Perhaps the most striking feature of Horizon 2020 is its proposed budget of €80 billion. Yet, members of the ITRE committee in the European Parliament say this is not going to be enough for Horizon 2020 to reach its goals. As part of Science|Business’ analysis of ITRE’s reports on Horizon 2020, this article summarises the Parliament’s position on the Commission’s expectation for the budget in Horizon 2020.
Noting the budget represents a mere six per cent increase (in real terms) compared to the funding level of FP7 in 2013, MEPs have called for a total budget of €100 billion, as originally demanded. Beyond increasing the budget to meet the goals set out in Horizon 2020, there have been other key proposals put forward:
- Attracting additional funding from the Structural Funds, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and leveraging public and private sector investment
- The design of the reimbursement rate system
- A more explicit link between the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) and Horizon 2020
In keeping with the theme of increased investment throughout all of Europe, MEP Maria Da Graça Carvalho gave examples of where Horizon 2020 may leverage investment from the Cohesion policy funds, and attract public and private sector funding. These include the establishment of regional centres of excellence, twinning schemes and providing seals of excellence so that projects which have not been able to receive money from Horizon 2020 as a result of lack of funding, have access to alternative funding schemes.
Another concern is that because the final sum of the Horizon 2020 budget has yet to be fixed and could still drop below the Commission’s proposal of €80 billion once the final vote is taken, the impact that the design of the reimbursement rate system could have on the number of projects that receive funding is significant. MEP Christian Ehler stressed that too high a reimbursement rate, would limit the number of projects that could be supported, which would, in return, limit the impact of the programme.
For this reason, Ehler suggests that should be final budget drop below the propose €80 billion, Horizon 2020 should maintain the average level of EU contribution per project that was granted in FP7 so that the total number of projects will not have to be reduced.
Shortly after the summer recess, the ITRE committee will meet again to discuss new amendments and are expected to bring the final reports up for a committee vote in the autumn. New proposals are expected to surface and some of the existing ones might be altered or could disappear altogether. Parliament will have to reach an agreement with its co-legislator, the Council of Ministers, in time for Horizon 2020 to go live on the 1st of January, 2014. It is expected that negotiations will last well into the summer of 2013. With the Parliament calling for and increase to €100 billion, the Commission hoping to sign off at €80 billion, and member states continuing to feel the impact of the economic downturn, it will be interesting to see how this budget pans out.