V-cs go to Brussels to lobby against cuts

Around 30 UK vice-chancellors have travelled to Brussels to lobby European policymakers against potential cuts to research funding.

April 13, 2015

The group, which form the largest-ever overseas delegation of UK university leaders, will oppose plans to reallocate funds from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research fund.

The EU is considering whether to divert around €2.7 billion (£1.95 billion) of money allocated for research in Horizon 2020 into the European Strategic Investment Fund.

This may harm research and innovation, universities have warned.

Horizon 2020 was launched last year and was due to be worth nearly €80 billion over seven years to the end of 2020.

But new plans to create a strategic investment - which could be accessed by a range of institutions and businesses, rather than primarily universities and research institutes - were proposed last year.

The European Commission says the fund would boost entrepreneurship, jobs and growth, and has been described as a “major step towards job creation and growth in the European economy”.

Writing in January, Universities UK president Sir Christopher Snowden said that “cutting the Horizon 2020 budget at this stage would risk harming the performance of the whole European research system”.

“It is by investing in world-leading research and innovation that the EU will help secure growth and respond to changing needs,” Sir Christopher said.

Under the new Horizon 2020 programme, UK universities and research centres are set to receive around £2 billion in the first two years of the scheme.

This would amount to about a fifth of the total British government spend on science.

Sir Steve Smith, vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter and chair of the UUK International Policy Network, who is leading the delegation, told BBC News that it is “of fundamental importance that long-term and reliable EU research funding is protected and prioritised”.

jack.grove@tesglobal.com

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