Category: news



More than ever, the global Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the true value of excellent research, innovation and education. In the campaign “Seize our common future”, 15 associations representing more than 800 universities have called for an ambitious long-term EU budget for research, innovation and education to boost efforts to solve the manifold future challenges. Today, the same university associations unite and call on European leaders to step up investment in these areas, both in the Multiannual Financial Framework from 2021 to 2027 and Next Generation EU, and to commit to putting sufficient resources behind common ambitions.

Europe’s universities welcome the European Union’s approach to embark on a sustainable recovery path, supported by an ambitious and unprecedented effort to enhance the welfare and strengthen the economic base of the continent. At stake is our shared capacity to successfully tackle global challenges and become a frontrunner in addressing the green and digital transitions. Research, innovation and education are key building blocks to facilitate the European Union’s necessary progress towards sustainability and resilience. Errors made in the past should not be repeated: only long-term, holistic and collaborative approaches will help overcome multi- faceted challenges. Universities across Europe restate their full commitment to contribute to these goals.

Thus, Europe’s universities stand disappointed and concerned by the limited budget proposed for the EU’s flagship programmes Horizon Europe and Erasmus+. The current proposal for Horizon Europe falls far too short of the 120 billion euros that the European Parliament and the university community considered necessary even before Covid-19. A budget cut of more than 3% (compared to the 2018 Commission proposal) for vital instruments such as the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions and the European Research Council would hamper efforts towards strategic resilience. Under Horizon 2020, this pillar has been central in enabling Europe to move forward in tackling the current pandemic and must therefore be reinforced. For Erasmus+, plans to double (European Commission) or triple (European Parliament) funding for the programme have not been met with a lower proposal of 24.6 billion euros (2018 prices). This is clearly insufficient to meet the new and ambitious policy objectives for the next programme, including support to both physical and virtual mobility and education for all.

Both Horizon Europe and Erasmus+ are investments in our future and in our youth. They will reinforce Europe’s capacities to face today’s challenges, and those yet to come. Such challenges may take various forms and solutions will require mobilising various types of knowledge, citizens, and society.

To drive sustainability, Europe must invest in research and innovation. We urge the European institutions to (1) ensure that the funding programmes support science in all areas; (2) encourage and facilitate collaboration across disciplines and (3) foster timely association of interested non-EU countries to Horizon Europe. Finally, EU leaders must (4) recognise the long-term benefit of strengthening investigator-driven frontier research to achieve a proper balance of bottom-up and top-down approaches, throughout Horizon Europe. Europe’s universities recommend that the funds dedicated to research and innovation within Next Generation EU address holistically all challenges related to the coronavirus crisis through the same balanced approach.

Universities across Europe will contribute best to the common recovery and societal resilience if there are more synergies across research, innovation and education policies and funding programmes, and coordinated efforts between funders at European, national and regional levels.

It is now important to reach an agreement in time so that the European Union can move forward and deliver on its ambitious objectives in 2021. It is also the member states’ duty to intensify efforts in research, innovation and education, so that our societies and economies can benefit from an unprecedented momentum towards a sustainable recovery path. Therefore, we call for a commitment to new and reinforced targets for the proportion of GDP invested in research and innovation, both for public and private funding.

We, universities of Europe, urge European leaders to step up investment in research, innovation and education to foster long- term strategic resilience, enabling Europe to strongly reinforce its role as a global leader in this respect.

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UnILiON dialogue with the chair of the ITRE committee

UnILiON dialogue with the chair of the ITRE committee

On 30 June, UnILiON had the pleasure to host an online meeting with the chair of the European Parliament’s ITRE Committee, Mr Cristian Bușoi, on the negotiations on EU’s future research and innovation policy and the new MFF.

The constructive dialogue focused on several themes, including: the allocation of funds for Horizon Europe in the new MFF, the synergies between Horizon Europe and the Green Deal, the new ERA and the level of public and private investment in R&I in Member States.

Bușoi is hopeful that an agreement can be reached in the negotiations on MFF by the end of the year, during the German Presidency so as to avoid further delays in the implementation of the policies at EU level.

