Universities of applied sciences call for timely and equitable access to work programmes in FP10

12 Mar 2024 | News

As interest groups start lobbying on Horizon Europe’s successor, there is a call for an end to institutions with an inside track in Brussels getting an early view of what research will be funded 

The European Commission should improve the adoption and publication of research work programmes in the next framework programme, FP10, say universities of applied sciences.  

UAS4Europe, an association of universities of applied sciences, believes applicants with fewer connections to the Brussels research bubble do not get equitable access to Horizon Europe work programmes. In a position paper, it says this should change in the next framework programme, with the Commission ensuring timely adoption and publication of the programmes.

The current approach does not give smaller institutions time to prepare competitive applications, Tim Uebelen, Bavarian Research Alliance (BayFOR) representative and coordinator of UAS4Europe, told Science|Business. “The current practice is a problem that many applicants have to deal with, as new work programmes usually are adopted just a couple of days before the first calls are opened,” he said.

That short timeframe is insufficient for smaller universities and organisations to properly prepare an application, in which it could be necessary to identify relevant call topics, strengthen a research team in a particular field, start assembling a new research consortium, and write a competitive proposal to apply for the money, Uebelen said.

"When there is a delay in publishing these programmes, it makes it difficult to put forward excellent proposals, especially for the smaller institutions, the newcomers, and those who aren't in these well-connected, Horizon Europe closed clubs," said Kamila Kozirog, a policy analyst at the European University Association (EUA).

"We think the Commission needs to review how quickly they are getting these programmes out there and make the whole process more transparent. It's all about giving everyone a fair chance," Kozirog said.

In 2021, Science|Business published the ‘Horizon Papers’, leaked draft documents about the €95.5 billion Horizon Europe programme. The motivation was to allow equal access for all, given the fact that European Commission documents are often leaked, and many organisations and lobby groups with good connections in Brussels get them in advance of formal publication.

That leaves applicants from smaller organisations with fewer contacts and opportunities to access leaked working drafts and prepare in advance for the calls, at a disadvantage. A European Parliament study in 2018 showed that researchers in smaller institutions win fewer Horizon grants.

The issue of leaks in advance of publication and who has access to them remains a cause of concern.

Basic and applied research

UAS4Europe would also like to see greater alignment between EU and national R&I programmes, that reflect the different timescales of basic and applied research.

While EU grants would be directed to basic long-term research, applied research carried out by its members requires “shorter timeframes in order to react quickly and appropriately to given local challenges and opportunities,”  UAS4Europe says.

“You have the long-term horizon that is needed, but in order to tackle regional problems, the problems of today, and of today’s labour market, you also need instruments in place that allow institutions, universities, SMEs, universities of applied sciences, research and technology organisations, to get this innovation on the ground today,” said Uebelen. “If we talk about competitiveness, you need both long-term and short-term visions.” 

Uebelen also wants more effort to avoiding duplication of funding and effort. In the face of the current sprawling funding landscape, “An in-depth analysis of existing funding lines and possible overlaps could be a first step in this regard,” the paper says.

In common with other research organisations that have published a prospectus for FP10, UAS4Europe want to see a doubling of the budget to €200 billion euros to FP10.

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