22 November 2013

MEPs largely voted in favour of the six reports that form Horizon 2020, the new framework programme for research, development, innovation and education. “After two years of intensive work, we can be proud of the agreement that has been reached,” declared Teresa Riera Madurell (S&D, Spain), one of the six rapporteurs. One of the reports (on the European Atomic Energy Community) had already been adopted on 19 November; the five remaining items of the package were approved on 21 November.

With a budget of €78.6 billion for the period 2014-2020, Horizon 2020 differs from its predecessor, the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7), in that it merges all EU funding instruments for R&D, innovation and education into one single programme. Built on three pillars – excellent science, industrial leadership and societal challenges – Horizon 2020 maintains funding for fundamental research, but puts emphasis on innovation and research activities with closer to market applications (see Insight in Europolitics 4753).

During a debate preceding the vote, MEPs expressed their support of the agreement, but nevertheless showed some hesitation concerning several items. Many expressed regrets regarding the budget of Horizon 2020: whereas the Commission initially proposed €80 billion (in 2011 constant prices), some MEPs had asked for a €100 billion budget. In the end, negotiations on the multiannual financial framework (MFF) resulted in a €70.2 billion envelope (or €78.6 billion in constant prices), about 12% less than the initial proposal.

One major achievement made by MEPs is broadening participation in Horizon 2020, enabling research and innovation organisations from disadvantaged regions of Europe to access EU funding, including through synergies with the Structural Funds. “The crisis has exacerbated disparities between member states,” declared Marisa Matias (GUE, Portugal), one of the rapporteurs. “Enhancing research capacities in each of our regions is one of the main points in which MEPs altered the Commission's proposal. In some countries, EU funding is all that is left for researchers. Horizon 2020 is an instrument for a more consistent Europe.”

Simplifying the funding and application procedures was the main concern for the European Commission when shaping the new framework programme. However, the new funding model was not mentioned by MEPs during the debate, although it had been the most controversial item during negotiations with the Council. In the end, Horizon 2020 provides a reimbursement scheme of 100% of direct costs for research projects (70% for innovative actions), and a single flat rate of 25% to refund indirect costs.

The Council will formally adopt the different items of the package in the coming weeks, probably during the 5 December meeting. The Commission will publish the first round of calls for participation on 11 December.

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