European Union research cuts scaled back

Planned cuts to the European Union's research budget have been reduced by €500 million (£357 million) following pressure from scientists, university leaders and MEPs.

May 29, 2015

In an agreement published on 28 May, some €2.2 billion (£1.58 billion) will be taken from the EU's Horizon 2020 research programme to fund a new European Fund for Strategic Investment Fund, less than the €2.7 billion originally proposed.

The revised deal followed all-night negotiations in Brussels, which saw funding for the European Research Council and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, an early career researcher fellowship scheme, ring-fenced.

It follows a period of intense lobbying  to protect the six-year €80 billion Horizon 2020 settlement, which is used to fund research across the continent, after European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker put forward plans to use its fund for a jobs creation scheme.

That would have resulted in a 3 per cent cut in EU grants, from which the UK was predicted to receive about £2 billion in the next two years.

This would have been on top of a 7 per cent like-for-like research funding under Horizon 2020 compared with the previous six-year framework, university leaders said.

Some 50 senior university leaders travelled to Brussels in April to lobby against the potential 10 per cent cuts in the largest-ever overseas delegation of vice-chancellors.

Catherine Bearder, a Liberal Democrat MEP who tabled a parliamentary question on the potential impact of the loss of funds, said the scaling back of cuts “is a victory for the European Parliament and for science in Europe.”

But questions remained over the impact the remaining cuts will have, she added.

“The Commission must explain how it will ensure that these cuts do not undermine the EU's competitiveness and long-term economic future,” said Ms Bearder.

In a statement by the League of European Research Universities (LERU), which represents 21 leading universities across Europe, said it was “relieved” that no money would be taken from the ERC or Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions.

“Nonetheless, LERU maintains its original position: it is a bad and wrong signal, one year after the launch of Horizon 2020, that €2.2 billion is plundered from its budget,” it said.

“The daily rhetoric about investments in research & innovation has a very cynical ring to it”.

It also condemned the “terrible democratic and legislative procedure” which saw the Juncker plans fast-tracked, saying the “principles of good governance have been heavily violated in this process”.

jack.grove@tesglobal.com

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