Regulations for Contract Research
Separate Accounting Methods
At Heidelberg University separate accounting methods are used for economic and non-economic activities based on restrictions resulting from the competition rules of the European Union (EU), according to article 87 of the EC agreement.
Keeping separate books for the costs and financing of these activities is intended to make apparent and prevent public budgetary funds of universities or research institutions from subsidising services or research projects on behalf of or for private companies or that private suppliers gain a competitive advantage through the acquisition of “cheap” scientific services. (For greater detail, see the Community Framework for State Aid for Research and Development and Innovation [2006/C 323/01]).
All universities throughout Europe were required to implement the separate accounting methods by 1 January 2009.
Contract research, performed by the university at the request of and in agreement with a usually non-public funder for a return service in the form of an expert opinion, reports, research results and the like, represents an economic activity for the university. To prevent public funds from being used in the performance of contract research, the service must be provided either at the market price or an amount arrived at through calculating the full cost plus a reasonable margin.
Full-cost prices include all costs, including so-called indirect costs (e.g. infrastructure, energy costs, rent) and are known as overhead.
At Heidelberg University, indirect costs for contract research projects are determined in the same way as full costs within the EU Seventh Framework Programme for Research. According to the programme, an overhead rate should be added to the research personnel employed in the project. The amount of the overhead rate depends on which university organisation will be conducting the contract research. The organisations are assigned to the same three clusters as EU projects. The overhead rates are calculated annually. The current rate for Cluster 1, book and media sciences, is 78 %. The rate for Cluster 2, empirical social sciences and behavioural studies and theoretical natural sciences, is 59 %. Cluster 3, experimental natural sciences, has a current overhead rate of 101 %.