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MEPs divided over contentious Horizon Europe proposals

The European Parliament’s two lead MEPs on the EU’s 2021-27 R&D programme Horizon Europe are split on questions such as whether the European Research Council should fund projects based on criteria other than just excellence.

Dan Nica, one of the two leads, said in a report published in July that the rule that ERC evaluators should consider only the quality of proposals when deciding what research to fund should be dropped. His report said the criteria should be changed to favour early-career researchers and also hinted that they could be tweaked to facilitate mobility while avoiding a brain drain from some countries.

But Christian Ehler, the other lead and shadow for Nica’s report, said at a meeting of the Parliament’s research committee on 10 September that the ERC was “sacred territory” and a “super successful instrument”, implying it should remain largely untouched. Ehler‘s own report on Horizon Europe merely called for the ERC’s Proof-of-Concept Grants, which bridge the gap between research and commercialisation of product ideas, to be opened up to people who have not previously received an ERC research award, which is a much smaller change.

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