The European Commission has proposed spending €100 billion on its next major research funding programme, Horizon Europe. The announcement on Wednesday was met with mixed reactions – while some members of Europe’s research community welcomed the proposal, others said it falls short of the amount necessary to support science and innovation.
The seven-year budget for the next framework programme will begin in 2021 and includes €2.4 billion for the Euratom nuclear research programme.
Although the proposed budget is €23 billion higher than that of Horizon 2020, the previous research funding programme covering the period 2014-2020, some members of the research community were disappointed by the announcement. When adjusted for inflation, the budget for Horizon Europe is less than €10 billion more than for Horizon 2020, according to Science Business.
Christian Ehler, a German member of the European Parliament told Science Business that although the proposal “sends the right signal to the research community and to member states on the importance of this sector to Europe’s economy,” it is less than the amount many were hoping for. “The European Parliament will fight for increasing this figure to €120 billion,” he added.
“This is the level we need for securing Europe’s global competitiveness and technological leadership,” Ehler told Nature.
The European Parliament is not the only group that has pushed for a higher research budget. Last July, industry and academic experts published a report calling on the EU to double the budget for the next framework programme, while lobbyists were hoping for as much as €160 billion.
“The increase is good, but it’s not at the level we would consider suitable,” Enora Bennetot Pruvot, deputy director of governance, funding and policy at the European University Association (EUA) in Brussels, told Nature. EUA represents more than 800 institutions in 47 countries.
Research and innovation is one of the only areas in the next EU budget proposal, also known as the Multiannual Financial Framework, that received increased funding. As the bloc struggles to make up for the loss of the UK’s contributions after Brexit, many programs face funding cuts. The proposal allocated more funding for defence research and the Erasmus+ student exchange programme than these programmes received in the previous seven-year period, but reduced the budget for the Common Agricultural Policy and Cohesion Policy.
“Everyone said we want more for research – it’s happening,” the Commission’s President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters at the proposal’s launch. Juncker added that budget decisions were “much harder” than in previous years due to the withdrawal of the UK from the bloc.
“Tough negotiations” between the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, which represents member states, are likely to follow, reports Nature. The article notes that during negotiations, member states typically seek to reduce the budget, while Parliament works to increase it. During talks for the Horizon 2020 budget, for example, Parliament sought a €100 billion budget and the Commission €80 billion, with the final sum set at €77 billion.
Although the European Commission is expected to release the full proposal for Horizon Europe in June, talks could continue over the next two years before the budget is settled with the European Parliament and the Council.