Achieving high quality audit in European research

29 August 2019

As the new academic year kicks in, Brussels is getting ready for the “European Research & Innovation Days”, dubbed as “the first annual policy event of the European Commission, bringing together stakeholders to debate and shape the future research and innovation landscape”.

With preparations for Horizon Europe well under way, the Commission is currently seeking input on the implementation of the future programme (Horizon Europe Co-design – Implementation consultation deadline extended to 4 October 2019). The results of the consultation on Strategic Planning, closed earlier this month, will feed into the discussions at the R&I days which will be held from 24 to 26 September.

In this context, EUA now released a set of proposals to national and EU funders on how to make the EU reporting and control environment more efficient and effective. In “Achieving high-quality audit in European research”, EUA takes up a strategic matter to improve the added value of European investment in education, research and innovation. European universities manage a variety of projects, from EU funding programmes such as Horizon 2020, Erasmus+ and the European Structural and Investment Funds, as well as nationally and globally funded projects. Simplification of processes connected to participation in funding programmes is therefore of high interest to universities.

One of the keys to simplification of EU funding programmes is to improve the EU control environment based on the principles of efficiency, effectiveness and value for money. This means EU control must yield greater assurance for EU funders about beneficiaries’ compliance with EU funding rules, while costing less money and effort to all parties. Doing so requires stronger collaboration with national funding organisations and greater reliance on their controlling practices. As largest funders of higher education and research in Europe, national bodies are best placed to understand the diversity of their beneficiaries and ensure that they have adequate systems in place.

While acknowledging the challenges connected to achieving greater alignment of funding practices, EUA’s proposals are aimed to generate management efficiencies for both funders and beneficiaries, build trust, reduce errors and thus release resources for research and innovation.

The document outlines the principles that should guide the further development of the EU control environment and makes concrete proposals – for instance, a compatibility test of national auditing practices allowing to make EU audits more efficient, exploring options for joint audit campaigns and testing the new “systems and process audits” in a pilot project with universities.

EUA invites members and interested stakeholders to take part in the European Commission’s Horizon Europe Co-design consultations to relay concerns and good practice with a view to inform the future development of the programme.

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