Maia Kaplan
Berlin Office

The legislative tug-of-war over the shape of Horizon Europe, the EU’s R&D funding programme to replace Horizon 2020, has just started. In May, the European Commission presented an initial report on Horizon Europe, demanding the 7-year programme be equipped with a €94.1 billion budget.

The consolidated text has been recently shared with the European Parliament, where two legislators took over. The MEPs Christian Ehler and Dan Nica from the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy have just published two draft reports with further suggestions on the shape of Horizon Europe.

LNE Group has summarised the key take-aways below:

  • Further increase to budget: both MEPs suggest increasing the overall Horizon Europe budget to €120 billion, as compared to the EU Commission’s initial suggestion on €94.1 billion. This is perceived by many as an interesting move, especially since some Member States already voiced concerns over the too ambitious proposal of the Commission. It may be also part of a negotiation strategy for the upcoming months.
  • An 800-million heavy SME Instrument for “incremental innovation”: the draft report of MEP Dan Nica remains relatively enigmatic on this point. The justification given mentions “addressing the remaining part of the SME instrument not covered by the EIC”. This move may be seen as an attempt to create a funding vehicle for less disruptive technologies that can bring large value to the EU economy in terms of job creation and growth, but would not qualify for the SME Instrument in its current form.
  • Decoupling of social sciences and humanities from security research: the initial EU Commission proposal mentioned “Inclusive and Secure Society” as one of the global challenges to be addressed. The MEPs now propose to decouple social sciences and humanities from security research and form two separate clusters: “Inclusive and Creative Society” and “Secure Society”. The addition of the adjective “creative” reflects the MEPs view that creative and design industries have an unexplored potential in Europe.
  • Equal pay for equal work: MEP Dan Nica demands equal personnel cost rates for researchers across the EU. He proposes to stagger the rates based on researcher experience (e.g. up to doctoral level, post-doctoral etc.) and not based on salary levels in single EU countries, as it is now. The Romanian MEPs demand can be interpreted as channelling the complaints of many researchers from Eastern Europe, who currently say that Horizon 2020 participation means a lot of effort without any additional remuneration on top of the low salaries they receive as compared to their Western European colleagues.
  • Introducing the number of “widening participating states” in a consortium as a criterion for selecting proposals: MEP Dan Nica proposes to give funding priority to scientifically excellent proposals that additionally involve so called “widening participation” countries. In practice this would mean the involvement of EU Member States from Eastern and Southern Europe – countries that have not achieved large success rates in the current programme. This suggestion is politically very controversial and not new. Expect critics to raise arguments on attempts to sacrifice the scientific excellence of Horizon Europe for political purposes.

The suggestions of both MEPs will now form the basis for further negotiation with the Council and the European Commission, taking a number of iterations at expected to be finished by April 2019. If you are interested in the overall legislative procedure around Horizon Europe, make sure to read our previous insight post.

Watch this space for more.

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