Peers find EU funding needs to be made more accessible

Posted on May 1, 2013 by

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A group of peers has highlighted levels of bureaucracy and complicated rules and regulations as major barriers to accessing EU research funding, especially for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs). The House of Lords Select sub-Committee conducted a short inquiry earlier this year looking at EU research and innovation proposals and have reported back with recommendations to the EU and UK governments.

Background

Through research funding programmes and other initiatives, the EU aims to encourage innovation to support economic growth. Horizon 2020 is the main research funding stream and is part of the EU’s new strategy for growth, Europe 2020. It will begin in 2014 and run until 2020, MEPs are currently debating the size of the pot but it will probably be somewhere between 50 and 80 billion euros.

The Lords inquiry was interested to know whether EU research and innovation proposals were fit for purpose, whether they are being implemented effectively and what else could be done to support innovation and economic growth.

What did AMRC tell the inquiry?

We responded to the inquiry’s call for evidence, saying:

  • Science is international. Coordination and collaboration across Europe is important to foster research and innovation. The EU plays an important role in facilitating these collaborations.
  • Medical research charities are keen to engage with the EU and have valuable insights into policy development. However there are challenges that both charities and the EU must overcome. Increased transparency of EU processes and well-publicised consultations would increase participation, leading to more effective research and innovation proposals.
  • The UK is a European leader in many research and technology areas, notably the life sciences, attracting international investment. It is important that the UK engages effectively in EU policy-making to ensure the UK and Europe can continue to attract global investors.
  • Research and innovation proposals must work for everyone, including charities and patients.

What has the Committee said?

You can read the full report here.

  • They recognised that it is important for the EU to consult relevant bodies when developing its policies and projects, specifically those in ‘niche’ R&I sectors such as health. They welcomed the extension of consultation periods from 8 to 12 weeks but called for more to be done to encourage engagement.
  • It is important for the EU to monitor and evaluate projects in a consistent way to ensure money is being spent effectively and that lessons are learnt for future work.
  • They were concerned that the private sector is not getting enough access to funds, noting that universities were much more successful at this. Calling on the EU to improve the accessibility of its programmes, the Committee said that the bureaucracy and complexity acts as a barrier to private sector participation, especially for SMEs without the resources to navigate complicated and inflexible funding processes. The long period between having a proposal accepted and actually getting the money was also seen as a problem.
  • We are also pleased that they took on board our comments about a joined up approach across EU and UK government departments being necessary to make sure legislation in one area does not inadvertently impact on another area:

The AMRC …. said that it is not just R&I-specific legislation that has an impact on the EU’s competitiveness in this area. Instead, they suggested that all legislation needs to be considered, such as the impact of data protection regulations on the UK’s ability to access NHS patient data for medical research.

What next?

We are working with partners across Europe to engage with the EU directly, and also liaise with UK government departments to inform their input on the EU Council of Ministers to make sure EU legislation and initiatives benefit medical research in the UK and abroad.

In July we are holding a free workshop in Brussels with the Welcome Trust and European Foundations Centre to explore the proposed EU personal data Regulation and how it could impact of medical and social research. Email me if you want to register an interest in joining us. And in the Autumn, once details on the Horizon2020 programme are more clear, we will be running a workshop to help charities access European research funding.

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Posted in: Policy