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Funding for regions chopped in Horizon 2020 proposal

The European Commission has scrapped funding programmes designed to boost research capacity in EU regions in its proposal for the next research funding pot Horizon 2020.

Two funding schemes from Framework 7 have been chopped from the Commission’s proposal for research funding in 2014-20. These are Regions of Knowledge, worth €126 million in 2007-13, and Research Potential of Convergence Regions, worth €340m.

The Commission’s reason for scrapping the two funding streams is to split research funding in a better way between structural funds for capacity building and Horizon 2020 for ‘excellent’ science only.

“The mistake we’ve made in the past is that we didn’t have a clear division of objectives,” Robert-Jan Smits, the Commission’s director-general for research, told a forum on the role of regions and cities in research after 2013 in Brussels last month.

The Commission says that money will be available for research in regions under the structural funds after 2013. “It is up to the regional authorities to organise this. It requires creativity,” a Commission official said at the Eureka and the Regional Dimension of Innovation conference, held in Brussels on 18 January. He added that funds could be available for research for example under the EU’s Interreg programme, worth about €7.75 billion in 2007‑13, which funds cooperation among EU regions based on geographic or thematic criteria.

But Richard Tuffs, director of the European Regions Research and Innovation Network (see Insider, page 13), told Research Europe that the proposed strict division could be counter-productive. “The idea is ‘You’re a region so now you go only to DG regional policy’ [to seek EU funding],” he says. “This is detrimental both to DG research, which may lose sight of some of the actors on the ground, and to the regions that want to build a research perspective.”

Markku Markkula, a centre-right Finnish member of the Committee of the Regions (see Interview, page 6), is less concerned about the money changing location, as long as it’s still available. “Our experience with Regions of Knowledge is very positive and that kind of instrument is needed,” he says. “But we can also call it something else—sometimes you need to restructure.”