The plans would see funds for programmes including Horizon Europe ‘back-ended’ to the second half of the 2021-27 Multiannual Financial Framework period, but many in the research sector condemn the move.
The European Council is facing a backlash from leading figures in the research community after announcing plans to reduce the budget allocation for Horizon Europe by €316 million in 2022.
The plans would not see an overall reduction in the Horizon Europe budget, and would instead see a back-loading of part of the financing the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) period from the first half of the budgeting period to the second.
However, the reductions for 2022 have sparked concern from figures in the research sector. The Horizon Europe cut for 2022 includes a €70 million reduction in European Research Council (ERC) funding, as well as a €10 million and €50 million reduction in the MSCA and European Innovation Council (EIC) budgets respectively. Elsewhere, the plans would also see cuts of €50 million from Digital Europe and €45.5 million from InvestEU in 2022.
In a statement condemning the plans, German MEP and rapporteur for the Horizon Europe specific programme Dr Christian Ehler warned that delaying the funding to later years is counterproductive and risks undermining efforts to achieve EU goals. He said:
‘Postponing spending to later years does not make sense as we need research to start now, in order to have technologies ready and implemented by 2030 to achieve our objectives. Rather than postponing spending, including respending of decommitted research funds, we should mobilise as much funds as possible now.’
Dr Ehler’s comments were supported by EU-LIFE, an alliance of 14 leading EU research centres specialising in European Life Sciences research, which labelled the plans ‘totally incomprehensible’ and ‘exactly the opposite of what Europe needs’, while Secretary General of the Guild of European Research-intensive Universities Jan Palmowski called the move ‘truly shocking’, asking: ‘do the EU’s member states really see Europe’s future in cutting down on research and innovation?’
The latest row follows intense internal negotiations over the 2021-27 MFF and specifically for Horizon Europe funding, which delayed the programme’s launch throughout the first half of 2021. All eyes will therefore be on the next steps of the budgetary negotiations. The EU Council will formally adopt its position by written procedure by 6 September, after which the European Parliament will negotiate the budget during the plenary session of 18-21 October. If the Parliament adopts a different decision than the Council, a 21-day conciliation period will commence on 26 October until 15 November. If the two institutions still do not agree by the end of that period, the Commission will propose a second draft budget.