Research rescue attempt

Nieuws | de redactie
30 november 2012 | This week political families in the EP closed ranks on the Research Budget, preparing for a final battle with national governments. “It will rather be a fist fight than a happy negotiation”, an EP-insider confides.

Cutting the European Research Budget would be “a catastrophe”, said professor François Englert. Professor Higgs called it “unwise”. Englert and Higgs gained fame this year, because of their work developing a theory behind the ‘Higgs-boson’. The famous scientists visited the European Parliament in the week that the EP’s Research Committee voted on Horizon 2020.

The political parties represented in the Research Committee showed remarkable solidarity. In a move to outwit the Member States, the parliamentary committee decided on allocating percentages to the several chapters of the Horizon 2020 budget. Compared to the European Commission’s original proposal, the Parliament wanted more funding for ‘excellent science’ and ‘industrial leadership’, and somewhat less for ‘societal challenges’.

Commission                                    EP

Excellent science            31,71%                                  32,8%

Industrial leadership      22,54%                                  24,3%

Societal challenges         39,59%                                  37,4%

EIT                                         3,3%                                      3,3%

The Parliament’s percentage-approach will most likely be the lifebuoy for the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), which lay under heavy attack during the budget negotiations of the last months.

In future, the EIT will also include Regional Innovation Centers (RICs), in an effort to link European excellence with less favoured regions. The inventor of the RICs, MEP Lambert van Nistelrooij, is very happy with the results of the vote. “If only 5% of the 2.8 billion for EIT will support regional excellence, many in the new Member States will profit.”

Big, solid majority

Furthermore, the EP strongly supported the Marie Curie funds, also with a view to especially favouring individual researchers from the new Member States.

Eventually the budget for Horizon 2020 has to be negotiated with the Council. Since the overarching 7 year budget negotiations have just collapsed, no deal on Horizon 2020 is expected soon. But it’s a hopeful sign that political parties in the EP have found broad consensus. “This big, solid majority gives fighting spirit”, a source in the EP says. “We will have a fist fight with the Council on Horizon 2020, these will not be happy negotiations.”

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