Horizon 2020 funding diverted to EC investment fund

In order to fund the European Commission’s latest flagship initiative to tackle Europe’s economic crisis and promote growth, the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI), €2.2 billion is set to be diverted from the Horizon 2020’s €74 billion research funding programme.  The cuts to support EFSI funding were originally planned to reach €2.7 billion, but after protracted negotiations between the Commission, MEPs and researchers this was revised down to €2.2 billion. The European Research Council, Maria Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions and the Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation programme will now be spared from the cuts.

However, patient groups, researchers, health advocates, physicians and the industry have all come out against the cuts and there is concern among them that funds diverted from Horizon 2020 to EFSI might not be channelled directly into research and innovation projects. A group of organisations representing patients and medical professionals has released a statement calling on MEPs to demand that all funding reallocated to EFSI be directed towards research and that all entities, not just companies, be made eligible for funding.

While the pharmaceutical industry has welcomed the announcement of the EFSI, they are critical of the plans to divert funding from the Horizon 2020 programme. They contrast the situation with that of the United States, where efforts have been made to increase the Budget of the National Institutes of Health by $10 billion over the next five years, what they refer to as a “move to invest, rather than reduce funding”.

For its part the Commission maintains that the EFSI will actually contribute to research in Europe as all funds diverted are expected to attract 15 times as much in private capital in research and innovation projects, as well as other key funding areas. With a total EU fund of €21 billion the Commission expects the fund to reach €315 billion through investment from member states and private investors. However, it remains to be seen if the level of investment will match expectations and how much will go towards research and innovation projects.