25 Oct 2018   |   News

'Don’t allow Horizon Europe to become Cohesion Europe’, warns former EU Research Commissioner

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn appeals to research chiefs Carlos Moedas and Jean-Eric Paquet to keep R&D programme focused on excellence, rather than even spread of winners

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. Photo: European Commission. 

Former EU research commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn has appealed to her successor, Carlos Moedas, to keep the EU’s 2021-2027 research programme focused on awarding grants solely on the basis of excellence.

“Please do not allow Horizon Europe to become Cohesion Europe,” the former research commissioner tweeted to Moedas and EU director-general for research and innovation Jean-Eric Paquet on Wednesday. “Excellence must be the criterion for research funding.” It's unusual for a former commissioner to comment publicly on a pending piece of legislation. 

Geoghegan-Quinn’s intervention comes as the European Parliament, a co-legislator on Horizon Europe, debates whether the R&D programme should do more to bridge the west to east gap in research.

Draft amendments dated October 10 can be seen as positioning the programme to reduce research inequality across Europe, calling for “broad geographical coverage in collaborative projects” and for more attention “to geographical balance…in funded projects, evaluation panels and in bodies such as boards and expert groups.”

Poorer regions are concerned that their development may slow down because of proposed cuts to EU cohesion and regional development funds, leaving them even less able to compete against richer regions for funding from Horizon Europe. Commission officials, universities, and other MEPs believe that the way to end the research and innovation divide is through increasing national R&D budgets.

The Parliament is still finalising its position. The Committee on Industry, Research and Energy is expected to vote on thousands of “compromise amendments” on November 21, followed by a vote in the full assembly.

Never miss an update from Science|Business:   Newsletter sign-up