MEPs’ ambition is to up funding for the European Innovation Council, and for health and climate research. But this is once again at odds with budget cuts proposed by EU governments
The European Parliament has set its sights on boosting Horizon Europe funding next year as it prepares for tough negotiations on the overall 2024 EU budget with the member states.
The Parliament’s budget committee voted through a draft position on Monday, which includes an extra €140 million for basic, health and climate research, to be spent through Horizon Europe next year. The top-up adds to the €12.8 billion budget proposed by the Commission in July.
Under the Parliament’s amended plan, there would also be extra funding for the start-up programme run by the European Innovation Council (EIC) as part of the Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform (STEP). The STEP scheme, intended to top-up programmes that aim to boost the EU’s strategic autonomy, was voted through separately by the budget committee, also on Monday.
Siegfried Mureşan, Parliament rapporteur for next year’s budget, says the goal is, “to strengthen our support for start-ups and SMEs, recognising their central role in enhancing the EU's innovation capabilities.”
The other top-ups he highlighted included a boost for the health cluster of Horizon Europe “in order to proactively address challenges like those posed by COVID-19 and to ensure we will be better prepared in the face of a health crisis”. Meanwhile, climate, energy and mobility would get more money, “to create efficient and clean environments that safeguard the well-being of our citizens.”
Hard to convince
Parliament’s position is in line with the research community’s demands, but it will be tough getting the nod in the upcoming budget negotiations with the member states.
The Horizon budget waltz is part of each year’s EU budget negotiations in which the Parliament demands more money for research and the member states propose cuts. In July, the member states pushed back against a bigger annual budget for Horizon, and instead suggested slashing €166 million off the €12.8 billion proposed by the Commission.
EU ministers want to save money, but with the Horizon programme unable to fund as many as 71% of research proposals that pass the scrutiny of reviewers, Parliament is not having it. “The programme is oversubscribed, prompting the European Parliament to advocate for increases every year,” Mureşan told Science|Business, with a nod as the annual budget tussle.
In a statement last week, Science Europe, which represents research funding and performing organisations, backed the Parliament’s draft proposal for top-ups and slammed the cuts set out by the member states.
“The proposed reduction of €116 million to the Horizon Europe budget, as recently put forward by the Council, is at odds with current political discourse over the need for a future-oriented, knowledge-based Europe,” the statement said.
But if history is anything to go by, the final figure is likely to stay close to the Commission’s original proposal. Last year, the Commission wanted to set the budget at €12.3 billion. Member states wanted to slash this by €663 million, while the Parliament demanded a €311 million top-up. The final result was a meagre €10 million increase in the budget.
There will be one more vote in a Parliament plenary next week before the 21 day negotiation period with the member states begins. The hope is to have a deal by 13 November, to be adopted in time for next year’s funding cycle.