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R&I funding update: EU budget 2022, NextGenEU & new national targets

EU funding for research and innovation (R&I) remains at the core of public debate and policymaking. On 14 July, the EU Council presented an amended version of the 2022 budget, proposing EUR 425 million cut to Heading 1 ‘Single Market, Innovation and Digital'. This cut involves EUR 316 million decrease in the Horizon Europe budget, including cuts to excellent science and researcher mobility (e.g. EUR 70 and 10 million less for the ERC and MSCA; EUR 13, 45, and 50 million less for research infrastructures; health research, and social sciences and humanities). Further cuts are proposed for Digital Europe (EUR 50 million) and InvestEU (45.5 million).  

While this comes as an unpleasant surprise for the EU scientific community, member states motivate their decision by insufficient demand for allocated funds in 2022, suggesting to backload the funds to the end of the funding programmes period. 

Various members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are trying to put pressure on member states to increase public R&D spending, both via the EU funding programmes and at the national level. In a plenary debate on the European Research Area (ERA) earlier in July, MEPs discussed the overall slow and uneven progress in national-level R&D investment across Europe and urged member states to raise the related public expenditure from 0.81% to 1.25% of GDP by 2030, which is crucial for the ERA. 

In this context, the upcoming pact for research and innovation that is currently being drafted by the European Commission is expected to obtain member states’ legal commitment to reform their research systems and increase public R&D spending to 1.25% of their GDP in order to be able to reach the re-instated target of 3% for public and private R&D expenditure. 

Several member states intend to use their national recovery and resilience plans to support R&I and (higher) education (for more details, see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, June 2021). On 13 July, the Economic and Financial Affairs Council adopted the first set of Council implementing decisions on the approval of 12 national recovery and resilience plans. The approval process for the remaining plans is supposed to be completed over summer. To take stock of the ongoing process, the European Commission will host an online conference "The EU budget and NextGenerationEU: fireworks or big bang?" on 8 November 2021