as the researcher declarations.
Research and Innovation Staff Exchange (RISE)
RISE awards provide a monthly 'Staff Member Unit Cost' to fund secondments between project beneficiaries in Member States (MS), Associated Countries (AC) and Third Countries (TC); both incoming and outgoing secondments. All staff unit rates have to be passed on in full to the researcher as per the MSCA financial rules and reconciled at the end of each reporting period once the conversion exchange rate is released.
A secondment agreement must also be implemented for each incoming and outgoing secondment so these projects can be quite administratively burdensome. Please consult our detailed guidance on how to manage RISE projects and direct any further questions to the EU post award team.