15 Apr 2015   |   News

Big guns of UK universities lobby against research cuts in Brussels

With time running out to reverse Horizon 2020 cuts, UK universities take their fight to the EU’s doorstep

Some 50 UK university leaders travelled to Brussels on Monday to argue against proposed cuts to the Horizon 2020 research funding programme.

Universities UK, an umbrella group of higher education institutes, said the €2.7 billion to be taken from research coffers and diverted into a newly-created EU investment fund will harm Europe’s fundamental research.

Steve Smith, vice-chancellor of Exeter University, who led the delegation told BBC News that it is, “of fundamental importance that long-term and reliable EU research funding is protected and prioritised”.

Europe’s main funder of basic research, the European Research Council, faces cuts of €221 million between 2016 and 2020. 

Overall, Horizon 2020 will lose €860 million of its planned budget in 2016, €871 million in 2017 and €479 million in 2018.

Window closing 

Kurt Deketelaere, Secretary-General of the League of European Research Universities, is involved in a similar lobbying effort in Brussels. “I’m not sure it’s going to end well,” he said. 

While lawmakers in the European Parliament are inserting text into the legal proposal to ensure a greater link between the fund and research and innovation spending, the window for finding a compromise on budget cuts is closing, Deketelaere said. 

Both the Council, and the Parliament must agree on an identical bill before it becomes law. The remaining time for finding consensus is roughly two months. 

The train is beginning to leave the station, Deketelaere said. “Germany, France, Italy and Spain have all made pledges of their own money to the fund.” 

The European Commission’s pump priming investment fund pledges €21 billion of EU money that will in theory leverage in almost €315 billion of venture capital and private funds for infrastructure projects, such as expanded energy grids, research facilities and broadband networks.