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Commission, MEPs and industry agree: a stronger EU budget will boost Europe’s competitiveness

Klas Wåhlberg, Günther Oettinger

At a European Parliament roundtable on 26 September MEPs, EU Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger and representatives of Europe’s technology industries agreed: a stronger EU budget – in particular with more investment in research and innovation (R&I) and high-tech infrastructures – will boost Europe’s competitiveness and help provide solutions to pressing societal challenges. Orgalime has been promoting this message in discussions with EU policymakers as the Commission proposals for the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and R&I Framework Programme Horizon Europe have taken shape. Now, the ball is in the Council’s court: Member States must live up to their stated ambitions to increase spending on innovation – and recognise that the European added value of EU programmes can deliver benefits no state can achieve alone.  

 

A crucial moment for the future of EU finances: MFF and Horizon Europe proposals

Presented by the European Commission in early May, the draft EU budget (the Multiannual Financial Framework or MFF) is now being hotly debated in the European Parliament and Council. A significant chunk of the MFF is reserved for research and innovation (R&I) funding, and the Commission’s proposal on how to spend this funding – the ‘Horizon Europe’ Framework Programme – is also under consideration by the co-legislators.

For Europe’s technology industries, Horizon Europe is a top priority for the future MFF. Together with the budget lines destined for investment in high-tech energy and digital infrastructures, EU funding can play a key role in accelerating industrial innovation and strengthening competitiveness. On 26 September, Orgalime – in partnership with the European Forum for Manufacturing (EFM) – brought tech company representatives to the European Parliament to discuss these priorities with MEPs and EU Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger.

 

Collaborative research, digitisation and infrastructures: the technology industries’ priorities

Industry speakers outlined the value that EU R&I funding has delivered for their operations. Strong support for collaborative industrial research ranked high on the list of must-haves for Horizon Europe. “We have a large research team at Scania,” pointed out Hans Olofsson, Senior Adviser at the Swedish vehicle manufacturer. “But that’s not enough: we need to collaborate with academics and researchers all over the world.” EU programmes provide that opportunity.

Plus, collaboration between industry and academia shortens the time needed for innovation to reach the market where it makes a real difference to people’s lives. “Applied research must be heavily promoted – it is an investment in the future of us all,” stressed Klas Wåhlberg, Director of Teknikföretagen, the Association of Swedish Engineering Industries and Member of the Board of Orgalime.

Others underlined the need for funding to support the digital transformation, whether focusing on cybersecurity, AI, or digitisation on the production line. This message was reinforced by Commissioner Oettinger, who said when it comes to the EU budget, “for our industries, it’s about competitiveness – and we are in a digital revolution.” Promoting investment in high-tech digital and energy infrastructures will be vital to give Europe an edge on the global stage.

Industry, Commission and MEPs all on the same page – Member States, it’s up to you

Many of the priorities for technology firms were echoed by the MEPs, who were unified in their support for an ambitious budget and higher levels of R&I funding. The issue now will be to convince governments at the Member-State level as the Council deliberates its position. MEP Christian Ehler, who is leading the report on the Horizon Europe file, called for a “battle cry throughout Europe” to drive up research spending as the only way for the EU to keep pace with international competition from China and the US.

And if a stronger EU budget can boost innovation and competitiveness, it will be national money well spent: the best rebuttal to populism and nationalism is to show that European collaboration delivers solutions to society’s challenges while providing opportunities for economic growth. As Commissioner Oettinger concluded: “No company or Member State alone has the financial resources needed to lead in the global race – but as a European team, we can compete.”

 

Read Orgalime’s 16 recommendations to EU policymakers on Horizon Europe here, and view photos from the event here.

 

 

About the European Forum for Manufacturing

The European Forum for Manufacturing helps to provide European political leadership for the development of multilateral public policies addressing the economic, social and environmental challenges facing manufacturing globally.

The purpose of the EFM is to help ensure that Europe remains a leader and benefits fully through enhanced global competitiveness, social progress and environmental responsibility.

 

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