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EU research commissioner slams UK research spending cuts

The European Union’s research commissioner has criticised British science and education spending cuts, saying they jeopardise future growth in the United Kingdom.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, the research commissioner, told an audience at the Royal Society this week that it was essential to maintain investment in R&D and innovation to overcome the financial crisis. Geoghegan-Quinn met science minister David Willets and John Beddington, the chief scientific adviser, to warn them about the effects of research spending cuts.
She told UK policymakers how Germany is planning to increase science and education spending by 12 billion euros over the next three years. Despite suffering an economic turndown, Germany is on track to meet its goal of spending 3 per cent of GDP on science and innovation by 2013.
“So, [Germany’s] economic success is not an accident. It is the result of deliberate policy,” said Geoghegan-Quinn.
The research commissioner underlined the various opportunities for spending top-ups the European Framework Programme for research funding could offer British researchers. She said that Europe and the European Research Area must play a greater role in the UK’s global research outlook to make sure science institutions in the UK get access to various funding sources.
The UK participates in over 2,700 Framework-7-funded projects, according to the European Commission. So far, these projects will receive around 10 billion euros between 2007 and 2013, of which around 2bn euros will go to UK participants. All in all, the UK is estimated to receive around 14 per cent of total Framework 7 funding, Geoghegan-Quinn said.
“The EU can benefit from your know-how in research and innovation. You can inspire others,” Geoghegan-Quinn told the audience at the event. “But I think that the United Kingdom also needs the EU. Closer integration and a greater contribution from the UK to European research and innovation system can only be a win-win situation.
After the meeting, Geoghegan-Quinn held separate talks with Beddington to learn more about the scientific advice system of the UK government. The European Commission is looking to create its own scientific adviser, and Geoghegan-Quinn said the European Commission could learn from the UK government’s experience. She was particularly interested in the fact that each government department has its own scientific advisory board, a system that has not been suggested before for the European Commission.