Stronger EU investment
Sustainable funding conditions
Since 2016, EUA has been leading a campaign for sufficient, sustainable and simple funding for research and innovation in Europe. The Association has been advocating for ambitious investment in research and innovation and higher education at regional, national and European levels.
Research, innovation and higher education are crucial for Europe’s knowledge societies. The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed their fundamental importance for new solutions to the current crisis and other, longer-term issues. Given the depth and magnitude of these challenges, Europe must offer a strong response with ambitious funding for the European Higher Education and Research Areas.
To support national investment efforts, EUA has consistently developed evidence-based argumentation and shared relevant communications materials with its collective members, the national rectors’ conferences, with the aim to actively inform national public authorities of the added value of higher investment in this sector.
EUA has also analysed the potential impact of the Covid-19 crisis on university funding and the capacity of institutions to deliver on missions. The Association has also issued recommendations to national and European policy makers on how to mitigate negative effects based on the lessons learnt from the 2008 crisis.
In the context of negotiations on the next EU multiannual financial framework (2021-2027), EUA has consistently partnered with other European university organisations to call for an ambitious Horizon Europe budget supporting excellent, cross-border research and innovation. In July 2020, EUA and 14 other university associations released a common statement to advocate for a greater level of funding for the new Framework Programme, following the Commission’s 27 May proposal. This effort built on a previous joint call urging the EU institutions and leaders to strengthen R&I investment at the European level and raise the budget of Horizon Europe to at least €120 billion. More than 300 universities, sector representatives and companies active in the EU signed the initial call between July and October 2019, pushing leaders at national and EU level to commit to a higher budget for education, research and innovation.
EUA works to promote sustainable and efficient EU funding mechanisms. The significant underfunding of Horizon 2020 has led to a critically low success rate and heavily weighs on both beneficiaries’ finances and on the overall efficiency of the funding landscape.
Participation remains expensive for universities, challenging their long-term financial sustainability. In particular, coverage of indirect costs tends to be insufficient. Horizon 2020, and possibly Horizon Europe in the future, cover indirect costs via a flat rate of 25% of direct costs, offering limited support to institutions. This can be a barrier to participation, especially for less funded institutions in Europe. In this context, EUA calls on member states to provide sufficient and sustainable national public funding for education, research and innovation, which is paramount to support the participation of universities in Horizon Europe and enable them to co-fund the projects.
The overall efficiency of the EU funding programmes is also challenged by the excessive costs of administrative processes, both on the funder and the beneficiary sides, as well as gaps or inconsistencies that prevent effective synergies between funding schemes. EUA therefore calls for progress towards the possibility of combining funding schemes (among EU programmes or with national or other types of funding).
An overarching objective to achieve better rules for participation in the EU funding programmes is "simplification”. This is an important dimension of EUA’s campaign given its direct impact on universities. EUA has consistently advocated for a more impactful approach to simplification focused on beneficiaries and their specific needs. This approach is mindful of their great diversity and based on high-quality processes and an effective use of resources. In this context, EUA has been arguing for the wider acceptance of nationally recognised institutional management and accounting practices of beneficiaries as the key implementation principle and the most significant way to enhance efficiency and participation in the EU funding programmes. EUA has collected evidence on how these principles were implemented in 12 countries in a report that explores possibilities for a better alignment of practices between the EU and the national level. In order to achieve this, EUA has summarised the data gathered in the compendium in concrete strategic and practical recommendations addressed to EU policy makers.
Other important elements of the Framework Programme implementation supported by EUA’s campaign include a more flexible model grant agreement and more efficient and effective auditing processes. On these matters, EUA relies on its members’ technical expertise shared through EUA consultations and surveys, as well as through a dedicated expert group of university administrators.
EUA feeds this input to the European Commission and the European Court of Auditors in the framework of bilateral exchanges and expert groups, as well as to the European Parliament and the EU Council ahead of the adoption of the proposal establishing Horizon Europe.
