Conservatives deliver long-term research funding

25-Jun-2013 @ 15:0

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Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

After months of discussions an agreement was reached today on the EU's next seven year funding programme for science and research.
The so-called Horizon 2020 package will have a budget of around £60bn for projects over the next seven years.
East of England MEP Vicky Ford was Conservative negotiator on the deal and today welcomed the eventual outcome of the protracted talks.
Horizon 2020 will focus funding in three separate pillars: excellence in largely academic-based blue-sky research, supporting industrial companies in innovative areas and finally addressing the so called societal "grand" challenges which include food and energy security, climate change and demographic changes. Some 20 per cent of the funding should go towards small and medium sized businesses and there will be a new financial instrument specifically dedicated to funding innovation.
EU research funding is extremely important for the UK and is one of the few areas where the UK gets back roughly what it contributes. By the end of the 2007-2013 programme, the UK will have received around €7.5bn in funding - around 15% of the overall €50bn budget. Cambridge University, for example, estimates that 20% of the work undertaken by its researchers is funded by EU grants.
However, EU research programmes have a reputation for complex bureaucracy and red tape. Mrs Ford has been gathering evidence and suggestions for reforms for the past three years and tabled many amendments to the legislation to simplify the paperwork and application processes, particularly important for improving the participation of small businesses.
These changes include shortening timetables for awarding grants and receiving payments, introducing a clearer complaints procedure and improving communication between participants. Mrs Ford has also been adamant that grants should be awarded on the basis of excellence in order to ensure that funding goes to those who put forward the best case.
She said: "Science and research is critical to maintaining innovation thus driving growth and creating jobs. Recent studies have shown that scientific research which is the result of international collaboration tends to have a greater impact. We should focus the EU budget on areas where it does add value.
"Other MEPs should stop the institutional infighting over the EU budget, lead not by policy but purely by their constant pursuit of more money and more power. They need to get behind the deal agreed by national governments otherwise we risk holding back our scientists and businesses at such a crucial time."
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