How VIB and EU-LIFE pitched

13 March 2017
​Many of us are familiar with time-consuming grant applications – and, sometimes, with the disappointment that comes with missing out on funding. At the same time but on a higher level, clusters of research institutes are sparing no effort to safeguard funding for research and innovation. This became quite clear in 2015, when the European Research Council (ERC) was nearly the victim of considerable cost-cutting. EU-LIFE, the alliance of top European life sciences research centers, pulled its weight and zealously underlined the importance of investments in R&D to Europe’s competitiveness. With success – but further caution is required.
With a total budget of € 13.1 billion for the period 2014-2020, the ERC is within the first pillar (‘Excellent Science’) of Horizon 2020, the EU program for Research and Innovation. Its funding has proven to be essential to attracting the best investigative talent to work in EU centers and to retain some of the top scholars. No wonder the so-called Juncker’s plan, which aimed at diverting € 2.7 billion from Horizon 2020 to fund new
innovation projects, came as a bitter surprise to many European scientists and institutes. The ERC alone was predicted to be cut by € 221 million.
EU-LIFE putting the pressure on
It is precisely ERC funds that turned Europe into an attractive place to do research, competing successfully with the US. And for many institutions and scientists in EU countries, ERC grants are the only viable sources of funding for basic research. Among leading scientists, there was a consensus that the Horizon 2020 cuts would jeopardize the newly-gained European competitiveness – especially at a time when China, Brazil, Korea, India and other countries are massively investing in R&D.
Shortly after Juncker’s announcement, Europe’s science community spoke out with one clear voice. A number of papers advocated maintaining the existing budget – and if anything, budgets for science would have to be higher if Europe intends to maintain its leadership in knowledge-based sectors. One of the opinions that made waves was a press release by EU-LIFE, the cluster of top European life sciences research centers of which VIB is a founding member.
“Investing less in Europe’s flagship programs such as the ERC is probably the worst thing to do during current economic instability. It should be the other way around: only by making even larger investments in  ompetitive areas are we going to invert the spiral.”
Jo Bury, EU-LIFE chair and VIB Managing Director, in an EU-LIFE press release on February 17, 2015

Maintain the efforts unabated 
This and other influential opinions have ensured that, ultimately, the plan was adjusted and the necessary ERC funding was secured. However, this doesn’t mean scientists can rest on their laurels. Debates on Horizon 2020’s successor, the so-called new Framework Program (FP9), have already started. In this respect, it is vital that VIB, embedded in the powerful EU-LIFE alliance, continues to underline the huge importance – and positive outcomes – of more R&D funding, including the ERC schemes.

​Go back to the overview '10 Years European Research Council'