Category: Europe

Universities demand hike in EU research funding

source: University World News (Brendan O'Malley)

In the wake of the European Commission’s release of its outline for the Ninth Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon Europe, 14 European associations of universities released a joint statement on Friday calling upon the European Union institutions to double the budget for Horizon Europe, improve its content and reconsider the budget distribution over the different pillars of the programme.

The statement calls on the European Parliament and European Council to support Horizon Europe but make the following changes:


  • Increase the total budget to €160 billion (US$186 billion).
  • Review the budget allocation.
  • Put the realisation of the European Research Area at the centre of Horizon Europe.
  • Foresee better linkages between research, innovation and education.
  • Include a human and societal reflection, as well as options for fundamental research, in all clusters and missions.

The statement says, for universities, creating the best Horizon Europe possible is paramount as the programme is a key enabler in achieving European ambitions and strengthening values. “By reinforcing research and innovation, Horizon Europe will impact the daily life of European citizens, European society as a whole and the European economy.”

Professor Kurt Deketelaere, secretary general of the League of European Research Universities, which initiated the joint statement, said: “If it had not been for the budget distribution proposal, our overall evaluation of Horizon Europe would have been even more positive! The budget proposal is decent, but must be increased, the programme proposal is decent, but must be improved.

“However, the underfunding of pillar one [Open Science] and the overfunding of pillar three [Open Innovation] have been a damper on our initial joy over the programme. So this will have to be remedied.”

Lesley Wilson, secretary general of the European University Association, said: “Our most important recommendation is to increase Horizon Europe’s total budget. To meet the EU’s ambitious goals for the programme, universities are calling for funding to be doubled to €160 billion.”

The statement says a bigger total budget would help address universities’ concerns about how the budget is allocated.

“Funding must be distributed with a focus on those programmes that have a proven track record in: generating EU added value; contributing to the European research and innovation landscape; and reinforcing European human capital,” the statement says.

“This is exactly what the Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions and the European Research Council in particular have delivered. For that reason, and to multiply the effects of their achievements, they deserve a more substantial budget increase.”

Uneven funding for challenges

The 14 associations say while the overall budget for pillar two [Global Challenges and Industrial Competitiveness] has increased substantially, the distribution of budgets is not equitably divided among the envisaged five thematic clusters within that pillar, which focus on Health; Inclusive and Secure Society; Digital and Industry; Climate, Energy and Mobility; and Food and Natural Resources.

“We welcome the five-cluster approach, but a more balanced budget distribution must capture the fact that they all are the most pressing challenges our societies are facing.”

They note positively the budget increase for “sharing excellence” as an important element in building the European Research Area.

But they also say that sufficient investment and supportive frameworks at the national level are also needed to close the research and innovation divide across and within member states.

The European University Association, in its detailed response to the Horizon Europe proposal, says this includes lowering risks to participation, enhanced consistency in the interpretation of rules, and broader acceptance of the accounting practices of beneficiaries. It adds that the possibility for member states to finance the Seal of Excellence via European Structural and Investment Funds will also contribute to this objective.

Universities’ central role

The 14 associations, in their statement, say universities have a clear and central role to play in addressing today’s global challenges and in helping to stimulate industrial competitiveness. “No other type of organisation can address such issues in a holistic way, while also considering the societal dimension. Universities should therefore play a central role in developing and managing missions,” they say.

The statement also says that universities have a leading role in stimulating the transfer of research results to society and the market, mainly through highly educated human capital.

“Therefore, the role of universities in the European Innovation Council must be amplified and recognised. Linkages between research, innovation and education in Horizon Europe must be improved and spread more broadly over the entire programme.”

Finally, they call for “stronger human and societal approaches across the whole programme”, especially in some pillar two clusters.

“Industry’s short-term interest should not prevail over society’s long-term benefits from Horizon Europe,” the statement says. “Even when the focus is on technology and close-to-market activities, reflections on how it affects our societies must be included.

“At the same time, addressing today’s global challenges and generating breakthrough innovations need fresh insights based on new research, not only projects that further develop already-known approaches. Close-to-market activities should be complemented explicitly with fundamental research.”

The associations say they look forward to continuing their work with the European Commission, the European Parliament and Council of the European Union to support a timely approval of Horizon Europe and to actively engage in the co-creation process in order to make the programme a success.

The 14 associations that signed the statement are:


  • AURORA, a European network of universities
  • CESAER, A European network of science and technology universities
  • CLUSTER, the Consortium Linking Universities of Science and Technology for Education and Research
  • The Coïmbra Group
  • EARMA, the European Association of Research Managers and Administrators
  • EASSH, the European Alliance for Social Sciences and Humanities
  • ECIU, the European Consortium of Innovative Universities
  • EUA, the European University Association
  • The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities
  • IDEA League, a European network of science and technology universities
  • LERU, the League of European Research Universities
  • SEFI, the European Society for Engineering Education
  • UNICA, the Network of Universities from the Capitals of Europe
  • YERUN, Young European Research Universities.

