Thanks to clear choices by the European Parliament, the agreement reached on the EU multiannual budget for 2021-2027 includes a higher knowledge budget. Pieter Duisenberg, chair of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), comments, ‘The Members of the European Parliament have done good work to help secure the future of our research and education. During the long negotiation process that started in May, we constantly stressed the importance of a modern multiannual financial framework (MFF) with plenty of room for investments in research and education as the foundations of European society. Knowledge is the decisive factor for societal progress and is a crucial part of Europe’s strong global positioning. The European Parliament has made a strong case for this.’
The VSNU is happy that an important step has been taken with this political agreement, which will involve a 4 billion euro increase in the budget for Horizon Europe and a 2.2 billion euro increase for Erasmus+. We appreciate the continued efforts made by the European Parliament to boost the modern MFF and to earmark more money for important European programmes such as Erasmus and Horizon. This is in line with the letters we sent together with the Knowledge Coalition and together with our German and Austrian colleagues. It is very positive that this agreement has now been concluded, so these programmes can be continued in the coming year. We therefore appeal to the European institutions and the EU Member States to accept their responsibility and officially approve the agreement.
At the same time, during the negotiation process, we repeatedly expressed our concern about what has been deleted from the MFF budget as compared to the earlier proposals of the European Commission. Duisenberg continues, ‘We welcome the increase in the budgets for Horizon Europe and Erasmus+, but this is not enough to realise Europe’s ambitions in the field of research and innovation. If Europe is to tackle the major societal problems it is now facing, such as climate change, digitalisation and public health, then investments in education and research are crucial. Allocating funds to these two areas can absolutely be seen as an investment: each euro invested in Horizon results in €8.50 growth in the gross domestic product. The major contributions to this made by both the European Research Council (ERC) and the Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions (MSCA) should certainly be mentioned in this context. It’s important that the extra funds generated by the political agreement also find their way to these bodies.’
Investments in research and innovation are not only important to Europe as a whole, but also to the Netherlands. The Netherlands is one of the most successful countries in terms of awarded scholarships and grants received for public-private partnerships. These investments strengthen our knowledge economy and our competitive position. Duisenberg stresses, ‘In order to remain a world-class knowledge economy, both the Netherlands and Europe require an ambitious research and innovation budget. It’s only by being prepared to invest in knowledge that we can remain innovative in the long term. So let’s work together to promote greater national and European investments.’