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Funding deal could free structural funds for EIT fellowships

The European Parliament has proposed that fellowships under the European Institute of Innovation and Technology could be paid for with structural funds, to free up more money for research.

Lambert van Nistelrooij, a conservative MEP for the Netherlands, has suggested that fellowships at local institutions that participate in EIT Knowledge and Innovation Communities could be classed as local competitiveness development.

These fellowships should therefore be funded as part of cohesion activities, rather than research, says Nistelrooij, who sits on the Parliament’s committee for regional development and is the shadow rapporteur on the EIT.

“Think of regions in Poland for example, which have millions of European regional funds available,” said Joel Meggelaars, a member of Nistelrooij’s policy team. “We are trying to link regional development to innovation, so those regional funds could be used to build a knowledge infrastructure and not just roundabouts.”

The proposal was made during a trilogue meeting last month between the European Commission, the Council and the Parliament on regional development. However, it is not yet known how much money would be freed up for science if the Parliament’s proposal goes ahead, as the overall budget for the EIT has not yet been set.

Speaking to Research Europe, one diplomat said the Council of Ministers does not yet have a position on the proposal, but might accept it in return for parliamentary support for its own view on KIC selection.

The Council has requested that the EIT includes only one KIC per topic, and that only three KICs are launched within the first funding phase, to prevent a situation where the priorities of the EIT are set too early.

The Parliament, however, favours a situation where several KICs can deal with the same subject, and KICs are selected on the basis of scientific merit alone. It also proposes to launch five KICs at the start of Horizon 2020.