MEPs claw back €4 billion for Horizon Europe

After cutbacks to the programme in July, lawmakers have managed to pad out the budget slightly, but universities remain disappointed

November 10, 2020
European Parliament, Strasbourg

European lawmakers have negotiated an extra €4 billion (£3.6 billion) for the next iteration of the European Union’s flagship research and innovation programme, set to start next year, but for many university leaders the budget is still well short of expectations.

There was an outcry from MEPs in July when national leaders heavily cut back Horizon Europe’s budget to €80.9 billion, spread over seven years, after marathon negotiations to approve an unprecedented pandemic stimulus deal.

This latest negotiation revises that figure up slightly, but Horizon Europe will still not mark a step change in EU funding for research hoped for by European universities.

“It’s a bit more,” said Robert-Jan Smits, president of Eindhoven University of Technology. “But of course, it doesn’t come close to the €100 billion the European Commission originally proposed and the €120 billion the European Parliament had asked for. So yes, I am disappointed, very disappointed. Horizon Europe deserves more.”

Meanwhile, MEPs managed to win an extra €2.2 billion for the Erasmus+ mobility scheme, and €3.4 billion for EU4Health, the bloc’s response to coronavirus, although the budget for this had already been whittled down during the summer.

Kurt Deketelaere, secretary general of the League of European Research Universities, tweeted that the extra €4 billion for Horizon Europe was “symbolic”.

“What a disappointment after a campaign of two years,” he said. “The case for investing in research and innovation and education has never been so clear and obvious,” he said, but instead member states had made a “historic mistake” in not agreeing a bigger budget.

Science Europe, an umbrella body of research funders, welcomed the increased budget but said that it was “far from one that can support the EU in such unprecedented times”.

Others were more positive. The deal would bring “much-needed extra resource” for the European Research Council and Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions – grants for researchers – tweeted Jan Palmowski, secretary general of the Guild of European Research Intensive Universities.

A number of MEPs trumpeted the deal, which still needs final sign-off from the parliament and member states, as redressing at least some of the disappointment of negotiations in the summer.

“It was a very tough fight but at least we can say that we managed to claw back €4 billion for Horizon Europe, which compensates to some extent for the cuts pushed [for] so hard by the EU member states,” said Christian Ehler, a German MEP who has been closely involved in preparations for Horizon Europe.

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