The European Commission is proposing a big rise in research and innovation funding, to €80.2 billion for the 2014-2020 financial period, in an effort to harness innovation to produce more jobs and growth.
The research proposal is part of a broader EU budget plan agreed by the Commission – but is likely to be a contentious issue. It falls short of the nearly €100 billion sought by some research advocates in the European Parliament. But it comes at a time of unprecedented austerity in most EU member-states. The final size of the budget will be debated among the Commission, Parliament and member-states over the next year.
Presenting the draft budget, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso emphasised the need to boost growth and jobs across the EU by “investing more in Europe's brains.” As well as a 46 per cent like-for-like increase in research and innovation funding, he also highlighted the €15.2 billion to be invested in education and vocational training, an increase of 68 per cent.
“These are areas crucial for Europe's global competitiveness so that we can create the jobs and ideas of tomorrow,” Barroso said. “I think it is important to be sure that we have more investment in these areas – the areas for increasing our competitiveness, namely in terms of research, science and education and culture.”
The €80.2 billion will be for the EU’s newly named Horizon 2020 strategy, which will bring together all research and innovation projects in order to try and eliminate fragmentation and bring EU funded projects more in line with national research programmes.
Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said she was “delighted” that research and innovation was being put at the heart of the EU's pro-jobs agenda. “This will be funding available for research institutions, universities, innovative private companies and SMEs. All sectors of the European economy will benefit - to list just a few: agriculture, fisheries and food, health, transport, energy - especially renewables - and information and communication technologies,” Geoghegan-Quinn said.
Yesterday’s proposal does not include a financial breakdown into sectors or types of project, although Geoghegan-Quinn said she had earmarked €4.5 billion for agri-food research to boost agriculture and food production and make the rural economy greener and more competitive. In its legislative proposal for Horizon 2020 towards the end of the year, the Commission will give indicative figures for each sub-area within the overall financial allocation for research and innovation. That proposal, as well as the overall budget, will be subject to approval by the European Parliament and the Council.
“The Commission’s proposal on the long-term budget for the EU is an intelligent starting point for negotiations,” Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament, said in a statement. “The proposed figures suggest a balance between priorities such as research, education, innovation and expenditure on traditional areas such as agriculture and regional development. But those figures still need to be studied carefully.”
Earlier this year a group of European parliamentarians from the European People’s Party called for a doubling of the future budget compared with the Framework Programme 7 budget. In the post-2013 budget report adopted by the full Parliament in Strasbourg earlier in June, the wording was changed to “a substantial increase” rather than “doubling”.
It remains to be seen whether by the end of the negotiations in the months ahead the figure will remain at the proposed €80.2 billion. A best-case scenario for the timetable, according to the Commission, would be for agreement at the European Council level in June 2012 and agreement with the European Parliament in December 2012, with adoption in 2013.