European funding normally is administered through one of three mechanisms: direct, shared, or indirect management:

  • Under direct management, funds are administered directly by the European Commission, which remains responsible for making decisions about which applicants receive funding as well as the final transfer of funds. Funding is awarded and administered by the EC’s Directorate Generals, executive agencies, services and joint centres
  • Under indirect management, funding is administered by various EU institutions, agencies, and other external bodies.
  • Under shared management, the Commission remains responsible for the budget, but allocating and administering of funds is the responsibility of national governments. Around 80% of the EU budget is administered in this way. (Mainly direct Common Agriculture Policy payments to farmers and European Regional Development Funds financing large infrastructure projects)

H2020 and research & development programmes are funded primarily under the indirect management model administered by the Research Executive Agency and European Research Council amongst them being the most prominent bodies. In the last few months what has fallen under the radar at EU and national level is that programmes under indirect management such as the Internal Security FundPolice, 3rd Health Programme, and Research Fund for Coal and Steel among many others are now all coming under the H2020 participant portal and reporting model.

These funding programmes were before under direct management whereby funds were administered directly by the European Commission’s Directorate Generals, executive agencies, services and joint centres. These programmes for various historical reasons were considered to be sensitive programme areas deserving of special treatment such as security and health and that they were national member state competences that required direct oversight from their respective DGs i.e.:  the Internal Security Fund – Police programme which used to managed directly from DG Home.

Under this old model entities applying for funding were able to communicate directly with a designated EU official in each respective DG who would act as their coordinating project officer. Entities applying under this direct management system would receive submission templates and guidelines as well as practical support in filling in these templates for these calls directly from the DG project officer. Communication and support was very easy to attain and a relationship could be built up between the DG project officer and the grant applicant. If the project was approved as well the same project officer would usually guide and support the grantee during the projects life cycle insuring that the beneficiary reported accurately and that errors were avoided.

Now, however, all these programmes illustrated in Fig: 1 below which were somewhat semi – detatched from normal EU funding mechanisms’ and procedures are now being brought under the H2020 participant portal and funding mechanism umbrella. The DGs will still retain a supervisory role in design of calls, etc., but the direct management model will now no longer exist for applicants under these calls. This presents a series of pressing immediate challenges and issues for applicants and entities who were accustomed over many years of operating under the old model and this advantageous relationship that existed between them and the DGs who administered their grants. Previously, questions and queries were able to be directed to the DG, doubts were assuaged immediately and a direct hot line of communication existed between the beneficiary and the project officer. Under H2020 beneficiaries’ are finding they especially miss the fact of clarifying issues directly with a project officer in their respective DG as these projects and programmes are now more or less under the general H2020 project pool.

Beneficiaries are now coming to grips with the H2020 participant portal and reporting procedures which they are not accustomed to and the fact that they now do not have this line of communication open to clarify issues directly with a project officer during proposal preparation stage or during a projects execution phase. In addition some beneficiaries have the added challenge that they are now finishing out projects under the old direct management system and are in parallel operating under the H2020 model adding to confusion and uncertainty among their staff. Staff members were used to this direct communication line with the DG which they now do not have. For example, DG Home provides just one central email contact address for all security calls. Before each applicant would be allocated a liaison officer who would have de facto assisted them actively in a project proposal.

European Fund Management Consulting (EFMC) is on the road across Europe supporting entities and beneficiaries throughout this difficult transition and the challenges that they face in adapting their internal management procedures and preparing entities for the contrasting dynamic they face being under H2020 in comparison to the previously used direct management model. Through our tailored in – house trainings EFMC is the only player at European level who has identified this pressing need and is actively supporting stakeholder, beneficiaries’ and applicants throughout this challenging transitory phase in their management of EU funded projects.

To discuss the issues raised in this article and further information about tailored EFMC in – house courses please contact:



Fig 1: Programmes now under the H2020  system, participant portal & reporting model

·       Internal Security Fund – Police ·       Rights, Equality and Citizenship
·       Internal Security Fund – Borders ·       Consumer Programme
·       Asylum, Migration  & Integration ·       Cosme
·       Union Civil Protection Mechanism ·       Promotion of agricultural products
·       3rd Health Programme ·       Hercule III Programme
·       Research Fund for Coal and Steel ·       Pilot Projects & Preparatory Actions
·       Justice for Europe programme ·       Consumer Programme


EFMC – European Fund Management Consulting

Robert Carroll

Senior Consultant