Lib Dem MEPs have hailed an EU deal for a £60 billion research programme that will bring huge benefits to business and higher education research, with universities in the West Midlands region well-placed to receive substantial help.
The new programme, Horizon 2020, includes significant funding for industry and provision for a separate €2.7 billion budget line for small businesses pushed for specifically by Liberal Democrat MEPs.
West Midlands region MEP Phil Bennion, Lib Dem Employment Spokesman in the European Parliament, commented:
"This is an exciting time for universities and businesses across the region as economic recovery gets underway at last.
"Liberal Democrats have ensured that millions of pounds of EU research funding will be invested in small innovative firms, allowing them to develop new products and create thousands of jobs in cutting-edge sectors.
"The deal backed by the Industry Committee in Brussels on Thursday is a great victory for our efforts to get EU money targeted where it really counts - helping business and the finest minds in our universities to work together to make us more competitive.
"We also pushed for and won agreement for simpler rules and less red tape, making it easier for smaller businesses to apply to get the funds available under this programme."
"This deal is particularly good for the UK and for the West Midlands region. Over the past five years, the UK has received more EU research spending than almost any other EU country, meaning that for every £1 we put in we have got £1.40 back.
"Current EU funded research projects underway in our region include £5 million to Birmingham University for research into early diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, which is one of the biggest causes of lost days at work by older employees (see A)
"Horizon 2020 will ensure that universities like Birmingham and Warwick remain at the forefront of world-beating research like this and other institutions in this region with a research pedigree will have the chance to bid for substantial funding too.
"The deal agreed this week for a £60 billion new package taking us up to 2020 is a great opportunity for our universities and businesses to continue creating jobs and developing the technologies of the future.
"This is serious money going where it counts and underscores why the EU is so important to our future prosperity."
A) EURO-TEAM: Early diagnosis and bio-marker validation research in Arthritis by a team based at Birmingham University.
B). RLW NAVIGATOR: Remote Laser Welding System Navigator for Eco & Resilient Automotive Factories - Warwick University
RLW Navigator aims to develop an innovative Process Navigator to configure, integrate, test and validate applications of Remote Laser Welding (RLW) in automotive assembly, addressing today's critical needs for frequently changing operating conditions and product-mix provisions. RLW Navigator will crucially serve as an enabler for future energy-efficient, smart factories. Total cost: EUR 6 687 036 EU contribution: EUR 3 979 984
HORIZON 2020: The EU's Horizon 2020 programme was approved today in a vote by MEPs in the European Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy committee. The final vote is expected at the European Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg on the 21st - 24th October. The programme is likely to be formally launched in January 2014.
Under the new programme, €24.3 billion will be allocated to research, €17 billion for industrial innovation and €31 billion to help address major challenges such as making renewable energy more affordable, developing sustainable transport and mobility and coping with the challenge of an ageing population.
The Liberal Democrat group in the European Parliament led the calls for a dedicated €2.7 billion instrument for innovative small and medium-sized enterprises. A target of at least 20% of the second two pillars of the budget is to be given to smaller businesses, the equivalent of almost €10 billion. Simpler rules for funding applications will reduce administrative costs and cut down the average time-to-grant from 12 to 8 months.
The current EU research program (FP7) has provided €4.6 billion in research grants to British scientists and innovators over the last five years. This is more than any other member state except Germany, and equal to nearly 10% of the UK's national science budget.
The EU’s unique cooperation programmes enable scientists and innovators from across Europe to work together in order to address common challenges. 43% of all research projects funded so far under FP7 included UK partners – a higher level of involvement than any other EU member state.