Researchers have a new set of allies in the campaign to stave off possible cuts to the European Union's research budget. On 30 January, the European Research Council (ERC), which funds top basic research, issued a joint letter with the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT), a group that includes several dozen chief executives of Europe's largest companies. The letter calls for European leaders to approve the proposed €80 billion budget for Horizon 2020, the research funding program slated to run from 2014 through 2020.
"Europe's future can only be built on its brains," says the letter, which was cosigned by ERT chair Leif Johansson, chairman of the board at telecommunications giant Ericsson. "Any reduction in the funding to support excellent research will result in Europe having limited means to attract outstanding talent in a highly competitive global market."
European heads of state will meet in Brussels on 7 and 8 February to attempt, again, to hammer out a budget deal for the European Union's next 7-year budget period. Disagreements over possible cuts to the European Commission's €1 trillion overall spending proposal scuttled several attempts last year to reach a deal. Several countries, most prominently the United Kingdom, have called for cutting as much as €200 billion from the commission's proposals. Other member states are demanding more spending on agriculture subsidies and the cohesion funds that benefit Europe's poorer regions. That combination has squeezed the research budget in some proposed compromises, with Horizon 2020 getting €70 billion or even less.