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Ministers back small Marie Curie boost in Horizon Europe stance

Research ministers seek to ‘send a message’ by transferring €200 million from European Innovation Council

EU research ministers have adopted a position on how the budget of the bloc’s 2021-27 R&D programme should be divided among its various funding instruments, backing a plan that shifted €200 million from the European Innovation Council to the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions relative to an alternative proposal.

Ministers adopted the position on 29 September at a meeting where they were due to reach a position on all outstanding issues around the legislation underpinning the Horizon Europe programme. Their move paves the way for trilogue negotiations on the issues with the European Parliament and European Commission, set to start in October.

As Research Professional News previously reported, the plan now adopted by ministers seeks to allocate €6.3 billion to the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions scheme, which funds basic research, and €8.8bn to the European Innovation Council, which funds the growth of tech-based businesses.

This would be within an overall Horizon Europe budget of €85.5 billion in current prices, although the Parliament is seeking to increase that figure as part of separate talks in which it formally has no negotiating powers other than to accept or reject the proposals put forward by national leaders in July.

Ministers at the meeting on 29 September referred to the oversubscription of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions scheme and how backing it could ‘send a message’ to the younger researchers who tend to benefit from its fellowships. But even with the transfer, the scheme would have an essentially flat or even lower real-terms budget for 2021-27 relative to 2014-20, when its budget was about €6.2 billion in current prices.

Having been split on the two plans in earlier negotiations, most EU countries supported the shift of funds from the European Innovation Council, although some seemingly did so begrudgingly, citing the need to find a compromise to ensure the timely start of Horizon Europe on 1 January 2021.