A new review examining the effectiveness of EFSI and Horizon 2020 has been published

A review into the relationship between the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) and the European Commission’s flagship research programme Horizon 2020 has been published.

The review ‘EFSI and Horizon 2020: Efficiency and Opportunity Cost’ was undertaken by the European University Association (EUA) and focused on whether the two schemes provided efficiency and opportunity cost.

Using analysis and opinions from various sources, including the European Commission, the European Investment Bank, the European Court of Auditors, and other stakeholders the review highlighted some concerns.

Worrying trends

According to the document, there are worrying trends linked to the potentially overrated efficiency and effectiveness of public investment through EFSI. Furthermore, there are lost opportunities for other key RDI programmes such as Horizon 2020. It also outlined imbalances in investment in regional development.

Another issue raised in the review was the fact universities across Europe are restricted or prohibited from borrowing money, which calls into question the EFSI’s capacity to engage RDI stakeholders in collaborations.

The EUA said the creation of the EFSI and the Guarantee Fund has limited budgetary flexibility in the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework. Additionally, it saw a €2.2bn reduction in planned funding for Horizon 2020. This directly affects the efficiency of the programme and funding rates. This is preventing top proposals from gaining funding because of limited call budgets. EUA warned the opportunity cost of EFSI must not “ignore a waste of research ideas and resources under Horizon 2020”.

Key focus

Recommendations laid out by the association focus on improving the efficiency of Horizon 2020 based on its member consultation. Sufficient and sustainable funding remains key to this process, meaning funds diverted from Horizon 2020 to EFSI should be reinvested in the Framework Programme grants.

A history of failures?

This is not the first time the EFSI has been called into question. Last year, European University Association’s (EUA) director Thomas Estermann warned the ESFI was failing. He said the majority of universities across Europe were unable to access loans from the fund because they are not allowed to borrow money. He said it was “very clear this is not a fund for the university sector”.

He added the money would be better used to establish research funding programmes where policymakers understood the return on their investment.


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