European university groups issued a joint statement on Friday calling on the European Council and European Parliament to increase funding for the EU’s next research programme, Horizon Europe, which will begin in 2021.
The 14 groups, including some of Europe’s largest university groups, urged the EU to increase the Horizon Europe budget to €160 billion up from the €94.1 billion proposed by the European Commission. In addition to increasing the total budget, the university groups called on the EU to review the budget distribution.
“Funding must be distributed with a focus on those programmes that have a proven track record in: generating EU added value; contributing to the European research and innovation landscape; and reinforcing European human capital,” according to the university groups’ statement.
The groups highlighted the Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions fellowships, which provide grants for researchers ranging from doctoral candidates to highly experienced researchers, and the European Research Council (ERC), the main funder of EU scientific and technological research. The programs “have delivered” and “deserve a more substantial budget increase” in order to “multiply the effects of their achievements,” the groups write in their statement.
Science Business reports that Jan Palmowski, secretary-general of the Guild of European research universities, said last week: “We feel very strongly that the budget for ERC should really double.” The ERC’s Horizon Europe budget is currently set at €16.6 billion, a €3.5 billion increase from the previous long-term budget, known as Horizon 2020.
The 14 organisations include the League of European Research Universities (LERU), the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities and the European University Association (EUA), which represents over 850 institutions.
“The number of universities involved in drawing up the statement… makes these pleas very difficult to ignore and increases the likelihood that the figures in the Commission’s proposal will look different by the end of long negotiations,” reports Science Business.
In their statement, the university groups also took issue with the balance of funding between innovation and science, saying more funds should be allocated to academic research. However, Science Business points out that since the science budget is nearly twice as high as that of initiatives concerning innovation, the Commission could argue that the distribution of funds is fair as it currently stands.
The Horizon Europe proposal includes several new features focussed on innovation. Science Magazine reports, for example, that the Commission has proposed spending €10.5 billion on the European Innovation Council (EIC), a new agency that provide funding for entrepreneurs in order to foster the development of innovative technologies.
“If it had not been for the bad budget distribution proposal, our overall evaluation could have been much more positive,” Kurt Deketelaere, secretary-general of LERU, told Science Business. “The budget proposal is okay, but must be increased, the programme proposal is okay, but must be improved, and we are ready to help in this in a very constructive way.”
The Commission’s proposal must be approved by the European Parliament and EU member states. Although the Commission has pushed for “a swift agreement” on the Horizon Europe budget, talks could drag on like they did during negotiations for spending on Horizon 2020.