to Europe struggles to reach 3% research funding mark
By Ingemar Pongratz
The European Union declared in 2003 that Europe should become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world. According to this declaration, better known as the Lisbon Treaty, research spending should reach at least 3% of the European GDP and include both private and public funding sources.
However, Europe has not reached this goal. Individual European member, such as Sweden, Germany and Austria spend over 3% of their GDP in research (EUROSTAT 2018 2019) however, most EU member states spend less than 3% of their GDP in research and innovation. European spending in research and innovation is increasing. Since 2019, research spending in Europe has increased to 2.2%
The European Commission has recently encouraged the EU member states to increase their funding in research and innovation. however, the European Commission has no formal authority to do more than encourage member states. The European commission has few alternatives to intervene on how member states spend their national funds. Furthermore, Commission efforts to increase research and innovation funding were halted by the European member states. For example, the EU member states reduced the Horizon Europe budget from 120 billion EUROS to 95 billion EUR.
This means that Europe struggles to reach 3% research funding mark.
There are additional problems. The European funding arena is very fragmented and there is little collaboration between schemes. This problem has prompted the Commission to encourage collaboration between different funding mechanisms. This includes collaboration between Horizon Europe and Regional funds, the Next Generation EU recovery fund, or the European Green Deal commitment.
However, it is not clear how successful these efforts will be at the implementation stage. Different funding has different objectives and these objectives do not often overlap. It becomes difficult to combine ongoing projects into a coherent set of objectives. In addition, the funds are managed by different EU directorates. Monitoring, reporting and management routines differ a lot. It is not easy to integrate these different administrative cultures.
To complicate matters more, there are different objectives among different societal sectors. The European research community has for example urged the EU and member states to ensure full academic freedom for basic research. The aim is that researchers should freely pursue any research topics.
Legislators and funders on the other hand urge the Commission to funnel research funding into fewer selected areas such as digitalisation or climate research and to earmark funding to specific societal challenges.
There are obviously opposite views between different stakeholders how to use research funding c. Surely the debate around this issue will go on
Ingemar Pongratz is founder of Fenix Scientific AB / Pongratz Consulting. We support organizations that are looking for European funding for their different projects. Please contact us regarding our services.