Clear signal for basic research in Europe
Max Planck President Martin Stratmann welcomes the reversal of cuts to the budget of the European Research Council. The reductions had been proposed to finance EU President Juncker's new stimulus fund. Nevertheless, Stratmann said it was "generally not a good day for European research". Under the agreement reached at the trialogue talks concluded on Thursday, other programs of Horizon 2020 will be substantially trimmed.
"By reaching the decision to exclude important EU programs for basic research from the envisaged budget cuts, the legislators set a clear signal for the relevance of curiosity-driven, excellent research in Europe. Since 2.2 billion euros will have to be diverted from other areas of the EU research budget over the next three years, however, this success leaves a bitter taste", says Max Planck President Martin Stratmann.
He added that considering the starting position "it had been very hard work to convince the negotiators of the importance of basic research in Europe”. "The value chain, which is so important for Europe and its competitiveness, starts with basic research. It is on the results of basic research that all further developments are based. If one were to take money away from basic research, it would weaken the first link of the chain - and thus the value chain as a whole", Stratmann explained.
The EU Commission plans originally envisaged to remove 2.7 billion euros from the European research funding program Horizon 2020 as a financial basis for the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). Under the deal reached at the trialogue talks - the negotiations between the Council, Commission, and Parliament - this sum will now amount to 2.2 billion euros. The budgets of the European Research Council (ERC), which promotes excellent basic research, of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) for furthering the exchange of scientists, and of the "Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation" programme for boosting research excellence throughout Europe, are to be excluded from the reductions.
The aim of EFSI is to attract financially strong, private investors and enable investment in Europe in the amount of at least 315 billion euros on a credit basis over the next three years (2015-2017). Max Planck President Stratmann had in principle supported the initiative of Jean-Claude Juncker to boost economic growth and job creation. However, Stratmann, together with other leading research and science organizations in Europe, warned that the fund should not be set up at the expense of basic research. He emphasized that investments in research projects throughout all of Europe should be possible via the ESFI. "This is an important foundation to further develop Europe as a thriving hub for research and innovation."
The European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers still have to give their formal approval to the results of the trialogue talks at their next meetings. It is expected that the investment program can start at the end of June.