Go back

Ivanova: EU R&I programme ‘must have budget to match its needs’

 Image: European Union

EU research and innovation commissioner urges “shared commitment” to increase investment

The EU’s research and innovation programme must be given a budget to match its needs, R&I commissioner Iliana Ivanova has told Research Europe.

“We would have needed three times the budget available to fund all the high-quality proposals we received” in the 2014-20 iteration of the programme, she pointed out when asked about the EU failing to meet its target to spend 3 per cent of its GDP on R&I.

“To be able to support all the great talents and ideas we have in Europe, we need a budget for the programme commensurate to the needs.”

With a fresh round of commissioner appointments imminent, it remains unclear how long Ivanova will remain in her current portfolio. Even if she is nominated again by the Bulgarian government, commissioners serving a second term are often given new areas of responsibility. However, her stance will provide further fuel to recent calls from across the sector for the EU to dramatically step up its funding for research.

Falling short

At about the time that Ivanova was providing her comments in a wide-ranging interview (see feature), the European Commission published figures on the first three years of Horizon Europe, the current EU R&I programme. These showed that it was able to fund only 33 per cent of the high-quality proposals it received, and that to fund all of them it would have needed an extra €55 billion on top of the roughly €30.8bn it awarded.

To reach its 3 per cent target, the EU needs to invest at least an extra €120bn a year, Ivanova said. “Our efforts in the EU fall short of the targets and are lower than those of many global competitors,” she complained.

This matters because “investing in skills, research and innovation is key to enhancing our current and future competitiveness and prosperity”. “[It] is therefore in the best interest of all of us, member states and the EU, to make progress here,” she said.

Shared commitment

But the extra funding needed cannot all be delivered through the EU R&I programme, Ivanova stressed. Instead, it “requires a shared commitment between the EU, member states and private actors”.

For the member states, there is a “crucial need to increase and sustain public funding for R&I throughout Europe”, she said.

Asked what more the countries that are particularly lagging on their R&I investment could do, she said: “Each member state needs to see where it should focus.”

The EU helps with this through its European Semester process, where it recommends areas for investment and reform across the board, and through the Policy Support Facility that is part of the R&I programme, she pointed out. “One recent example is Croatia, which has made use of the PSF to improve its programmes for applied research and technology transfer.”

Ivanova encouraged member states to pay attention to the Seals of Excellence awarded by the EU R&I programme to high-quality proposals it cannot afford to fund, and to use their shares of the bloc’s regional cohesion funds to “support these talents”.

Private investment in R&I in the EU is also “particularly” lagging compared with global competitors, Ivanova stressed. She welcomed recent conclusions from the Council of the EU member state governments calling for companies to be given increased access to funding to support their growth.

As well as more funding being needed to improve European R&I, greater effort is required “to provide the right environment to attract and retain talents in Europe in terms of infrastructures, working conditions, regulatory environment or access to finance”, Ivanova said.