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 University Association yesterday issued a statement welcoming the European Parliament’s decision not to accept the new EU budget deal and its call for more funding for research and innovation.
MEPs met yesterday to adopt a resolution, which objects to cuts to some of the key EU programmes, including Horizon Europe and Erasmus+. EU policymakers will now continue debating the EU’s next seven-year budget over the summer until a final agreement is reached.
“EUA invites all EU leaders, to reflect carefully on this responsibility and to maintain focus on the fact that the EU’s future success is dependent on today’s investment in research, innovation and education,” says the association’s statement.
BusinessEurope, a European business lobby group, says it regrets cuts to Horizon Europe and other innovation support programmes, such as InvestEU, but believes it is too early to say whether research and innovation in Europe will be underfunded.
The lobby group hopes member states will use the funds allocated to them through different EU programmes to invest in research and innovation instead of limiting R&D funding to grants from Horizon Europe.
"In reality, much will depend on how this agreement will be implemented, " said a BusinessEurope spokesperson. "For example, if the future national recovery plans focus on investments in research and other projects that increase the earning and job creation capacity of European companies, these cuts can be partly offset."
DIGITALEUROPE, a digital technology industry association, is calling on EU leaders to designate at least 15 per cent of the next EU budget programmes and the recovery fund to digital transformation to boost competitiveness and advance the green transition.
“The cuts to the Digital Europe Programme and to Horizon Europe will have a serious impact on Europe’s capacity for innovation,” said Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, the head of DIGITALEUROPE. ”We urge the European Parliament to step up and invest in Europe’s future, by scaling up funds dedicated to research, skills, and infrastructure.”
Digital Europe, the new programme aimed at boosting Europe’s digital capacities was slashed from proposed €8,2 billion to €6,76 billion during the EU leaders’ budget negotiations this week.
The European Association of Research and Technology Organisations (EARTO) says this week's budget deal came at “a very high price for the future long-term EU investments, especially in [research, development and innovation].”
The EU budget, including for programmes like Horizon Europe, needs to be approved by the European Parliament before it can come into force, and research lobbies hope MEPs will help revers some of the cuts agreed by member states during the budget summit.
“European investments need a strong champion and need it now,” EARTO said in a statement. “Members of the European Parliament, we call on you today to be our Champions in the next negotiations.”
The Guild, an association of universities in Europe, is calling on the European Parliament to “focus on improvements” in spending amounts for Horizon Europe and Erasmus+, the student exchange programme.
Research and innovation “were disproportionately affected by cuts” in the final agreement reached by governments on Tuesday, the group says. “This demonstrates the failure of EU leaders to integrate a long-term vision and lessons learned from the current pandemic.”
According to the compromise deal, Horizon Europe will now receive €75.9 billion and another €5 billion from a one-time coronavirus stimulus plan.
“This is far from the €94.4 billion proposed by the Commission in May. The same is true for Erasmus+, which was cut by €3.4 billion to a total allocation of €21.2 billion,” the Guild says.
The European Parliament will not ratify the EU budget deal agreed Tuesday morning by leaders “without negotiation and improvements,” Siegfried Mureșan, vice-president of the European Peoples’ Party, said Wednesday.
MEPs say they would like to give higher amounts to a number of spending pots, including research, health and green investment.
“Parliaments always have the last say on any budget,” Mureșan said.
Over 100 organisations and individuals from the UK and EU research communities today issued a joint statement outlining how Brexit negotiators can overcome disagreements over the terms of the UK’s participation in the EU’s next seven-year research programme, Horizon Europe.
First, the signatories suggest, the UK should demonstrate its commitment to Horizon Europe and accept EU oversight over the programme’s funds, while the EU should clarify how the results of Horizon-funded research will benefit countries outside the block.
Second, the UK should pay a participation fee, which reflects the country's gains from the programme. The current EU plans proposes introducing a ‘one-way’ correction mechanism to balance out the UK’s contributions and gains under the Horizon Europe. However, the signatories believe the mechanism should be ‘two-way’ to guarantee the system of financial contributions is fair and dynamic.
“A multi-billion Euro contribution over the lifetime of the programme would make participation very difficult for the UK to justify,” reads the statement.
Third, to guarantee smooth running of the programme, signatories urge negotiators to ensure researchers are free to travel between the UK and the EU through reciprocal mobility arrangements.
The signatories include Universities UK, the Wellcome Trust, the European Universities Association, the Russell Group and the European Society for Paediatric Oncology as well as Carlos Moedas, former EU research commissioner, Pascal Lamy, former chief of the World Trade Organisation, and Paul Nurse, the director of the Crick Institute in London, Europe’s largest biomedical research centre.
Marc Schiltz, the president of Science Europe, an association of major public organisations that fund or perform research, said the new Horizon budget is lower than anyone had expected it to be and called on the European Parliament to defend Europe’s role in the global research community.
“We are hugely disappointed that the budget is not in any way commensurate to the challenges ahead,” said Schiltz.
As per EU treaties, the European Parliament has the last word on budget negotiations and MEPs are planning to use that power to boost budgets for programmes which were cut during the summit. "We will strive to secure improvements, including higher amounts, on future-oriented MFF programmes like Horizon, InvestEU, LIFE, Erasmus+," the parliament's negotiating team said in a statement.
"And if our conditions are not sufficiently met we will adopt the programmes on the basis of the existing MFF, as foreseen by the Treaty”, they warned.
The European University Association (EUA) says Horizon Europe was ‘one of the victims of difficult negotiations’, which left it with only two-thirds of the budget necessary to address Europe’s needs.
The EUA had lobbied for a Horizon Europe budget of at least €120 billion, almost €40 billion more than was agreed in today’s EU budget deal.
The association’s statement says the disappointment is “all the more bitter” because some member states repeatedly stressed the importance of research and innovation yet failed to defend its interests in the negotiations.
Now, the EUA is calling on the parliament “to defend future-oriented investments to give the means to the European Union to tackle the unprecedented challenges effectively and successfully.”