At the beginning of May the European Commission unveiled a €100 billion budget for its new research programme for the period 2021 to 2017. The figure includes €97.6 billion for Horizon Europe, the EU’s flagship research programme, and €2.4 billion for the Euratom nuclear research programme. For Horizon Europe, that means an increase of almost 30% – when adjusted for inflation – on the EU’s current Horizon 2020 research programme of €77 billion.
The next Multiannual Financial Framework represents an overall budget request of more than €1 trillion which is the equivalent of 1.11% of the EU27’s gross national income. It comprises reductions to the two largest EU spending programmes, farm and regional aid, down 5% and 7% respectively, to make room for more spending on research and defence. Tougher conditions are also placed on member states in receipt of funds, including economic reform and adherence to EU “values” such as rule of law.
“Everyone said we want more for research – it’s happening,” the Commission’s President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters at the unveiling of the blueprint. The new research programme is one of the few EU budget lines to increase in the Commission’s seven-year proposal; another is the Erasmus student exchange programme, which sees its budget double to €30 billion. EU Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas said at a conference in Brussels that “the budget is probably not what we wanted, but it is good news for science and innovation.”
Mr Moedas has been supported in his call for more spending on research and innovation by EU budget commissioner, Günther Oettinger and some in the European Parliament have vowed that they will fight for more. In general, EU staff working on research issues say that they are very satisfied with the Horizon Europe increase, even if it is less than the €120 billion asked for by the European Parliament, and the €160 billion hoped for by lobbyists. “Research and innovation have made it to the top of the political agenda,” said Robert-Jan Smits, special adviser on open access and innovation at the European Commission, and former director-general for research. “Mission completed!”