Reactions to proposed EU research budget positive, but call on EU to be more ambitious
The European Commission (EC) presented its proposal for the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF, 2021-27) at a press conference and at the European Parliament (EP) on 2 May 2018. With regard to the amount of € 100 billion provided for research (for the new Framework Programme Horizon Europe and EURATOM), the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) reacted positively to the EC's proposal, welcoming the EC's "focus on funding mostly new priorities such as research, border management and migration, support for young people, defence and security, albeit less ambitiously than the EP’s own position". MEPs are expected to respond formally to the Commission's MFF proposal in a new resolution to be voted at the end of May.
A number of organisations and associations representing the European research community have also issued their first reactions to the new budget for research envisaged by the EC. The general tone of the reactions is positive, but, like the European Parliament, the research community would have liked to see an even bigger increase in the budget to be spent on RTI than the amount of € 100 billion proposed by the EC.
LERU, the League of European Research Universities, states that "research, innovation and education deserve even more in the MFF", saying LERU still believes that a budget of € 160 billion would be needed for FP9 for the EU to become a leader in the global R&I competition, as was also argued in a joint statement by LERU and 12 other European university associations on 21 March 2018. However, despite the fact that for LERU, the research budget "is not as ambitious as what is needed, it is 35 bn euro more than Horizon 2020, when one takes out the UK contribution to FP. This represents the biggest (percentage) increase ever for the FP". In the light of Brexit and the EU's new priorities, LERU therefore regards the proposed increased R&I budget as "acceptable", but strongly calls on the EP and the Member States to agree on a further budget increase for FP9.
The Guild of European Research Universities welcomes the EC's porposal as "an ambitious basis for further negotiations". Like LERU, the Guild also calls on Member States and the EP to increase the budget for Horizon Europe to €160bn, stressing that the added value of EU spending is greatest in R&I, and adding that "over the past decades the EU Framework Programmes for R&I have proven their importance in boosting Europe’s global leadership in research, and in setting standards for national research programmes by contributing to the European Research Area". The Guild calls for more synergies between FP9 and other parts of the budget, as well as for a doubling of the funds for the European Research Council (ERC) and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions. The association also stresses that "the proposed new ‘Global Challenges and Industrial Competitiveness’ pillar must strengthen collaborative frontier-led research to bring together Europe’s best minds and address the UN Sustainable Development Goals". Both LERU and the Guild also stress the importance of associating the UK to FP9 after Brexit. The Russell Group, which represents 24 leading UK universities, also commented on the Commission's budget proposal, welcoming the EC's ambitions to strengthen European science in FP9, and similarly stressing the importance of the possibility for the UK to participate in Horizon Europe.
Science Europe, an association of European Research Funding Organisations (RFO) and Research Performing Organisations (RPO), based in Brussels, says that despite the provided budget increase, the budget for Horizon Europe "will not be sufficient to meet Europe’s political goals and solve the challenges that it faces". Science Europe also calls for a more substantial financial commitment to strengthen the EU's competitive position in the creation of knowledge, pointing out that three-quarters of scientifically excellent projects went unfunded under Horizon 2020. Like The Guild, Science Europe calls for strengthening the ERC and dedicating a substantial budget to fundamental research.
The European University Association (EUA) does not react directly to the budget proposal, but has highlighted some important issues it would like to see covered by Horizon Europe, focusing on a new kind of impact by linking research, innovation and education.
From the point of view of the business sector, BusinessEurope, the organisation representing the national business federations of 34 countries, stressed the importance of focusing efforts on improving the EU's competitiveness. BusinessEurope Director General Markus J. Beyrer struck a similar note as the scientific organisations, saying: “Businesses believe that the EU’s post-2020 budget must concentrate efforts on improving the EU’s competitiveness. We acknowledge the Commission’s efforts to increase spending on research and innovation activities but would have liked to see even more ambition. We now urge all political decision-makers to prioritise and build on the Commission’s increased emphasis on EU competitiveness, especially research and innovation, in the forthcoming negotiations.”
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