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Pharma says EU R&D budget cut 'misguided'

EU lobby group criticises science funding cuts

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The European Commission's decision to cut R&D funding is in stark contrast to the situation in the US and threatens to undermine the EU's scientific competitiveness, say pharma groups.

Groups represented brand name, generic and biotech companies have joined forces to voice their concerns about the decision to siphon €2.2bn in funding away from its flagship Horizon 2020 programme and into the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI).

The cut looks particularly "misguided" given the recently announced plans in the US to increase the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $10bn over the next five years, say pharma groups EFPIA, EGA and EuropaBio. 

The EFSI programme - which has been set up with both public and private backing - was set up by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker with the aim of kick-starting the sluggish European economy through the allocation of some €315bn in funding.

Towards the end of last year, Juncker announced his intention to divert €2.7bn in funding, including a €221m reduction in the budget for the European Research Council (ERC), saying it represented "only 3.5%" of the €74bn allocated to the Horizon 2020 initiative.

That figure has since been whittled down and the ERC spared from a reduction thanks in large part to staunch opposition to the proposals in the European Parliament, but remains a major concern, according to the pharma bodies.

"We recognise the desire of the Commission to secure the financial viability of the EFSI - with its worthwhile aim of increasing private and public investment across the EU," they said in a statement.

"However, this should not be achieved through a misguided reduction in resourcing the science budget and, with this, scientific projects across Europe," they added, noting that this "undermines the Commission's major effort in setting up Horizon 2020."

Juncker insisted last year that every euro diverted away from Horizon 2020 will "create 15 euros for those very same research ... projects" and would not be funnelled into other applications. Critics of the EFSI suggest that prediction is overly optimistic, however, and it is unlikely that national and private funds will contribute at that level.

"In our view, innovation through science is the lifeblood of the European economic strategy for growth," said EFPIA, the EGA and EuropaBio.

"Consequently, moves that hinder its progress will have a negative impact on patient health outcomes, the EU economy and the overall sustainability of healthcare systems".

Article by
Phil Taylor

5th June 2015

From: Research

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