The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities has published a statement calling on the European Commission to ensure that universities can continue to benefit from Structural Funds, and from their support for basic research, the mobility of researchers, wide-scale international cooperation and investments into research infrastructures. Member of the Guild hope that this initiative will help reduce the research and innovation divide in Europe.
In the past, many low performing R&I countries have successfully used Structural Funds, namely the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), to invest in capacity building activities in universities. However, this type of ERDF support for research will no longer be available, due to changes in the way the European Commission’s DG for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) is interpreting the legislation for ESIF in the 2021-2027 programming period. DG REGIO has been clear about prioritising support for innovation activities and academia-business cooperation in the National Operational Programmes that regions and Member States are currently finalising, whilst leaving direct support for universities limited to actions that are related to innovation. It is part of a concerning development through which R&I expenditure (in this instance through ERDF support) is increasingly focused on innovation-related activities, at the expense of strengthening our capacities for fundamental research.
In the statement, the Guild raises awareness of the relevance of these funds particularly in EU-13 countries, giving examples of its members Babes-Bolyai University and the University of Tartu, where the share of these funds amounts to up to 30% of the total research budgets.