EU budget for 2018: Can Europe afford to neglect its success stories?
EU Member States (EU Council) are proposing deep cuts to the funding of research and innovation in 2018. Their position on the next annual budget for the EU, announced on 12 July, is still subject to negotiations with the European Parliament – but if adopted, it would reduce €1.7bn off the initial €158.9bn proposed by the European Commission (on the side of commitments), and Horizon 2020 (H2020) would be the budget line suffering from particularly severe reductions.
The programme’s 2018 budget would be cut by nearly €0.5bn. As a result, it would be just 2.56% higher than in 2017 – far below the 7.31% increase proposed by the Commission, and far below its average growth rate of 6.5% since 2014.
Cuts are also proposed to specific areas within the Horizon 2020 funding, in a haphazard way that might distort the structure of the programme. They would make H2020 less effective, but also much less predictable to all involved public and private players from the EU and beyond. They contradict the pledge that the Member States made earlier this year, for the 2018 budget to “boost growth, promote employment and create new jobs, enhance effective EU cohesion, foster competitiveness and tackle the migration and security crises.” The EU governments have repeatedly recognised research and innovation as the prerequisite for achieving these goals and have committed themselves to supporting R&I with appropriate funding, both at the EU level and nationally.
The EU framework programmes for research and innovation – although they remain a mere drop in the ocean, accounting for as little as 10% of public R&I spending in the EU and capable of funding only 1 out of 4 qualifying projects – have certainly helped establish Europe as a “global scientific powerhouse” (as recognised in the Lamy Report). Perhaps the most spectacular success story is the globally acclaimed European Research Council to whose budget the Council also proposes severe cuts in 2018. Convinced that success stories should be cherished, not neglected, the Guild calls for the doubling of the ERC’s budget in the next Framework Programme (FP9). This is one of the key recommendations we make in our position paper on FP9.
The momentum for R&I in Europe needs to be maintained both through long-term strategies and through the responsible governance of the annual budgets. We urge the negotiators from the EU Council and European Parliament to make R&I at least as prominent in the 2018 budget as proposed by the Commission.