Guidance Note for the completion of Contract Preparation Forms

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Guidance Note for the completion of Contract Preparation Forms (CPFs) for Individual Fellowships
Incoming International Fellowships (IIF)

1. Important introductory note
This note is intended to provide, in plain English, some guidance for the completion of CPFs. They are based on the experience of the last two years of contract negotiations for Marie Curie Individual fellowships. Many of you will be aware that there have sometimes been significant delays in the negotiation process and contract production but this can usually be traced back to some data in the CPF that was wrong (or even not filled in at all) or a supporting document that was not supplied.
It is important therefore to take a few minutes to read this guidance and in particular to provide all of the documents specified in the check list when returning the CPF.
Please note that the Commission services can only provide funding based on the information you provide and on the legal basis (that is the relevant Work Programme). If data is not correct in the CPF and a contract is subsequently signed it may be that the host must make up any shortfall that the researcher is entitled to, so please ensure that data, in particular that relating to the fellow (marital status/ employment contract type, etc) is correct and verified by the researcher.
In addition amounts which are incorrectly claimed cannot be paid. So, for example if you request a travel allowance to which you are not entitled, even if it is included in the contract, when the audit certificate indicated that this is not the eligible amount, it will not be paid, so please ensure travel allowances are correctly filled out (guidance is given below)
In some cases in the past the CPFs have been forwarded to the researcher to complete and this sometimes leads to incorrect information regarding the exact name of the legal entity or information about previous contracts. On other occasions the CPFs are completed by the host and the marital status, children, work agreement information does not reflect reality. It is strongly advised therefore that the host organisation fills in the CPFs and checks explicitly with the fellow these issues. This will reduce the time for clarification afterwards and speed up the entire process.
Please note that you may be one of 550 contracts currently being negotiated. If the CPFs information is not correct then our capacity to prepare the contract in line with our planning will be reduced and experience shows that significant delays can result.
Please read this guidance when filling in the electronic CPF forms. Please note that the web site below shows a Word version of the CPF forms with the formal explanation of each field in the CPF forms. It may be a useful additional guide if there is a specific issue which is not clear.
It should also be noted that the host must ensure that information sent back in the electronic version of the CPFs is THE SAME as that subsequently sent on paper (signed). It is the electronic version from which data will be imported and if the paper version is different this will potentially be the cause of significant delays.

2. Specific Guidance for filling in the CPF forms
You will also find a short technical guide for opening and using the CPF editor if you are not familiar with it. It is called “Doc 2 -Technical guide for using the Excel CPF editor”.
How to fill in the Electronic CPF forms - General comments

  • Please fill in the CPFs in the electronic format and forward them back to the Commission (e-mail address mentioned in point 2 of Annex I) before the date indicated in the letter.

  • Please check and/or fill in information contained in all yellow fields, if applicable.

  • Once all relevant fields in forms A1, A2, A3 and A4b are filled in, you will be able to see the calculation of the entire fellowship in forms A5a and A5b, by phase and for the total.

  • Some forms (A2c, A6, and A7) must be signed and the originals sent back to the Commission.

Form A1:
- Requested project Start Date
This is the date when you want the PROJECT to start. Note that this is different to the date when the contract enters into force. The contract enters into force on the date when it is signed by the Commission representative (which is after we have sent you the draft contract and after it has been signed by the Host representative and returned to the Commission).
You should note that the start date of the project can be BEFORE the contract has entered into force. As long as the negotiation has been completed and a ‘Commission Selection decision’ has been made the project can start and eligible costs can be charged to the contract EVEN IF

THIS IS BEFORE THE CONTRACT HAS OFFICIALLY ENTERED INTO FORCE. However, if the host is prepared to start the project at a date before the contract enters into force they must ensure that they have their own resources to cover the period between the project start date and the signature of the contract. These costs will of course become eligible once the contract comes into force but the fellow must not be penalised due to shortage of funds if the host agrees to pay the fellow before the contract comes into force. (The project start date must also be reflected in the Work Agreement made between the fellow and host)

(For information the ‘Commission Selection decision’ is the formal decision process which sets aside a specific financial contribution for your contract and is a formal process which takes place when the negotiation is finalised and before the Contract is signed).

