University groups push for doubling of EU research budget

Increasing Framework Programme 9 backing to €160 billion (£139.7 billion) would create 650,000 jobs by 2030, says open letter

March 21, 2018
Euro banknotes in test tubes
Source: iStock

A coalition of university associations has called on the European Commission to double the size of the budget for the successor programme to Horizon 2020 amid continuing concern about low success rates for grant applicants.

An open letter signed by 13 representative groups says that increasing the budget for research and innovation under Framework Programme 9 to €160 billion (£139.7 billion) would “create an estimated 650,000 jobs by 2030 and add around 0.46 per cent to GDP over the same period”.

The letter has been backed by organisations including the European University Association, the League of European Research Universities and the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities ahead of a European Union summit next week.

Earlier this year, the commission pledged not to cut budgets for research or student mobility programmes such as Erasmus+, regardless of any financial losses felt by the bloc after Brexit.

But the representative bodies say that Horizon 2020 remains “underfunded”, with its €80 billion, seven-year budget allowing it to support fewer than one in five high-quality proposals.

Meanwhile, funds for Erasmus+ are insufficient to fulfil proposed targets to increase student mobility to 20 per cent across participating countries, the letter says.

“This doubling [of the FP9 budget] would enable the EU to emerge as a global leader in areas like future-energy batteries, smart and clean buildings and vehicles, infectious diseases and the circular economy,” the letter says. “At the same time it would stimulate more inclusive and resilient societies, increase sustainable growth and reduce inequality in Europe.”

The representative groups’ call to double the research budget echoes the recommendation of a report requested by the commission and chaired by Pascal Lamy, former director general of the World Trade Organisation, which was submitted last year.

The letter adds that doubling the framework programme budget “cannot be a substitute” for investment in research and innovation by national governments, and further urges the EU to “encourage member states more forcefully to meet their commitments”.

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