Too important to fail

December 18, 2014

As the president of All European Academies (ALLEA), the federation of 58 European academies of science and humanities, I welcome the emphasis that Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, has placed on fuelling sustainable growth and prosperity in the European Union and restoring trust in the European project.

Unemployment across the EU is a major concern. The jobs, investment and growth package unveiled by Mr Juncker last week will hopefully help alleviate this problem if properly shaped and deployed. I also understand that the EC president wishes to roll out this package as rapidly as possible with a preference for “shovel-ready” projects.

In many respects, however, this approach conflicts with the aim of achieving sustainable growth, which is central to Mr Juncker’s political guidelines.

The European Fund for Strategic Investments aims to boost job creation and economic recovery by counter-intuitively taking money from the budget of Horizon 2020, which is already focused on driving the prosperity and growth that Mr Juncker is calling for through research and innovation.

Horizon 2020 is a key European instrument for investing in research and innovation. It is fundamental to the research capabilities of member states by developing their knowledge and skills base: the foundations of our future economy and society. The Horizon 2020 budget is already under pressure, with a lower budget available in 2014 than the preceding year for key areas. In my view, decreasing this budget further in an area already agreed as a priority is not the way to proceed in order to achieve sustainable growth and prosperity.

In addition, two parts of Horizon 2020 are critical to my mind. First, the European Research Council is the flagship European research initiative, which has firmly placed us on the world map as a leader of frontier research across the scientific disciplines, and also the social sciences and humanities.

Second, European research funding for the social sciences and humanities through Horizon 2020 needs reinforcement not reductions, if we Europeans are to drive innovation and creativity, deal with the unexpected, and strengthen our understanding of the challenges we face today, which require more than only technical solutions.

To ensure that Europe can grow as a competitive and innovative society, it is imperative that the Horizon 2020 budget is maintained so that academia can play its part in achieving this objective.

Günter Stock
President, All European Academies (ALLEA)
President, Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities

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