The most promising news about the MFF is that it proposes doubling spending on education: up to €30bn. This means increased mobility among young Europeans, which is crucial for their intercultural experiences and their success in the job market. It also means there will be substantive funding to create European University Networks, and thus boost the competitiveness of Europe’s higher education sector.
In this context, the Commission’s proposal should be welcomed as an ambitious basis for further negotiations. We call on Member States and the European Parliament to step up the investment and allocate €160bn to ‘Horizon Europe’ as advocated not only by university stakeholders but also the Lamy Group of experts.
As the Guild has consistently argued, the added value of EU spending is greatest in R&I because the EU-wide competition for ideas, and collaboration amongst the best minds across borders, far exceeds what is possible within a single country. Moreover, over the past decades the EU Framework Programmes for R&I have proven their importance in boosting Europe’s global leadership in research, and in setting standards for national research programmes by contributing to the European Research Area.
An increase in research, innovation and education spending is a welcome first step, but it is a first step only. It is necessary to ensure that the quality and ambition of Horizon Europe includes the UK alongside EEA and existing Associated Countries.
At the same time, we reiterate our call for stronger synergies between the Framework Programme in R&I and other parts of the budget. For instance, if regional funding decreases, can we find ways to link it more closely to excellent science and innovation?
Finally, we need to ensure that the funding for Horizon Europe will be spent effectively. This must include doubling the funds for the European Research Council and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, which fund frontier-led science. This should also translate into a Framework Programme that addresses not only technological but also societal and cultural concerns. The proposed new ‘Global Challenges and Industrial Competitiveness’ pillar must strengthen collaborative frontier-led research to bring together Europe’s best minds and address the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
As Jan Palmowski, Secretary-General of the Guild, summed it up: “The next Framework Programme must recognise the potential of universities to contribute to the future of Europe, as multicultural and multilingual spaces of learning, and through the outstanding knowledge that their research creates. It is important that Horizon Europe delivers on this ambition, for new knowledge to benefit the societies, cultures, and the economies of Europe.”