Commission faces Juncker plan backlash by research community
Storm over the European Parliament in Brussels © Philippe Teuwen

Commission faces Juncker plan backlash by research community

Leading science and research organisations across Europe have come together expressing their great concern regarding the European Commission’s proposed regulation for the new European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and cuts to the Horizon 2020 budget.

Issuing a joint statement, Science Europe, the European Association of Research and Technology Organisations (EARTO), the European University Association (EUA), the League of European Research Universities (LERU) and the Conference of European Schools for Advanced Engineering Education and Research (CESAR), said that whilst they supported the Commission’s actions to boost economic growth and job creation through R&I investment, they said Horizon 2020 was “the only strategic European-level instrument supporting R&I activities”, and supporting all R&I actors.

The organisations said: “Horizon 2020, much like national R&I funds, is based on granting funds recognising that R&I actors such as universities, research performing organisations (RPOs) and research and technology organisations (RTOs) have specific business models requiring strong public support (that cannot primarily come from loans). Deviating funds from such a pan-EU R&I programme to create new loans facilities aiming at supporting only one actor within Europe’s R&I value chains and eco-systems does not make sense, especially given that such loan facilities already exist at the European Investment Bank, as well as under Horizon 2020 (InnovFin).”

All the organisations were in agreement that it was important to support all actors involved in R&I chains and ecosystems, notably industry, universities, RPOs, RTOs, and regional/national public actors. The statement calls on MEPs and EU member states to support European R&I by backing the Horizon 2020 budget. They are encouraging the Parliament and Council to make changes to the proposed Juncker Plan legislation. Modifications suggested are: ensuring that projects to be funded under the EFSI undergo an R&I check to guarantee their effectiveness at supporting research and innovation; demonstrate clear involvement of all R&I actors in the project, including those projects managed by industry or government; and allow the participation of all relevant R&I actors, even those that have difficulty raising loans.

“Despite many calls made by some of the ERA stakeholders to the Commission since last autumn, the proposed funding of the EFSI budget foresees substantial cuts for the Horizon 2020 budget,” the statement added. “This will weaken Horizon 2020, rather than adding EFSI as a complementary tool to this programme. CESAER, EARTO, EUA, LERU and Science Europe hereby would like to warn EU decision makers that such plans will be detrimental to the only pan-European R&I activities running today.”

The five organisations signing the statement are members of the European Research Area Stakeholder Platform, which was created following the signature of a Joint Statement with the Commission in 2012. It encourages dialogue between the Commission, key research and innovation stakeholder organisations and supports the development of ERA policy.