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European Parliament Approves Horizon 2020 Funding Plan

The European Parliament has formally approved Horizon 2020, the European Union's funding program for research and innovation for 2014 through 2020.

This leaves one formal step to go before the program's actual rollout. Publication of the first calls for proposals is scheduled for 11 December, pending formal agreement from E.U. member states, the European Commission said in a statement released after the vote.

In a vote taking place in Strasbourg, France, today, a wide majority of the plenary approved the program's details, laid out in five draft regulations. The vote confirms a preliminary deal brokered earlier this year between negotiators of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.

“This is a vote of confidence in the power of EU research and innovation funding,” research commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said in the statement. “The European Parliament's support for and input to Horizon 2020 has been very important.”

In 2011, the commission proposed Horizon 2020 as a departure from the past, with less red tape, a stronger focus on innovation and “close-to-market” research efforts, and a beefed-up budget for the European Research Council's basic science grants.

The Parliament supported Horizon 2020’s approach and tried to increase its budget to €100 billion, up from the Commission's €80 billion proposal. But it faced resistance from money-conscious member states, which instead downsized the budget to about €70 billion. That is about €15 billion more than the €55 billion provided under the current Seventh Framework Programme, which started in 2007 and ends this year. (The figures correspond to 2011 euros.)

Ministers from E.U. nations are expected to reach a similar agreement on Horizon 2020 in coming weeks, finalizing the plan.