You should note that Costs can be incurred on the project from the start date of the project but not before. Where this date is prior to the contract coming into force, future contractors take the risk that the contract may, for some reason, not be signed in which case these costs will not be reimbursed by the Commission.

You should therefore enter the date when you want the PROJECT to actually start in this box in the CPF.
Experience has shown that if you specify a date that is unrealistically early this gives rise to inflexibility and then immediate contract amendments. It is advised therefore to take a realistic start date, for example, November or December 2005 and enter that into the CPF. This gives a credible time for the selection decision to be made and the project can then start even if the Commission has not yet signed the contract.
If you specify a start date (what we call option 2- see below) if this date is within 6 months of the signature of the contract the pre-financing payment will be made within 45 days following the date the contract comes into force. If the start of the project is more than 6 months after the contract comes into force then the pre-financing will only be paid when you notify us of the actual start date. Pre-financing will then be paid 45 days from that notification. It is recommended therefore that if you intend to start within the 6 months, that is from October 2005 to March 2006 (inclusive) you should select a fixed starting date (option 2).
If you intend to start in or after March 2006 then chose option 4 and notify the Commission services when you have started. In this way you have flexibility and avoid any request for amendments if the date changes.
Please also note that if you wish to start at the earliest possible starting date then this would be envisaged for 1 October 2005. However, for this to be credible, and the Commission Selection Decision to have been taken, you MUST provide fully completed CPFs and ALL SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS by 9 September 2005 at the latest. If this deadline is passed or if any information or document is missing then a start date of October is not likely to be achieved.
For information, here are four options for the Project Start Date. According to Art.2 of the HRM core contract, the project start date is one of the following dates:

  1. The first day of the month following the signature by the Commission (not advised);

  2. A fixed starting date, please specify the date (advised from October 2005 to March 2006);

  3. The date of signature of the contract (not advised);

  4. The effective starting date notified by the co-ordinator / contractor, which must be within 12 months from the date the contract enters into force (= date of signature by the Commission) (this option has the maximum flexibility).

For practical reasons, it is proposed to include the following default option into the contract:

-For contracts where the planned start date is before the end of February 2006: option 2 (fixed starting date);

- For all other contracts: option 4 (this option includes options 1 and 3 and gives you the largest possible flexibility.
Should you require another option, please inform us accordingly.

- Abstract
This is the abstract from your original proposal. However you could revise it if you think this appropriate.
You should not use more than 2,000 characters. The abstract should, at a glance, provide the reader with a clear understanding of the objectives of the proposal and how the objectives will be achieved, and their relevance to the objectives of the Specific Programme and the Work Programme. This summary will be used as the short description of the project for the public following contract signature and in communications to the programme management committees and other interested parties. It must therefore be short and precise and should not contain confidential information. Please use plain typed text, avoiding formulae and other special characters. The abstract should be written in English.

Form A2a:
Note that for International Incoming Fellowships, details of the European Host should be given. If it is intended that there will be a return phase to a third country (outside Europe) at the end of this fellowship any such contract would be negotiated separately at a later stage so do not include details of Third Country hosts in this CPF.
- Organisation Legal Name
If your organisation already has contracts with the European Commission and you know that you are a registered Legal Entity within the Commission financial databases (sometimes referred to as holding a Fichier Entité Légal- FEL) then use this legal name and address. In this way we will be able to use the current registration with the Commission financial services and you will not have to supply legal documents demonstrating your legal status (statutes etc.).
If you are not registered with the Commission for any other running contracts then please enter the formal legal entity as specified in the proposal.

Form A2b:
- Previously submitted or similar proposals or signed contracts
This question enables us to take into account any other negotiations in order to identify any potential dual funding for the same costs. Please identify any other proposal or contract running or being negotiated for another Marie Curie Action.
Any running contract numbers are useful in order that we can identify you as a legal entity in the financial database and this will speed up the negotiation proceed as we will not have to request the creation of a new legal entity in the Commission database (which can take several weeks - this process is not performed by the Marie Curie Operational Units and is part of a centralised Commission service so the delay cannot normally be reduced).

