In the top 50 performing participants in Horizon 2020, 4.2 billion euros went to 37 universities, 11 research agencies and two research institutes. These are all from 12 countries in Europe: the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Scotland, Switzerland, Finland and Greece. This is according to research by the Bialystok University of Technology on the top 50 Horizon 2020 participants after 274 calls.
The institutions often have their own networks of laboratories and research centres that collaborate with similar units throughout the country and beyond its borders.Due to this, they can boast the highest participation and funding levels in Horizon 2020.
It is also worth noting that, according to the research, more than 22% of participation is linked to national research agencies which are publicly funded. These agencies are present in countries such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Furthermore, the expert teams appointed by the European Commission to evaluate applications correspond to this reality. The experience acquired by experts participating in the proposal evaluations is priceless, and may have a significant impact on both the number of applications as well as their quality. Due to this scenario, a system of quotas should be considered to increase the participation of countries outside the top 12 listed above.
In addition, a serious problem that has a major impact on participation in framework programmes is the system of remuneration in projects. In Horizon 2020, the possibility to pay additional wages to mobile researchers to compensate for salary discrepancies between countries is well-intentioned, but can actually drastically reduce wages in countries like Poland. While mobile researchers can receive up to 8,000 euros in addition to their salary, it only applies to public institutions. In addition, research organisations often take advantage of this additional wage to reduce base salaries.
From the Polish perspective, and that of the Bialystok University of Technology, the vast majority of scientists do not apply for the programme because of this. A system based on such wages does not support the equalling of opportunities for institutions from outside the top 12 participating countries in Horizon 2020, where salaries significantly differ from the European average. The result is that scientists from countries like Poland are more willing to apply for grants under a foreign institution or they emigrate with their project to another country where they are welcomed with open arms.
The Bialystok University of Technology agrees with the EUA vision for FP9 in that solutions should be put forward to allow for a more effective implementation of European cohesion policy for the benefit of all of Europe's universities.
All views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of EUA.
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