On Wednesday this week, the European Commission announced detailed proposals for the HORIZON 2020 Programme, the Common Strategic Framework for EU Research and Innovation that, from 2014, will cover all research and innovation funding currently provided through the Framework Programme for Research (FP7), the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).
EUA welcomes the EC’s continued commitment to seek to increase the programme’s overall budget to €80 billion. This reflects EUA’s main message in its position on the “Innovation Union” Communication (Smart People for Smart Growth) on the prime importance of the need to increase investment in research and innovation activities, training and skill development (not to be regarded as “consumption” of public resources) to help lead the European Union out of the economic crisis to become a competitive global region.
EUA is pleased to note also that the HORIZON 2020 proposal includes many of the “main elements” for EU research and innovation funding that EUA presented in its response to the EC “Green Paper”, in particular the strengthening of “bottom-up” funding instruments such as ERC and Marie Curie Actions, further simplification of the rules of participation towards a more trust based system, and an enhancement of the role of the social sciences, arts and humanities. On the simplification issue EUA cautions that the “devil will be in the details” of the rules and it will be examining them closely in the coming months to ensure that progress on simplification will be a reality.
However, EUA is strongly critical of the HORIZON 2020 proposal for a single flat rate for cost reimbursement of indirect costs at 20%.On the basis of its extensive work with its university membership, EUA would argue that funding schemes, and particularly major schemes such as Horizon 2020, need to take full account of the long-term financial sustainability of university-based research. The European Commission’s proposal foresees that while direct costs could be reimbursed at a rate of 100%, indirect costs could not be covered at a higher rate than 20% of the direct eligible costs, with no possibility to claim those costs on the basis of real costs. This is a clear step backwards in comparison to the current FP7 programme, and sends a negative signal to universities and public authorities across Europe as to the importance of developing full costing methodologies and of moving towards funding on a full cost basis.
This important concern is further underlined by EUA in its position this week on the European Research Area (ERA) Framework Consultation. EUA asserts that the movement towards the reimbursement of the full costs of research should be strengthened as a core requirement in the “modernisation process” of Europe’s universities for their sustainability and competitiveness. In its position, EUA emphasises that the ERA Framework conditions will also need to take account of how increasingly Europe’s universities are European and international in their character and activities and the European and national policy frameworks and funding schemes and instruments need both to reflect and support this reality.
EUA states that it is of particular importance for Europe’s universities to have their “place at the table” in ERA Framework mechanisms when preparing new ERA instruments relating to joint programming and HORIZON 2020 “Tackling Societal Challenges” programmes through a transparent procedure of European stakeholder involvement. It also comments on the “main barriers and obstacles” facing the building of the ERA Structure and the role that Europe’s universities are playing in overcoming them.
EUA will be commenting on the specific HORIZON 2020 programme components and the proposed budget allocations once it has examined the details in consultation with its membership.
The Horizon 2020 proposal will now have to go forward for discussion with the EU Council (27 Member States) and the European Parliament who will take the final decision on the budgetary framework by the end of 2013. EUA will be presenting the viewpoint of its membership during the period of these important negotiations.
To find more more about the Horizon 2020 Programme – click here