Form A3:
Number of Years of Research Experience (More or less than 10 years)

Your proposal has been reviewed by the independent experts who have formed a view regarding whether the fellow’s research experience is more or less than 10 years (this affects the salary level for the fellow). The outcome is recorded in the ESR as a YES or NO answer. If the expert’s answer differs from that which you submitted in the proposal the CPF form has been loaded with a number of full time equivalent postgraduate research months which is consistent with the opinion of the independent experts.

Please review this particular field carefully as it has consequences for the level of funding.
If you disagree with the opinion regarding less or more than 10 years of full time equivalent research years then please change the entry in the specific field AND send justification which is strong enough to overturn the view of the independent expert’s conclusion.

- Full Mobility Allowance

Note that fellows undertaking a transnational mobility or who have undertaken a transnational mobility within the 12 months prior to the deadline of the call are entitled to a mobility allowance.
If the fellow is married, has children or and an ‘equivalent status to being married’ in the host country (supported by a formal certificate provided by an appropriate authority) then the fellow is entitled to a higher mobility allowance which we call the FULL mobility allowance.
Please note that one of the major causes of contract delay and amendment is that the host incorrectly reflects the marital or family status of the researcher. PLEASE CHECK WITH THE RESEARCHER that his/her MARITAL STATUS or FAMILY STATUS is clearly and accurately reflected. If you enter into a contract where this information is wrong and the fellow is entitled to a higher allowance then the host may be liable to make up this difference. Specific guidance on this point is reproduced here copied from the standard CPF explanatory notes issued with the Word form CPF available at

Full mobility allowance

You qualify for a higher mobility allowance to cover expenses linked to your family situation if you are married (or in a relationship of equivalent status recognised by national legislation) and/or if you have dependant children. Note that this allocation will only be due for researchers undertaking transnational mobility. Your eligibility status is indicated by a YES or NO in the box.

If there is a change of the criteria “eligible to receive the full mobility allowance” from NO in the proposal to YES in the Contract Preparation Forms evidence supporting this change has to be provided.”

Please note that if the fellow’s marital or family status has changed from that declared in the proposal the fellow should provide evidence of the correct status at the time of the deadline, or at a time up to the end of negotiation if you think this status may change.
Note that if the fellow got married or had children after the deadline and is aware that this change will be formalised before the end of negotiation (that is before the CPFs are returned and the selection decision is taken) then please inform us with the relevant evidence as the mobility allowance can be adjusted up to the date of the selection decision (see above for explanation of what a selection decision is) , so if the fellow is pregnant or planning to get married at the time of the negotiation please inform us of the relevant dates.

- Date of PhD awarded or Expected date of award

Please note that if, in the Evaluation Summary Report (ESR), it is indicated that the fellow does not have 4 years of research experience then the award of a Marie Curie Individual fellowships in CONDITIONAL on the fellow receiving his/her PhD within 8 months of the relevant deadline (that is before 19 September 2005 at the latest) THE FELLOW MUST therefore provide evidence that this award has taken place before this cut off date or the status of this proposal will change to ineligible.
Please specify very carefully the date of PhD already awarded (if it has been awarded) or the date anticipated.
- Place of activity
In order to judge the eligibility for the travel allowance (which will be filled in Form A4b) THE FELLOW MUST provide his/her exact location and time periods for all relevant periods.
Another major cause for the delay in contract production is the clarification of entitlement to allowances and eligibility relating to residency in the host country and in Europe. If this information is not sufficiently clear that we can determine the eligibility of allowances required in the contract then the negotiation process will stop and individual clarification will be required. For 550 contracts this is a significant source of delay so please ensure the researcher provides accurate information (consistent with the proposal) for this section. The information must be continuous for the full 5 years prior to the deadline.
Our experience is that more than 70% of negotiations claim a travel allowance which is too high and it simply causes delays in the negotiation. If these figures go unchecked it could lead to serious consequences as the Commission can only pay what the audit certificate confirms is eligible and the host may eventually be liable for any shortfall if the fellow has an expectation of an incorrect amount.
Please note that when determining travel allowance, the audit certificate required at the end of certain reporting periods will verify the eligibility of these claims and if the fellow is not entitled the allowances will not be paid.

