Oettinger to protect research from cuts
Günther Oettinger © Jacques Grießmayer

Oettinger to protect research from cuts

European Commission budget chief Günther Oettinger has said that research should be the only EU programme spared spending cuts in the post-2020 budget period

By the middle of next year, the commission will publish a proposal for the EU’s trillion euro budget plans for the next financing period that begins in 2021.

“There is no guarantee that any programme will avoid cuts,” Oettinger said. “But if I had one option, it would be to avoid cuts to [research].”

Oettinger’s public support for maintaining R&D spending in Framework Programme 9 (FP9) when it succeeds Horizon 2020, the current research programme, in 2021, is a boost to researchers following Brexit.

The departure of the UK, the EU’s number two net contributor after Germany, in March 2019 will create a financing gap of around 16% of the EU’s overall budget, or €10bn annually.

A campaign is already underway by EU research commissioner Carlos Moedas to protect, and hopefully increase, the current Horizon 2020 research budget of €77bn.

The commission’s director general for research and innovation, Robert-Jan Smits, has previously identified Oettinger as a key ally for research. “With Commissioner Oettinger in charge, I cannot imagine we will see a decrease in our budget,” Smits said.

“I’m convinced there will be an increase. Oettinger talks constantly about innovation and he comes from a region in Germany, Baden-Württemberg, that spends 5% of [its] GDP on research.”