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  • Juncker's EFSI not working for universities

    (photo: Images of Money)

    (photo: Images of Money)

    - A year ago universities voiced their concern over how Juncker’s European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) would work out for science. The European Commission assured them they need not worry, but according to the EUA universities haven’t benefited from the fund.

    Thus far 23% of EFSI financing has gone to research, development and innovation (RDI), butuniversities, it seems, have not benefitted, the European Universities Association (EUA) writes in a report published last week.

    Investments going to infrastructure

    That seems to come as a surprise as Jean-Claude Juncker as well as commissioner Carlos Moedas presented plans in May 2015 to make the EFSI also work for universities. The plans were welcomed by LERU-secretary Kurt Deketelaere saying “it will hopefully be followed by many others, so that society at large can fully benefit from the research it is, wisely and correctly, funding."

    A year on universities do not seem to benefit that much from the fund. A large proportion of the money did go to large infrastructure as well als small and medium enterprises (SME). “the majority of EFSI projects are similar to those funded under the traditional EIB (European Investment Bank) portfolio,” the EUA writes.

    According to the EUA “this questions not only the additionality of EFSI as one of the main arguments of the European Commission to set up the fund, but also shows that the money taken out of Horizon 2020 is not largely flowing back to research as promised by the EC.“

    Keep Horizon 2020 in place

    There are three reasons for the European Fund for Strategic Investment not being in place for universities, EUA writes:

    1. Loan schemes and financial instruments are not suitable to fund university-based research


    2. Universities in most European countries are not allowed to borrow money or can do so only under strict conditions

    3. The nature and the scale of projects considered for financing essentially excludes universities from the scheme

    The EUA wishes to maintain the EFSI “only if it really delivers on the assumed leverage effects and proves to unleash private investments” and urges the European Commission to stop taking any more money from Horizon 2020. “Horizon 2020 is a highly-successful programme but is in danger of losing attractiveness if not sufficiently and sustainably funded. Debt-financing mechanisms like EFSI, however, are not suitable to fund the type of collaborative research that is highly needed to address current societal challenges.”