Form A4b:
- Research Classified as Laboratory based or not
In the Evaluation Summary report (ESR) the independent expert evaluators have reported their opinion as to whether this project is to be considered Laboratory Based or not. Laboratory based projects carry a slightly higher contribution for research costs for the benefit of the research project.
If you enter data which conflicts with the opinion expressed in the ESR then you must send a supporting justification CONTAINING SUFFICIENT DETAIL that the Project Officer during the negotiation phase can make a decision based on justified and transparent reasons. In other words if you say that the project is lab based and the expert evaluators have recorded it as NOT lab based in the ESR, then you must send justification as to why you feel it is lab based in sufficient detail so that the Project Officer has a basis for any revision of this judgement.

- Stipend during the Main Phase

First of all, please note that CPFs were originally designed for all Marie Curie Individual Actions and “main phase” is a terminology applicable only to the Outgoing International Fellowships, were the grant is constituted by two phases: the “main phase” in the third country and the “return phase” in Europe.

Therefore, for Incoming International Fellowships, please consider “stipend during the main phase” as “stipend during the fellowship in Europe”.

You may be aware that there are normally two options for a ‘work agreement’ between the Host Organisation and the Researcher. They are ‘Employment Contract’ or ‘Stipend’.
It is worth commenting that well over 90% of fellowships opt for the Employment Contract as this is a typical agreement where the fellow is employed at the host laboratory throughout the fellowship and is therefore covered by normal social security arrangements in the country of the host.
In some cases, usually where a fellow retains some sort of salary from another organisation, the fellow may opt for a ‘stipend’. That is a lower financial contribution where the fellow receives the minimum social security cover in the host country, often because there is some other cover being provided by a host elsewhere in Europe. Typical circumstances where the option of ‘stipend’ is used is where a researcher is employed in industry and goes for a short fellowship to a new host organisation. The original salary continues to be paid by the original employer and the stipend is a sort of ‘top-up’ paid whilst the fellow is at the temporary host. The original host continues to make some social security provision in the original country and only a minimum cover is required in the temporary host. Another example is a fellow who already has a grant on one country and will be spending a 2 year fellowship abroad as part of that fellowship in which case the original grant continues to be paid and the Marie Curie stipend is used as a ‘top-up’ to that grant.
In most cases an Employment Contract is expected. Therefore if you and the fellow chose for the option ‘stipend’ YOU MUST send a clear justification WHY you are taking this option. If, by mistake, you opt for a stipend and the contract is agreed and signed with this option and you later realise that you wanted a full employment option, the host may be liable for any shortfall in payment, that is the host may have to top-up the difference between a stipend and an employment contract. For this reason it is important that the host AND the fellow agree the option being selected and it is not ‘assumed’ that a stipend will be acceptable for the fellow.
Note that further (more legal advice) is offered in Annex 1 at the end of this document.
- Travel allowance
The table “place of activity within the last 5 years” in Form A3 must be filled in with NO GAPS between the specified times and the deadline for submission of proposals. The place of activity must also be determined at the time of the deadline for submission of proposals.
If the fellow was already in the country of the host at the time of the deadline, but had not been there for more than 12 months then the fellow may be entitled to a travel allowance taking into account the distance between relevant capital cities. Section 6.3.1 of the Guide for Proposers explains this in detail (web link ).
It should be noted that many forms are not correctly filled in this regard. It is a major source of delay for contract preparation when travel claims are not correct. The Commission can only pay what the fellow is entitled to and in the end an auditor will check the relevant details before verifying that the fellow was eligible for the claim. If it is not correct it cannot be paid by the Commission Services and the host may be liable for any shortfall in contribution if the fellow has a legitimate expectation that this travel will be paid. Please therefore check that the fellow is entitled to a travel allowance and check the linear distance between towns (if relevant). Note that several free internet sites are available for checking linear distances between towns. Please check the distance carefully before submitting the CPFs as any amendment will cause specific correspondence which will delay the contract production.
Annex 1
Information on Stipend or Non-stipend
Employment contract/Stipend
This note tries to clarify the difference between the two categories under which a researcher can be recruited in the frame of a Marie Curie scheme (employment contract and fixed amount stipends) as well as their consequences with particular emphasis on the social security implications.

