Cutting the European Union’s Horizon 2020 budget “downgrades the importance” of research funding and “sends out the wrong signals” to policymakers, according to the European University Association.
In a letter to Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, the EUA says that proposed changes to divert some funding “aggravate an already difficult situation” as some countries have reduced research investment because of the economic crisis.
Mr Juncker plans to create a €315 billion (£233 billion) European Fund for Strategic Investment to boost public and private investment in Europe’s economy over the next three years. Proposals suggest that some finance for the fund will come from the budget of Horizon 2020, Europe’s flagship research and innovation programme.
The letter, from Maria Nazaré, the EUA’s president, and Lesley Wilson, secretary general, says: “The issue is of major significance to Europe’s universities as the implied reduction of funding will affect support for European research collaboration that has proved its enormous added value for Europe.”
It adds that the “excellent science” and “societal challenges” pillars of Horizon 2020 would be affected by the cuts.
“Cutting down on funds previously agreed on by the legislators for research and innovation activities downgrades the importance of research funding at a European level,” it says. Professor Nazaré and Dr Wilson add: “The proposal, as it stands, follows an unacceptable trend of cuts to research and sends the wrong signal to national and regional policymakers…This is a worrying U-turn in the commission’s approach.”
The letter, published on 12 January, calls on Mr Juncker to include scientific oversight when selecting projects to be funded under the EFSI. They say that this is “vital” for EFSI to achieve its aims and stop it from “weakening” European research capabilities.