EC proposes budget increases for research and Erasmus+

source: (Brendan O’Malley)

The European Commission (EC) has called for a 30% increase in the European Union’s research budget and a doubling of the budget for Erasmus+ in its proposal for the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-27, which it presented to the European Parliament on 2 May.

If agreed by the European Parliament and the European Council, this would bring spending on research up from €70 billion (US$84 billion) in Horizon 2020 to €100 billion (US$84 billion) in Horizon Europe – as the next Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (FP9), the successor to Horizon 2020, will be called.

Members of the European Parliament were quick to praise the European Commission for earmarking a drastic increase in funds towards programmes that have been championed by the parliament, including Erasmus+, which will receive €30 billion (US$36 billion) over the seven-year funding period – compared with €15 billion in 2014-20.

By contrast, funding for agriculture and cohesion have been slashed.

The European University Association (EUA) representing more than 800 higher education institutions, welcomed the EC’s willingness to “step up investment” in research and education despite a challenging political and economic context.

But the EUA said it considered the doubling of the Erasmus+ budget “an absolute precondition to work towards the achievement of the EU’s new goals in the field, which require more European mobility and collaboration”.

Along with security and defence, education and research are one of the few areas to avoid cuts and see a proposed increase in spending in the EC’s proposal.

Thomas Estermann, director for governance, funding and public policy development for EUA, said the proposal was “a step in the right direction”. He told University World News: “Many areas have had to face cuts, but this sends the right message that education and research are areas that provide a high return on investment.”

However, he also said it was “not enough to meet all the ambitions that most likely will be put forward in the proposed Horizon Europe programme”.

The League of European Research Universities (LERU) also welcomed the proposal as an “important step in the right direction”, but said it was “not as ambitious as what was needed”. It had made a joint statement with 12 other European university associations on 21 March saying that “a doubling of the budget for research and innovation [R&I] is an absolute necessity if the EU wants to emerge as a leader in the global R&I competition”.

It is actually very difficult to evaluate the significance of the figures proposed because it is not possible to know yet what the United Kingdom will be contributing to the budget post Brexit. In theory Brexit will create a €12 billion hole in the EU’s overall finances, but the UK has indicated it would like to buy back into some parts of the EU programme – if the EU will allow it.

“The proposal obviously can’t take into account the UK as a contributor to the budget but we very much hope there will be an agreement via which the UK can participate in the research funding programme and Erasmus+,” Estermann said.

According to the EUA, the €100 billion – and possibly more if the UK will be associated to the programme and contribute to its funding – could enable a start to be made on addressing the efficiency issue that plagued Horizon 2020 and its record-low success rates.

“However, the increase is not ambitious enough to meet the combined objectives of an improved average success rate, enhanced funding for innovation and resourcing large-scale ‘missions’, among others. Indeed, this would require a full-scale doubling of the budget allocated to Horizon 2020,” the EUA said in a statement.

Biggest increase ever

LERU said the proposed research budget is about €35 billion more than Horizon 2020 when you take into account the UK contribution.

“This represents the biggest [percentage] increase ever for the FP [Framework Programme]. Especially in light of Brexit and its budgetary consequences, as well as the EU’s new priorities, the proposed increased investment in research, innovation and education by the commission is acceptable.”

LERU, which favours an association of the United Kingdom to FP9 post Brexit, said if the UK, Switzerland, Norway and Israel associate to FP9, it would effectively increase the budget to €120 billion, the amount LERU called for last year.

The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities welcomed the EC’s proposal as “an ambitious basis for further negotiations” but has called for the budget for Horizon Europe to be increased to €160 billion.

A study commissioned by LERU has shown that investing in universities pays off with very high returns: in 2016 LERU universities generated almost €5 of gross value added (GVA) for every €1 of income received. It was also estimated that the wider research universities sector generated €400 billion in GVA and supported 5.1 million jobs in Europe in 2016.

“With its excellent cross-border research, innovation and education, Europe has unique assets to find answers to develop the society of tomorrow, with smart and clean buildings and vehicles, with a circular economy, equipped to tackle diseases and security threats, making our society not only more competitive and sustainable, but also more resilient and inclusive. Europe’s universities educate and treasure some of the finest brains in the world and have invaluable societal impact,” LERU said.

Kurt Deketelaere, secretary-general of LERU, strongly called on the European Parliament and the member states to agree on a further increase of the budget.

Members of the European Parliament, who are expected to vote on the proposal at the end of May, responded positively to it, welcoming the new priorities, including the emphasis on research.