Extra resources for Horizon Europe must strengthen fundamental research
After two months of intense negotiations, the European Parliament and the German Presidency of the Council give green light to a budget increase1 of €4bn to Horizon Europe, €2.2bn to Erasmus+ and €3.4bn to EU4Health, if unanimously approved by European leaders. The Guild calls the additional €4bn to be used for increasing the share of Horizon Europe’s Excellent Science Pillar.
Although the spending in research, innovation and education remains significantly below the European Commission’s May proposal, The Guild welcomes the efforts made by MEPs, Commissioner Gabriel and the German Presidency of the Council to improve the budget of Europe’s flagship programmes. According to the agreement reached, Horizon Europe should now receive €84.9bn (including €5bn from the recovery instrument NGEU), whist a total of €23.4bn should be allocated to Erasmus+ and €5.1bn to the EU4Health programme.
With discussions on the allocation of funds across Horizon Europe’s pillars unfolding in the coming weeks, The Guild reiterates its call for EU institutions to increase investments in fundamental research in the new European framework programme for research and innovation. Crucially, the €4bn increase must be mobilised towards Horizon Europe’s Excellence Pillar to restore its share in the programme. This money is needed to ensure adequate support for the next generation of research talent that the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) train and empower. Also, the extra funds must enable the ERC to increase its funding for breakthrough science to help make Europe more resilient for future challenges.
Recent headlines on the promising results of the vaccine against Covid-19 being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech prove that investments in breakthrough science pay off: Uğur Şahin, co-founder of the German-based BioNTech, is among the European Research Council’s awardees for an Advanced Grant in 2017. Şahin’s work together with dozens of other ERC-funded projects have clearly played a crucial role in the fight against the pandemic. Failing to invest adequately in frontier research could send a negative signal to the best research talent in Europe, and at worst result in brain drain to countries with better funded research systems.
Negotiators should also use this opportunity to channel additional funding to fundamental research from the €5bn recovery instrument NGEU. Although the bottom-up nature of ERC and MSCA programmes does not allow for establishing thematic calls, NGEU top-up funding should be used to support frontier science identified as contributing to studying the pandemic and its consequences. Additionally, NGEU funding can also be used to foster research collaboration in clusters 1 and 2 in Pillar 2, to study the social and health aspects of the crisis.
Finally, The Guild re-iterates that it is crucial to ensure transparency and fairness in the allocation of the shares of Associated Countries back to the programmes across Horizon Europe, so that programmes such as ERC and MSCA would not lose on their budget share as a result of the Commission’s reallocation of the Associated Countries’ contributions.