Latest developments and next steps
EU member states reached a deal on 21 July, which is currently being negotiated with the European Parliament (September 2020). The deal foresees a total of €80.9 billion for Horizon Europe (including a €5 billion top-up from Next Generation EU, the newly established recovery programme), and €21.2 billion for Erasmus+. These amounts remain lower than the European Commission proposal of 27 May 2020. Fundamental research is particularly under pressure. The European Parliament has indicated that it will seek to improve funding for research, education and innovation.
This is the last opportunity to remind national policymakers of the importance of EU investment in these programmes and in fundamental research in particular. The present programmes suffer from severe underfunding with success rates being far too low, and this situation risks persisting for the years to come. EUA calls on members to join the Association in urging European and national policymakers to address the insufficient allocations for Horizon Europe and Erasmus+, and to support the EU Parliament in demanding more money for these programmes.
Actions proposed to EUA members
European leaders meet this week on 17-18 July with the goal of reaching an agreement on the European Union’s next seven-year budget and the related recovery plan to help the EU’s economy back on its feet. On this occasion, EUA and 14 partner university associations reiterate the urgent need to invest in research, innovation and education to precisely achieve long-term, sustainable recovery, as well as strategic resilience for the continent.view more
As European leaders work towards an agreement on the European Union’s next seven-year budget, the Multiannual Financial Framework, and the related Next Generation EU recovery plan to help the EU’s economy back on its feet, EUA and 14 partner university associations reiterate the urgent need to invest in research, innovation and education to achieve long-term, sustainable recovery and strategic resilience.read more
In an important new step towards a final decision on the European Union’s financial framework for 2021-2027, the Finnish presidency of the EU Council released its proposal for the bloc’s future budget. Referred to as a “negotiating box”, the proposal includes figures for the overall budget as well as per programme and is intended as a new basis for discussion among heads of government this week in Brussels.view more
EUA has issued a statement on the future Model Grant Agreement that is under preparation as part of the Horizon Europe implementation process.view more
As negotiations continue on the future Horizon Europe programme, the discussion on the Model Grant Agreement is fundamental for effective and smooth implementation. Not only does the Model Grant Agreement serve as the key contractual document between all parties, it is also the central user guide which helps beneficiaries fully understand and better interpret the programme rules.read more
As the new academic year kicks in, Brussels is getting ready for the “European Research & Innovation Days”, dubbed as “the first annual policy event of the European Commission, bringing together stakeholders to debate and shape the future research and innovation landscape”.view more
Members of the European Parliament have now adopted the Horizon Europe regulation, paving the way for preparations and implementation in time for 2021.view more
The road towards Horizon Europe reached a new milestone in September with discussions in the European Parliament on possible amendments to the Commission’s proposals (see the series of amendments put forward by EUA and 12 other university associations).view more
The European University Association (EUA) welcomes the European Commission’s proposal for the next Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (Horizon Europe).read more
In 2016, EUA launched the EUA Member Consultation on the Horizon 2020 Mid-Term Review, which addressed several aspects of Framework Programme simplification and revealed the need for further research into beneficiary opinions.read more
Universities and national rectors’ conferences join their voices to argue for a renewed funding commitment to research and education at the European level.view more
On 21 March 2018, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) published the briefing paper “A contribution to simplification of EU research beyond Horizon 2020”.view more
As the European Union prepares the next generation of EU funding programmes for the post-2020 period, budget discussions are increasingly geared towards performance, European added value, trust and efficiency.read more
The European Commission has launched a series of public consultations to ask stakeholders and citizens in which areas Europe should invest in the future.view more
With the debate on the next Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (FP9) in full swing, EUA has launched a set of precise recommendations for the post-2020 period.view more
This position paper reiterates the strategic importance of fostering a united and prosperous knowledge-based society in Europe, which needs to remain a high priority despite the uncertain political and economic context.read more