Brussels, 15 Dec 2005
While the UK's latest proposals for the next EU budget have already been dismissed by many, Europe's research community is quietly celebrating the inclusion of provisions to guarantee a substantial increase in EU research funding over the budgetary period.
The UK proposal states that under the heading 'competitiveness for growth and employment' (1a), 'particular priority should be given to delivering a substantial enhancement of the EU's research effort, which is generally recognised to be one of the most promising and effective drivers of innovation and growth'.
The UK therefore recommends increasing EU funding for research so that resources are around 75 per cent higher in real terms in 2013 than in 2006. 'This research effort, as reflected principally through the Seventh Framework Programme [FP7], has to be based on excellence while ensuring balanced access for all Member States,' the proposal adds.
A spokesperson for EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik told CORDIS News that he is still examining the proposal, as certain aspects of it are not clear, but that he is very pleased with the Presidency's recognition of research as an essential element of competitiveness.
The Commission is still looking at the proposal with the aim of establishing what exactly is meant by a budget increase of 75 per cent over seven years - it is not clear whether this increase would be incremental or back-loaded.
The UK's proposal also invites the Commission and the European Investment Bank to examine the possibility of strengthening their support for research by up to ten billion euro through a financing facility with risk-sharing components. This would be aimed in particular at fostering additional investment in the private sector.
The European Council on 15 and 16 December is being keenly followed around Europe. Professor Jean-Patrick Connerade, President of Euroscience - an organisation gathering researchers, science journalists, decision-makers and others interested in research from 40 European countries - has urged the Council to follow through on its earlier statements on the importance of research: 'I strongly urge the Heads of Government to remember their obligations from Lisbon and to ensure that the research budget is protected within the overall financial perspectives of the Union. The UK Presidency has recognised the priority of research to the future of the Union and I sincerely hope that other Heads of Government will be equally supportive. The EU faces very major challenges in the years ahead and research is one area from which we start with a reasonable base. Our economic well-being depends on this investment in research and development both for the present and the future.'
The UK proposal is, however, under attack from all sides. Commission President José Manuel Barroso has called the proposed budget 'inadequate', referring to a cut of 3 billion euro from the original Commission proposal. A number of foreign ministers, and in particular those from Poland and France, have rejected a proposal that, they say, will leave the poorer countries worse off, and only the UK better off. Most countries also wish to see the UK give up at least part of its rebate.
To access the UK's proposals, please click here