A new, modern budget for the European Union.
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 in Horizon 2020 to €100 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 over the seven-year funding period – compared with €15 billion in 2014-20.
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.
In its final budget proposal to the Parliament, the European Commision said: "Europe’s future prosperity depends on the investment decisions we take today. The EU budget has long been a vital source of investment across Europe. Stepping up investment now in areas such as research, strategic infrastructure, digital transformation and the Single Market will be key to unlocking future growth and tackling common challenges such as decarbonisation and demographic change."
Uncertainty due to Brexit
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.
Still, the proposed research budget is about €35 billion more than Horizon 2020 when one takes into account the UK contribution.
LERU, the League of European Research Universities, said: “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.”
Biggest increase ever
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.
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.
Members of the European Parliament, who are expected to vote on the proposal at the end of May, responded positively to the proposal, welcoming the new priorities, including the emphasis on research.