Research Funding in th EU: Fair share?


A nice short piece on the distribution of research funding in Europe authored by Arno Meerman (CEO of University Industry Innovation Network) and Todd Davey (Director International Projects at Science-to-Business Marketing Research Centre) appeared recently on the blog of the University Industry Innovation Network.

UK and Germany are currently getting a large share of the EU research funding. There are several available reads on the topic (e.g., The Guardian and Sci-Com ) including a report by the Royal Society that can be accessed here. As a UK report by the Department of Business Innovation & Skills released in My2014 puts it (although they refer to the National investment in research, and not the EU allocated funds, I have the feeling that a similar conclusion can be made for the investment in UK research overall):

This continuing investment in our world-class research base will help us achieve our
ambition to make the UK the best place in the world to do science and research.

European Research funds, like those competitively distributed within the EU program Horizon 2020, are supposed to be matched by National research funds supporting a wider base of non-applied research across all fields. Unfortunately, many countries (including my homeland Italy) are not holding up to their side of the deal, and national research funds are in many countries to a historical minimum. Last year Italy distributed 90 M Euro in total to all research disciplines, by comparison France invested 1 Bn Euro in the same year. This prompted a letter to Nature by Italian scientist Giorgio Parisi (my apologies, the article is behind NPG paywall, but you can access the text of the article on the page), and resulted in a petition on (I invite you to sign it!) calling for the European Union to push governments into keeping their research funding above subsistence level.

I took a look at the prestigious European Research Council Starting Grant website as suggested by the article in The Guardian. Apparently last year only 300 ERC Starting Grant were awarded in the entire EU. Compare this to the 100,000 PhDs awarded in the same year… crazy eh? What is worst, is that 222 out of 300 were all awarded to institutions from only 6 countries, with UK leading the list. I took a look at the data freely available on the ERC website for the Starting Grant. Here the resulting graph showing the total amount of ERC Starting grant (from 2007 onward) sorted by country of Host Institution:


It will be interesting to see what happens to the share of EU research budget currently going to the UK if they will vote to exit the European Union on June 23. Perhaps more research money for the rest of the European countries?

Opening image by Jeff Belmonte from Cuiabá, Brazil (Contando Dinheiro) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


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