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Funding for nanotechnology research would be diverted to an economic stimulus plan under European Commission plan. Above: carbon nanotubes.

Funding for nanotechnology research would be diverted to an economic stimulus plan under European Commission plan. Above: carbon nanotubes.


European Commission reveals details of proposed cuts to science

A controversial plan to use research funds to pay for economic stimulus became more concrete this week, as European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker unveiled proposed legislation to implement the shift. The new investment fund would take €2.7 billion over 5.5 years from Horizon 2020, the commission’s main funding stream for research that will invest about €80 billion between 2014 and 2020. Draft legislation, released on 13 January, lays out the framework for the stimulus.  

The single largest share of the Horizon 2020 cuts—€350 million—would be directed at the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) in Budapest. With a staff of about 50, it funds collaborations between universities and industry to work on issues such as climate change adaptation and sustainable energy. The cut would amount to 13% of its budget. Another victim is the basic research portfolio of the European Research Council (ERC), which would lose €221 million, mostly in 2016 and 2017.

The commission has said it believes that the economic stimulus will ultimately generate new funds for research. It also points out that, even with the cuts, Horizon 2020 and the ERC budgets remain substantially higher than during the previous funding period. (Taking funds from research is also less difficult politically than getting it from agriculture, the commission admits.) The European Parliament is expected to approve the legislation relatively quickly, so that the new stimulus fund may begin in June.

Research advocacy organizations lobbied last month to protect Horizon 2020, but their response this week has been muted. “I’m surprised that there isn’t a louder outcry and no clearer opposition from the scientific community,” Hans-Olaf Henkel, a member of the European Parliament, told Science|Business. “What are these ministers for research, presidents of science organisations, and scientists themselves doing? Where is the outcry by all European Nobel laureates?”

Here are the biggest cuts to Horizon 2020 programs called for by the legislation (in € million):


306.8—Information and communications technology

221.2—Frontier research in the ERC

180.9—Securing sufficient supplies of safe, healthy, and high-quality food and other bio-based products

169.1—Nanotechnologies, advanced materials, laser technology, biotechnology, and advanced manufacturing and processing

150—Energy programs (32.040301)

117.9—Research in future and emerging technologies

109.1—Energy programs (08.020303)

102.4—Achieving a European transport system that is resource-efficient, environmentally friendly, safe, and seamless

100—Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions: generating, developing, and transferring new skills