Go back

Academia in uproar over ‘planned €12bn cut’ to EU R&D

Image: Africa Studio, via Shutterstock

Member states’ reported plans for Horizon Europe branded ‘completely unacceptable’ and potentially ‘disastrous’

High-level figures from European research have decried reports that member states want to cut ‘at least €12 billion’ from the proposed €94.1bn budget of the EU’s 2021-27 R&D programme, Horizon Europe.

Lidia Borrell-Damián, secretary general of the group of research funders and performers Science Europe, told Research Professional News the cut would be “very serious”.

“It would be a failure and very damaging for the future of Europe if we don’t manage to get a proper budget for Horizon Europe,” she said.

MEP Christian Ehler, who led on the legislation for Horizon Europe, reported in a European Parliament session on 12 November that member states had discussed the plans for the cut. He said it could lead to reductions of up to €3bn for the flagship European Research Council.

A cut of this size “would be a disaster” for the ERC, said Borrell-Damián. Ehler urged the ERC to do more to convince member states not to push for the cuts.

Kurt Deketelaere, secretary general of the League of European Research Universities, said that the budget for Horizon Europe “risks becoming the joke of the year”, and that the reported plans were “completely unacceptable”.

He said it was “absolutely key” for research figures to contact their national leaders and finance ministers and protest against the cuts.

That view was echoed by Ludovic Thilly, chair of the Coimbra group of universities, who said that the cuts would be “opposite to the vision and ambition proposed” by the European Commission.

Thomas Jørgensen, senior policy coordinator at the European University Association, said that cutting the budget would not be a way to save money but “simply disinvestment”.

Figures from individual universities also expressed alarm. Carel Stolker, rector magnificus and president of Leiden University in The Netherlands, described the reports as “downright worrying”. Linda Doyle, dean of research at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, said that the budget “needs to be protected”.

The Commission has proposed a Horizon Europe budget of €94.1bn adjusted for inflation, or €83.5bn in 2018 prices. Meanwhile, the European Parliament wants a budget of €120bn in 2018 prices.

Member states in the Council of the EU are yet to agree on specific proposal. Their negotiations with the Parliament on the overall 2021-27 EU budget are expected to start next year.

The budget for the current R&D programme Horizon 2020 is about €77bn in 2018 prices.

A version of this article also appeared in Research Europe and Research Fortnight