'Framework programmes' (FPs) are main financial tools through which the European Union supports research and development activities covering almost all scientific disciplines.

I am a fellow of FP7 Marie Curie Initial Training Network (ITN) project. As a hosting institution, the faculty I work at got funding to support me and related research. Where does the non-spent founds after the project ends? Do they stay within the university or are they returned to the European Commission (EC)?

  • Don't about this specific programme but I have been in EU-funded projects where the money was only released after evaluation/meeting with some experts' committee (don't remember the exact name, it included a representative of the EU Commission and three external experts). I was paid monthly so obviously the university had to front the money somehow but it only got funding based on what it spent/delivered and after quite a lot of paperwork (it was even possible to drop a partner along the way if they really did not participate earnestly).
    – Relaxed
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 10:22
  • All that to say that if you don't spend your budget, there isn't necessarily money “left” for anybody but just a project that ends up costing the EU less than expected at the beginning (of course people will typically try to spend the money, at least on paper, to avoid that).
    – Relaxed
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 10:28
  • @user11596 As far as I know, in our case, the money are released in the 3 stages. About 60% in the beginning of the project, 25% after the mid-term financial evaluation and the rest after the final financial evaluation. The problem is that I only heard that, I did not see it written. Btw:thx for edit and comments.
    – MasterPJ
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 10:29
  • I assume that if there was a final financial evaluation, the money has been spent as far as the EU is concerned. Possibly, it helps your boss/department head/faculty dean/whatever balance his or her budget. I have seen that too (especially with industry money, my university explicitly charges industry partners more than what it charges funding agencies – which, AFAIK, is supposed to represent what a researcher actually costs so obviously much more than the salary itself – and individual researchers never see that money).
    – Relaxed
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 10:40

1 Answer 1


As usual, the answer is: it depends.

I have no experience with the Marie Curie programme, but for traditional FP7 research projects, the funding system worked as follows.

Your funding plan consisted basically of two large blocks: direct costs, and indirect costs.

Direct costs included things like personnel (the largest part, usually), special equipment, or travel funds. For direct costs, the research institution needed to proof how they spent the money exactly. In case of underspending (for instance, if one planned for a postdoc but ended up hiring a PhD student), the left-over money has to be refunded to the agency (or, in some cases, can be transferred to another partner in the project). In case of overspending, the research institution has to cover the costs themselves.

Indirect costs, on the other hand, are a lump sum. They are calculated as a percentage of the planned direct costs (typically 25% for universities, iirc) and are meant to cover all the other costs of a project that are hard to account for exactly (things like the office space and heating for the people working in the project, etc.). These are paid out no matter what, and are not refunded. The research institution does not need to proof in any way that it actually spent all that money.

So to answer your concrete question: everything that is designated as direct costs in the ITN proposal and is not spent will go back to the EU. However, all the indirect costs associated with the ITN will stay with your host institution regardless of whether they spend the money or not.

  • I am pretty sure if you underspend the direct costs you get less indirect costs.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 20:25
  • @StrongBad It is certainly like that in H2020, but I was under the impression that this was not the case in FP7. I might be wrong, though.
    – xLeitix
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 20:43

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .