EU science leaders urge more funding, to compete internationally

13 Nov 2018 | News

’G6’ leaders want more EU money for scientific research and infrastructure, and stronger partnerships between scientists and industry

G6 leaders at a meeting in Brussels. From the left: Otmar Wiestler, Rosa Maria Menéndez López, Massimo Inguscio, Martin Stratmann, Antoine Petit and Matthias Kleiner. Photo: Lysiane Pons, Science|Business

The presidents of six European science organisations—informally known as the G6—are calling for larger budgets for top-quality scientific research, as a way to boost European competitiveness and cooperation.

“Knowledge will be the most powerful engine to lead Europe towards sustainable development and common progress,” according to a statement released November 13th by the heads of the national science agencies of France, Spain and Italy, and of Germany’s top three research organisations.

The group’s statement comes just as the European Parliament is about to start debating the European Commission’s plan for the next big EU research programme, Horizon Europe. The Commission has already proposed a budget rise to €94.1 billion over seven years, from €77 billion in the current seven-year programme. But inside that budget, the increase for fundamental science is smaller – and some members of Parliament are pushing for a much bigger budget overall, to €120 billion or €160 billion. The Parliament’s industry and research committee meets Nov. 21 and 22 on the matter.

Focus on fundamental science

In addition to recommending larger research budgets overall, the G6 called for more money to be concentrated on "fundamental science" with a view to producing "disruptive innovations" that "go far beyond the gradual improvement of existing technologies." The group urged policy makers to keep their focus on promoting “excellent” science – and in particular safeguarding the European Research Council from any changes that “could endanger its success story.” 

To achieve such disruptive innovations, the G6 argue that the EU should encourage partnerships between academia and industry, at the same time as promoting cooperation among European scientists. They all so call for support for open research infrastructures, and social sciences and humanities.  

Though the declaration focuses on hard science and research, the G6 announcement also says that science carries a responsibility to help tackle “fake news,” climate scepticism, and fundamentalism. The authors stress the role of European scientists “in supporting evidence-based political decision making” and “consolidating democracy, social cohesion, and cultural integration.” 

The G6 consists of the presidents of six of Europe’s largest  research organisations: the French National Centre for Scientific Research, the Italian and Spanish National Research Councils, and Germany’s Max Planck Society, Helmholtz Association, and Leibnitz Association.

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