Facing pressure from E.U. parliamentarians and scientists, the European Commission agreed yesterday to spare the European Research Council (ERC) from budget cuts. But this is only a limited relief: The overall E.U. research and innovation program Horizon 2020, of which ERC is part, will see €2.2 billion of its €74 billion budget until 2020 go into to a new, controversial investment fund aimed at boosting Europe's sluggish economy.
In January, the commission had proposed trimming €2.7 billion from Horizon 2020's budget, including €221.2 million from ERC's envelope, to fodder the European Fund for Strategic Investment. This prompted an outcry from scientists and members of the European Parliament.
After eight talks with the European Parliament and member states in the past month, which culminated yesterday in an all-nighter session in Brussels, the commission said it would find €500 million elsewhere. Two other Horizon 2020 budget lines are safe from cuts as well: the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, which provide funding for Ph.D. and postdoc fellowships, and a program called Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation, which aims at helping member states with poor research performance.