COVID-19 Guidance Update: Postponing or Extending ERC Projects

​The ERC Executive Agency (ERCEA) has updated its special COVID-19 guidance on postponing the start date or extending the duration of an ERC project. It now sets out the possibility that requests for postponement or no-cost extensions longer than six months may be granted on a case by case basis, and without prejudice to other potential extensions. 

Previously the maximum length of an ERC no-cost extension specifically due to COVID-19 disruptions, was stated to be six months, in line with guidance for all Horizon 2020 projects, as set out in the Commission’s FAQ.

Avoid Issues with ERC Time Commitments

A key consideration for ERC grantees planning a postponement or extension to their grant, is to ensure that any change does not have a detrimental effect on the PI’s total time commitment to the project. While the ERCEA has reassured grantees that it will be flexible on scheduled due dates for deliverables, milestones, scientific and financial reporting as well as to the implementation of the action, it still expects the time commitments set out in the grant agreement to be fulfilled according to normal rules. These rules cover the proportion of the Principal Investigator's (PI's) working time spent on the project and the proportion of time spent based in a member state or associated country (see page 380 of the Annotated Model Grant Agreement). 

Some flexibility in terms of how a time commitment is fulfilled during the project does exist. A PI can adjust how much time they spend working during phases of a project, e.g. shifting some workload from one year to the next, as long as they still fulfil the time commitment as a proportion of the overall project duration by the end date. If a PI has committed 100% of their working time to their ERC project this flexibility will not be possible.

The UK ERC National Contact Point recommends that grantees speak with their project officer to discuss any potential postponements or extensions before making a formal amendment request. As the ERCEA’s special guidance notes state that requests are considered on a case by case basis, it is useful to check what would be acceptable to your project officer before entering the formal process.