  • Employment contract:

The amount of living allowance under the category employment contract laid down in the Work Programme includes a compulsory deduction under national legislation both in terms of taxation and in terms of social security coverage. According to the various social security schemes applicable in all Member States, an employment contract shall guarantee a “package” of social security coverage made of several items. These items, expressly indicated  in the Council Regulation (EEC) No 1408/71 of 14 June 1971 (on the application of social security schemes to employed persons and their families moving within the Community), concern sickness and maternity benefits, invalidity benefits, old age benefits, survivor's benefits, benefits in respect of accidents at work and occupational diseases, unemployment benefits, family benefits and death grants.

  • Fixed amount stipend:

 According to the Work Programme and the contractual documents the stipend is a sort of grant that can be proposed to early stage researchers (and only exceptional duly justified cases to experienced researchers) as an alternative to the employment contract.

De facto, the fixed amount stipend consists in a residual category allowing the host institution to host a researcher with a status (of researcher or research trainee) other than that of worker under a typical employment contract. This may happen for:
- similar researchers or research trainees (e.g. for master level training, especially for shorter stays);
- stays of visiting researchers (including experienced researchers) are particularly short.
The host may opt for the stipend solution when it is not feasible to conclude an employment contract for some reasons, for instance because of the constraints of national law (e.g. for short term employment, due to the 3d country nationality of the fellow, or because of the internal burden for the host institution).
Legal framework

  • According to the article concerning the eligible cost of the projects and namely the paragraph concerning the monthly living allowance for the researcher laid down in Annex III “The contractor shall appoint experienced researchers under an employment contract, except in duly justified cases. For early stages researchers, the contractor can opt between an employment contract or a status equivalent to a fixed-amount stipend or grant according to the following annual rated: [….]

The reference rate indicated above for researcher appointed under an employment contract (or any other contract available under national legislation which has the same social security coverage as that provided by employees), include a compulsory deduction under national legislation in the contest of this contract. Any status proposed to the researcher equivalent to a fixed amount stipend or grant shall be compatible with the applicable legislation of the contractor and shall ensure that adequate social security has been provided to the researcher, but not necessarily paid from the stipend”.

  • According to the article concerning the performance obligations of the host laid down in Annex III “the host shall ensure that the researcher is covered under the social security scheme, which is applied to employees in the country of the contractor or under a social security scheme providing an adequate protection in terms of level and scope […]”.

  • According to footnote 70 of the Work Programme “Researchers can only be recruited under a fixed-amount stipend if this is compatible with national legislation and if social security is provided. However, the host organisation must ensure that minimum social security coverage has been provided to the researcher, but not necessarily paid from the stipend”;

As to the concept of minimum social security coverage the following has to be pointed out. The minimum social security coverage required by the Commission for researchers recruited under a fixed-amount stipend shall include only some of the categories foreseen in Council Regulation (EEC) No 1408/71 of 14 June 1971, which are namely: benefits in respect of accidents at work and occupational diseases, invalidity benefits. As to maternity benefits it has to be noted that, even if such a category does not fall within the minimum required social security coverage requested by the Commission, the Commission can decide (according to the Work Programme and the contractual documents), on request by the researchers and on advice/consultation of the host organisation, to augment the sum of the Community contribution as a consequence.

This is the minimum standard required by the Commission when a researcher is recruited under a fixed-amount stipend, whether or not the country in which the project will be carried out has any regulations on this matter. It is clear that a researcher recruited in the frame of a Marie Curie scheme should benefit from exactly the same social security coverage as other researchers working under the same working status (including if he/she is not under an employment contract but he/she is recruited under a fixed-amount stipend) in the country of the host institution. In the next revision of the Work Programme, the term stipend will be replaced by “fixed amount contract with minimal social security coverage” and “fixed amount contracts with full social security coverage” will be associated to the term employment contract.

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