Billing of costs for the use of internal university infrastructure

Cost statement for using university infrastructure

Current situation

Centralised infrastructure is becoming increasingly important for research. The SNSF aims to ensure that applicants have access to the infrastructure needed to successfully complete their research projects. However, pursuant to the SNSF Funding Regulations only "the direct costs of the use of infrastructure for conducting the research project" are chargeable to the grant (FR Article 28).

In addition, Articles 2.12 (Material costs: computing time and data) and 2.15 (Direct costs of infrastructure use) of the Implementation Regulations stipulate that "general costs for the maintenance and service of the infrastructures" are not covered by the grant.

In order to distinguish eligible from ineligible costs, research infrastructures that charge a fee for their services must in future provide a breakdown of the costs charged to the research projects.

Definition of infrastructure

  • Pursuant to the Funding Regulations, the term “infrastructure” refers to those units within a research institution that provide services and are necessary for the implementation of a research project, but which do not form an integral part of the basic facilities or the facilities required for the normal operation of an academic institution. “Normal operation” encompasses the provision of services in the areas of administration, technology transfer, interface with the Cantonal Ethics Commission, general information technology, communication, human resources, finance, real estate management, materials and logistics, etc. The costs of such services may not be charged to the SNSF grant.

Implementation principles

The implementation of these regulatory provisions should generate as little administrative work as possible. In addition, it should take account of the longstanding, successful collaboration on grant administration between the higher education institutions and the SNSF, while ensuring a high degree of compatibility with the requirements of European research programmes.

  • Invoices for the use of research infrastructure that are chargeable to the SNSF grant should include an enclosure that provides details of the specific service and the applied tariff.
  • Large-scale, frequently used infrastructure (referred to as “core facilities”), must provide a detailed summary of costs (see Example) in the cost categories defined by the SNSF. This summary of costs includes the direct project-related costs (chargeable) as well as explicitly also the non-chargeable costs and is deposited with the SNSF, published on the internet or enclosed with every invoice.

Invoices for the use of infrastructure that do not include this information will be rejected.

Tariffs

Only the internal tariffs may be charged to the SNSF grant, after deduction of any rebate.

Cost categories

Enclosures with invoices for the purpose of documenting tariffs, as well as statements of costs relating to core facilities, have to be based on the following categories:

Cost categoryComments
Direct costs of infrastructure use (eligible)
Salaries and social contributions of personnel for use of the necessary equipmentFor services that are provided for use of the infrastructure and that are directly linked to processing of the object of study.
Consumables
Chemicals
Energy costsOnly for equipment that gives rise to variable energy costs that are significantly higher than the normal level.
Acquisition costs of appliances that have a service life of ≤ 4 yearsOnly if the appliances could be also purchased within the framework of SNSF grants (≤50,000.- per SNSF project).
Other direct costs of infrastructure useReasons for incurring these costs need to be explained in detail
Direct costs of provision of infrastructure (non-eligible)
Salaries and social contributions of personnel for the maintenance of the equipment
Maintenance contracts, repair costs
Depreciation of research equipment
Other costs directly associated with infrastructure
Indirect costs (non-eligible)
Administration and management costs
Maintenance costs
Other general costs
Other accounting costs, overheads
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Small appliances with a service life of ≤ 4 years

Some centrally administered small appliances used in specific research projects have a service life of less than four years. Due to this limited time-span, they may be regarded as a crossover between consumables and appliances. If these small appliances could also be acquired under individual SNSF grants (up to a maximum of CHF 50,000), the costs of the appliances may be regarded as project-related infrastructure costs that may be charged by the infrastructure management unit. An example of these small appliances are nodes in high-performance computing centres.

Separation of personnel costs for use and provision of infrastructure

In many cases, the project-related use of these appliances (chargeable) as well as their maintenance and administration (both not chargeable) are performed by the same person. In such cases, the person responsible for the relevant infrastructure subdivides the salary costs into these three categories. The SNSF is able to verify this allocation of costs by comparing similar services at different higher education institutions.

Workshops/laboratories and facilities for keeping laboratory animals

Workshops/laboratories and facilities for keeping laboratory animals may only charge for directly project-related services. With regard to facilities for keeping laboratory animals, the housing and breeding of animals that are not involved in the conducted experiments has to be classified as normal operation and therefore may not be charged to the grant.

Use of infrastructures outside the home institution


This rule also applies to charges for services provided by infrastructure units outside the home institution.

Introduction, trial phase

 

The year 2018 has been declared a test phase. The SNSF will observe how effective the new practice has been at the higher education institutions and at the SNSF, and it will monitor the development of costs charged to SNSF grants.

Example of summary of costs for an enclosure with an invoice

Below is a fictitious summary of costs for scanning electron microscopy. On the invoice itself the costs are charged at 49.00 Swiss francs per hour of use.

Tariff structure for scanning electron microscopy, x department, y university
Enclosure to accompany invoice to SNSF

Tariff structure for scanning electron microscopy, x department, y university
Enclosure to accompany invoice to SNSF
Salaries and social contributions of personnel for use of the equipment30.00 Swiss francs per hour of use
Consumables19.00 Swiss francs per hour of use use
Chemicals
Energy costs
Acquisition of equipment with service life ≤ 4 years
Other direct costs
Total costs 49.00 per hour of use

Note: The enclosure must clearly designate the involved service and research infrastructure.