Following the European Commission decision to prioritise certain sectors for research investment, UIC activity within the framework of various EC-funded projects is becoming increasingly dynamic and is continuing to branch out into new fields of interest for the railways. In order to follow this trend, the UIC EU-Funded Projects Unit has recently been reorganised.
This unit is in charge of the administrative and financial management of EU-funded projects, ensuring that they respond to EC requests and recommendations according to the different framework programmes (FP6, FP7, Marco Polo, Leonardo, TEN-T etc.). 17 projects are currently running in UIC and more than 30 technical experts, assistants, IT, logistics and communication staff are involved in these activities, without counting external technical consultants. The fields of activity to which these projects belong are Freight Transport, Safety, Energy & Environment, Signalling & Infrastructure, Rolling stock & Interoperability, and Training & Human Resources. For three of these ongoing projects, UIC is the coordinator of the Consortia and the technical work, and is thus directly responsible to the European Commission not only for the quality of the technical deliverables, but also for the transparency of the financial management process.
In 2009 four of the EU-funded projects in the UIC portfolio were submitted to the obligatory audits requested by the Commission. All of them were favourably assessed by the independent auditors having fulfilled the requirements for the clarity of their financial management principles and their use of the allocated resources exclusively for the benefit of the project. The first EC audit on an FP7 project under UIC coordination – the INESS project, a Consortium formed of 34 associated partners with a total project value of 16.5 million Euros – took place in April 2010. According to the KPMG officers assigned by the European Commission to carry out this audit, the UIC practices in terms of accounting, controlling, financial and technical management were in accordance with the EC guidelines and recommendations. Even though the official certificate will be not be delivered for a few months, the global assessment of the assigned officers was favourable to the view that UIC has the capacity to lead EU-funded projects and may be considered a reliable partner for European Commission projects dedicated to European railways.
Where do the ideas for EU projects come from?
From the UIC perspective, the origin of EU-funded projects is the need for research and the common will of its members. The UIC Research Coordination Group (RCG) works to identify members’ research needs, advise them on priorities, gather technical ideas and propose these to the European Rail Research Advisory Council (ERRAC) with a view to attracting European funding. The RCG decides on the input of UIC members into the European Rail Research Advisory Council and its ERRAC Road Map project, where three RCG members are work-package leaders.
Started in 2009 the ERRAC Road Map is the latest EU-funded project under UIC coordination and 100% funded by the European Commission. The purpose of this project is to establish future research priorities for the whole European rail network for the period 2010 to 2030, as a common strategy directly feeding into the content of the FP7 and its calls for proposals. The ERRAC Road Map gathers all the railway stakeholders in Europe in a Consortium of 19 co-beneficiaries. The total budget of the project is 1.5 million Euros. The first annual railways research roadmaps will be presented to the Commission in June 2010. (More details on ERRAC activities and the ERRAC Road Map project can be found in UIC News No. 183 / 4.5.2010)
Why participate in an EU-funded project?
(See the diagram above)
Taking part in an EU-funded project requires considerable effort and active participation, but these efforts are rewarded in the mid and long term when the research results become visible as standards, prototypes or even market trends. “Measurable” in KPIs (key performance indicators), these results aim to ease the interoperability process and respond to the need for harmonisation in European standards. The diagram above shows how railway questions relating to cost effectiveness, better use of capacities, safety, reliability or maintainability of the infrastructure may be addressed by EU-funded research projects, using joint competencies and with the aim of sharing know-how and acting as a basis for future European recommendations and standards.
In its role as technical platform and forum for gathering and expressing members’ ideas, UIC is able to synthesise these research needs, along with members’ concerns regarding management or technical matters. Thanks to its wide panel of competencies, UIC is able to play several roles in EU-funded projects, starting with the technical, financial and administrative coordination of a project, passing through the technical research work and continuing until the end of the project when UIC takes on the disseminator’s role according to the principles agreed with the Commission. Depending on the activities undertaken, several funding schemes are employed for different types of projects, as presented in the table above. It is important to note that, while research, technical development and demonstration activities are now 50% funded, the coordination, dissemination and training activities in which UIC is involved are 100% funded by the European Commission.
UIC started to work with EU-funded projects in 2004. Since then UIC technical experts and financial staff have been involved in more than 15 completed projects, all certified by independent and European Commission auditors. In order to promote the value of its technical experts, but also to put their expertise at the service of European bodies, UIC will keep on answering different calls for proposals of the EC where the members’ participation is welcome. (See the Maximum reimbursement rates table above)