In the current discussion on the new EU budget for the years 2021-2027, the European Commission had originally planned a slight increase in the overall budget and a more modern thematic distribution of funds; among other things, the new EU research framework programme “Horizon Europe” was planned to be endowed with 100 billion euros in order to remain competitive with other world regions in the field of research and innovation. In the current negotiations among EU member states, however, the financing of “Horizon Europe” has come under extreme pressure.
While some member states are in favour of an increased overall EU budget (but not for research), Austria emphasises that while it is in favour of adequate funding for “Horizon Europe”, it is at the same time official government policy not to want to increase Austria’s EU contribution (and thus the overall EU budget) in percentage terms. As Austria does not seem to be prepared to accept a reduction of other large budget items (such as agriculture) either, the country de facto accepts the risk of a cut in EU research funding, although Austrian institutions have so far performed extremely well and benefited from it. Since “Horizon Europe” provides for new programme lines, budget cuts would mean that existing programme lines could be “starved”. As the Times Higher Education reports, this could particularly affect the European Research Council (ERC). With less budget, approval rates would decline further, which would also massively affect the Austrian research landscape.