The European Commission is working on a new proposal for its 2021-2027 multiannual budget, which is to be paired with a recovery plan aimed at helping the EU come out of the looming recession set in motion by the coronavirus pandemic.
Here, we gather the latest news and reactions to how the EU is planning to fund its research and innovation programmes during the difficult period ahead.
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The European Universities Association (EUA) says the new Horizon Europe and Erasmus+ budget increase falls short of societies’ needs as the new proposal stagnates below the commission’s original plans.
The group, which previously backed the Parliament’s proposal to invest €120 billion in Horizon Europe, says that Horizon and Erasmus+ programmes are essential to allowing universities to contribute to the economic recovery efforts in a time when the need for innovation has never been higher.
Now, the group calls on member states to “support long-term recovery through a higher commitment to research, innovation and education.”
The European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee members welcome the increase in the Horizon Europe budget but say it is not enough as details about the programme remain unclear.
“We congratulate Commissioner Gabriel for the roughly €10 billion increase to HEU. But this is not enough” said German MEP Christian Ehler, adding that the digitalisation of the EU should be financed just as well as the green transition.
Dan Nica, a Romanian MEP, emphasised how valuable the programme is to Europe: “Let's keep in mind that even €10 billion extra for Horizon Europe would add 110 billion to the EU GDP over 25 years, 100.000 jobs by 2040, 5 300 more R&I projects funded, 12.000 testing activities and 500 more clinical trials."
The committee will vote on starting negotiations with the Council on the Horizon Europe programme today.
The League of European Research Universities (LERU) says Horizon Europe fails to get a much-needed boost under the new budget proposal while the exact details of how much money will be available under different funds remain unclear.
LERU chief, Kurt Deketelaere, points to a reinforcement of Horizon Europe mentioned in the policy documents and says the commission has failed to clarify what exactly this means.
Moreover, calculating the exact boost is tricky, says Deketelaere. The €94.4 billion proposed today is in 2018 prices, which translates to €106.4 billion in current prices, while the initial 2018 proposal of €94.1 billion was made in 2020 prices, which translates to €83.5 billion in 2018 prices.
“Horizon Europe does not get the significant boost we had hoped for, although we should not forget that we come from €80 billion euro [proposal] at the last European Council meeting,” says LERU chief Kurt Deketelaere.
The European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) wants the EU to lead post-coronavirus green recovery efforts and harmonise health policy across member states.
The group believes the EU must transform its energy to stop reliance on combustion of carbon and strengthen local and regional food supply while reducing agriculture’s climate impact in the Common Agriculture Policy. “During the pandemic, coal-fired power generation has been significantly reduced and there has been a dramatic fall in oil consumption for transport”, says William Gillett, EASAC’s Energy Programme Director.
EASAC also pointed out the mismatch between health policies, decided by member states, and policies on energy, agriculture and environment, harmonised at EU level. Member states should give European Institutions more responsibility for health to generate effective decision-making, the group said.
Money proposed for the new European Defence Fund has dropped from €13 billion to €8 billion, the Commission’s revamped budget reveals.
The chop wasn’t as bad as some feared, however (€6 billion was the figure touted earlier this week).
The money is intended for collaborative defence research into military hardware including drones and lighter-weight armour for soldiers.
The European Parliament’s culture and education committee is calling for the commission to rethink its “deeply disappointing” budget proposal for Erasmus+, Creative Europe and European Solidarity Corps programmes.
The amount proposed for the three youth programmes today is lower than the original proposal from 2018 but slightly higher than the European Council’s negotiating figures from February.
"While the Commission's proposed recovery plan has a lot going for it, the specific figures for the education, culture and youth programmes are deeply disappointing and simply not in line with the statement by the Commission President on the importance of future generations, along with education and culture," says the committee’s statement.
The commission wants to allocate €94.4 billion from the next multiannual EU budget to Horizon Europe.
Many figures have been proposed so far for the Horizon Europe budget. The latest one was announced in February by the European Council President Charles Michel, in a proposal that allocated €80.9 billion to the core programme and an additional €3.11 billion for research and innovation funded through InvestEU.
MEP and Horizon Europe co-rapporteur Dan Nica says the new figure proposed by the commission “is already something” compared the €80.9 billion figure.
It is not clear yet whether the new amount includes funding from InvestEU or money that is to be routed to Euratom, EU’s nuclear research programme.
As was widely expected, the European Commission today proposed a new standalone health programme, with a budget of €9.4 billion for prevention, crisis preparedness, the procurement of vital medicines and equipment, as well as improving long-term health outcomes.
The money sought for the programme, to run from 2021 through 2027, is a big increase on the €413 million initially earmarked.
EU law says healthcare is mainly a matter for the member states to manage on their own, so the proposal could face significant resistance.
The commission’s role in health is traditionally around the edges: investing in research, coordinating expert networks for rare diseases, and promoting public health policies against AIDS, smoking and other problems.
The German research ministry today announced a proposal to funnel €10 billion into research, education, and innovation as part of the government’s sustainable and digital economic recovery programme.
Under the proposal, €930 million would be invested in the production of green hydrogen, while a further €500 million would help develop other sustainable technologies driving the transition towards a green economy.
Artificial intelligence research would get €250 million to help transform Germany into the hotspot for AI. A further €160 million would strengthen and digitise medical technology and pharmaceutical research.
EU is to come up with a €750 billion recovery plan in "targeted reinforcements" to its long-term budget for 2021-2027. The fund will bring the total financial firepower of the EU budget to €1.85 trillion.
The proposal will be based on a €500 billion recovery plan announced by Germany and France last week.