Russell Group warns vital UK research funding could be at risk in EU budget talks - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Russell Group warns vital UK research funding could be at risk in EU budget talks

Tuesday, 5 February 2013
Professor Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol and Sir Steve Smith, the Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive Professor of the University of Exeter, are among the signatories of an open letter published in the Financial Times yesterday expressing concern that the budget for research funding will be one of the biggest hit in negotiations on the European Union’s seven-year budget this week in Brussels because “too few UK political voices have been heard fighting for its importance”.

The open letter, penned by the country’s Russell Group of 24 leading UK universities, highlights that the UK’s research-intensive universities are “acknowledged internationally as beacons of excellence” and that “critical funding that underpins our excellence could be at risk”.

But this excellence is threatened, because funding for research – relatively small in the context of overall EU spending – risks being squeezed out when the European Council meets on Thursday to agree the budget to 2020,” it reads.

The European Commission is proposing €80bn of funding for research and innovation – the minimum required to sustain a competitive knowledge economy – over the period 2014-2020. But in the final EU budget negotiations, this risks being slashed to preserve structural funds and agricultural subsidies. Although the UK punches way above its weight in research and innovation, too few UK political voices have been heard fighting for its importance.

We fully understand that Prime Minister David Cameron is not in a position to advocate an increased overall EU budget, but we urge him to argue in Europe for the approach that he has successfully delivered in the UK: to protect a strong research budget within a lower overall settlement.

UK universities are the most competitive in Europe: if the budget is there, we will win it for the UK, and deliver the innovation that produces long-term, sustainable economic growth,” it concludes.

The University of Bristol is one of the founding members of the Russell Group. The University of Exeter accepted the invitation to join in March 2012.

European heads of state and Prime Ministers will meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday for a meeting that is expected to continue late into the night.

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