Bușoi stressed the strong efforts of the EP in negotiating with the Council an ambitious budget for Horizon Europe, considering in particular the role of R&I in achieving ambitious results in all EU policy areas. Such a role for R&I has already been demonstrated during the COVID-19 crisis and countries have showed strong support for the ERAvsCorona Action Plan, and to resources allocated to health research from H2020 budget.

Allocating the appropriate resources is especially relevant in the context of the ambitious Green Deal priorities as well as the efforts of member states to continue to mobilise investments for economic recovery. It is ITRE’s opinion that a balanced and ambitious Horizon Europe and a renewed ERA represents the core of this recovery, as this new approach requires strong fundamental and collaborative research as well as taking steps towards innovation.

Moreover, Bușoi expressed his support for the coordination of the research and education policies, explaining that it will lead to improved collaboration and synergies.

According to Bușoi, the ITRE committee is strongly committed to supporting the reinforcement and development of research and innovation in synergy with other EU policy areas. There is commitment for a continuous dialogue with stakeholders, member states and the EC.

UnILiON Annual Conference 2020

UnILiON Annual Conference 2020

The world is still adapting to a new reality that was unfathomable few months ago. With university closures, the Covid-19 pandemic has introduced abrupt changes in teaching and learning and interupted the majority of reseach activites. This health crisis provides us with a unique opportunity to explore new approaches to deliver high quality education, excellent science and innovations that are more than ever needed to build a different model of society.

This conference will review direct and knock-on impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic that are reshaping the role of universities and address actionable EU policy recommendations to improve resilience and preparedness across higher education and research institutions. The role that our universities play in the fight against the pandemic will also be assessed.

The 2020 UnILiON annual conference agenda will address:

  • How has Covid-19 created new challenges and played into broader discussions around education, research and innovation?
  • How can universities harness digital education opportunities without jeopardising the quality and accessibility of its formation offer? How should this transition be managed?
  • How can the EU ensure university cooperation in research for rapid response to future global emergencies?

In light of recent developments in Brussels, we have decided to hold the UnILiON 2020 Annual Conference virtually. Participants will be able to engage in high-level panel discussions and conversations between policy makers and university leaders. Other interactive features will include polling and live analysis of results, in addition to live question and answer sessions between participants and speakers. 

UnILiON universities mobilised for the second COVID-19 call in Horizon 2020

UnILiON universities mobilised for the second COVID-19 call in Horizon 2020

On 20 May the European Commission presented a special call for expressions of interest to respond to the corona virus, the second after the launch in January of an emergency call financing 18 research projects, for a total amount of 48, 5 million euros from the Horizon 2020 budget.

This time, the Commission decided to invest 122 million euros in a new call, aimed at implementing the Action 3 of the ERAvsCorona Action Plan, and not only focused on health research, but also on research regarding the unmet needs emerging throughout all Member States that require an urgent response.

In developing their projects, participants will pursue the objective of giving policy makers better evidence-based guidelines, basing them on EU priorities for a greener, technological and resilient future.

UnILiON has fully engaged in the process, giving research groups of its member universities the opportunity to build joint collaborations for the call. On 22 May UnILiON organised a brokerage session with four parallel discussion groups, following the main areas of the call, preceded by a discussion with the Italian NCP for Health, Caterina Buonocore on the main aspects of interest in this call.

With minimum time for the organisation, the mobilisation in our network was impressive and exemplary with about 150 research groups engaging in a very interesting discussion on project ideas.  In particular, the four parallel discussions on the five areas of the call,  proved to be useful for researchers as they confronted each other’s research ideas on behaviour, socioeconomics, cohorts, manufacturing, medical and digital solutions, presenting  their proposals and creating the ground to build interesting collaborations all over Europe.

This call highlights once again the relevance of the R&I contribution to the fight against Covid-19 and to the recovery process that Europe is facing. Universities emerge as main actors in this process, as they offer perspectives from different Member States and can mobilise both institutional and civil society actors.

What emerged from these dialogues was the complementarity of many proposals, which will be further exploited by enhancing our collaboration and cooperation. The concrete results of this initiative will emerge in the next weeks and after the call deadline. So far, it seems to have helped European universities to take another step towards collaboration to build a better Europe in this critical period.