European Longevity Initiative: ERC budget cut means less health for Europe

We, at the European Longevity Initiative, would like to express our opinion concerning the proposed ~10% last minute European Research Council (ERC) budget cut as it amounts to less chance for groundbreaking scientific and medical research providing health benefits for the world, Europeans included.

Fact #1:  The ERC is the first pan-European funding body for frontier research. It is part of, the first pillar, of the Horizon 2020, representing ~17% of its overall budget for 2014-20. As the recent Nature Editorial A pandemic is no time to cut the European Research Council’s funding puts its:

‘The ERC is a rare success story in multilateral research funding. About 25% of all patents filed by projects supported by Horizon 2020 have come from ERC projects, even though commercialization of research is not the agency’s main aim….
The ERC is seen as stellar by the standards of basic research agencies. According to the latest evaluation report, almost one-fifth of projects report a breakthrough and more than half lead to a major scientific advance (see go.nature.com/3iyhn9i).’

Fact #2: The European Commission proposed a budget of 14.7 billion for the period of 2021–27 in 2018.

Fact #3: The EU Summit in July proposed only €81 billion for Horizon Europe, which, according to the ERC Scientific Council would mean ‘no increase to the core research and innovation budget of the EU for the first time ever’. This budget figure indicates a €1.3 billion (US$1.5 billion) budget cut for the ERC, proposed sort of the last minute.

Fact #4: The European Parliament could still veto this proposal. (The EP wanted €120 billion for Horizon Europe.)

Problem: This proposed budget cut means potentially less health for European Citizens in the medium and long term as it provides less chance for new, innovative, clinically relevant research. For instance, it weakens the chances for bigger, successful grants addressing the root cause of age-associated diseases, biological aging, which needs multidisciplinary skills pulled from a cross-European talent pool, multilateral research founding and potentially an interdisciplinary approach. This shortsighted budget u turn is also in tension with the new slogans emerging from EU leaders to focus on public health in general.

Statement: We protest against this last minute substantial budget cut, due to internal EU political games, down-prioritising the life-line of European scientific and medical research. There’s still time to fix this. If the EU is serious about public health it should walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

European Longevity Initiative – ELI

drafted by: Attila Csordas (Cambridge, UK <- Budapest, Hungary)

Joanna Bensz (Warsaw, Poland, International Institute of Longevity)

Didier Coeurnelle (Brussels, Belgium, Heales)

Clara Fernández (Valencia, Spain)

Viktor Holy (Prague, Czech Republic, LongevityForum.eu)

Martin Lipovsek (Ljubljana, Slovenia)

Morten Scheibye-Knudsen (Copenhagen, Denmark)

Felix Werth (Berlin, Germany, The Party for Health Research)

Tina Woods (London, UK, Longevity International)

Mehdi Yacoubi (Paris, France)