Proposed budget cut: reduced Longevity for EU citizens?

European Longevity Initiative writes an open letter addressing concerns that the European Research Council’s budget has been cut.

Suggested changes to the proposed ERC budget for 2021-27 have been met with opprobrium, with top publications Nature and Science among those voicing criticism.

Longevity.Technology: The ERC budget for 2021-27 is proposed at €1.8 trillion, a figure down by €1.3 billion (US$1.5 billion), which is a reduction of almost 10% from the €14.7 billion that had been proposed by the European Commission in 2018. A global pandemic, where scientists and clinicians are racing to find a cure for a virus that has had over 26 million cases and caused over a million deaths, would not seem a prudent time to reduce funding for scientific and medical research. 

The European Longevity Initiative is a loose association of mainly EU citizens and residents coming together to form a healthy Longevity advocacy group that particularly targets EU-level legislation and the wider EU public, with associates covering Germany, Slovenia, France, Czech Republic, Belgium, Hungary, Greece, Austria and Poland.

Attila Csordas, the Longevity biologist and philosopher who founded AgeCurve, wrote a guest editorial for Longevity.Technology on the need for a focused Longevity advocacy group at EU level.

Today we publish the European Longevity Initiative’s open letter on the proposed ERC budget.
AgeCurve’s founder and director Attila Csordas is longevity biologist and philosopher sharing ideas on the biology of aging.Csordas, an advocate for the ELI, is clear that the budget is far from ideal: “2020 is a watershed moment for Europe, due to budgeting reasons too,” he told Longevity.Technology.
“The EU budget process is everything but simple, but the message behind the proposed ~10% budget cut for the extremely successful European Research Council, the first pan-European funding body for frontier research, for the upcoming seven years is simple,” he explained.

“It shows that no matter of all the enthusiastic talk about increased public health focus, the EU leaders are missing to properly weigh in the fundamental future oriented component: basic innovative medical science, the one that can give us scientific and technological guarantees for living healthier, for longer.

“Slashing research budgets is not how we can build a stronger European Health Union, to paraphrase current EU President von der Leyen. The European Longevity Initiative would like to appeal to the European public, amongst them, the members of the European Parliament, who can veto the proposed research cuts, to think carefully on the role of science in the future of European public health.”

An open letter from the European Longevity Initiative

We, at the European Longevity Initiative, would like express our opinion concerning the proposed ~10% last minute European Research Council (ERC) budget cuts as it amounts to less chance for ground-breaking scientific and medical research providing health benefits for the world, Europeans included.

Fact #1: As the Nature Editorial A pandemic is no time to cut the European Research Council’s funding puts it:

“The ERC is a rare success story in multilateral research funding. About 25% of all patents filed by projects supported by Horizon 2020 have come from ERC projects, even though commercialization of research is not the agency’s main aim….

“The ERC is seen as stellar by the standards of basic research agencies. According to the latest evaluation report, almost one-fifth of projects report a breakthrough and more than half lead to a major scientific advance [1].”

Fact #2: EU leaders agreed in May for a budget of 14.7 billion.

Fact #3: It has been cut by €1.3 billion (US$1.5 billion) the last minute.

Problem: This budget cut means potentially less health for European Citizens in the medium and long term as it provides less chance for new, innovative, clinically relevant research. For instance it weakens the chances for bigger, successful grants addressing the root cause of age-associated diseases, biological aging, which needs multidisciplinary skills pulled from a cross-European talent pool, multilateral research founding and potentially an interdisciplinary approach.

This short-sighted budget u turn is also in tension with the new slogans emerging from EU leaders on focusing on public health in general.

“If the EU is serious about public health it should walk the walk, not just talk the talk.”

Statement: We protest against this last minute substantial budget cut, due to internal EU political games, down-prioritising the life-line of European scientific and medical research.
There’s still time to fix this. If the EU is serious about public health it should walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

European Longevity Initiative – ELI

Attila Csordas (Cambridge, UK, from Budapest, Hungary)
Joanna Bensz (Warsaw, Poland, International Institute of Longevity)
Didier Coeurnelle (Brussels, Belgium, Heales)
Viktor Holy (Prague, Czech Republic,
Clara Fernández (Valencia, Spain)
Martin Lipovsek (Ljubljana, Slovenia)
Morten Scheibye-Knudsen (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Felix Werth (Berlin, Germany, The Party for Health Research)
Tina Woods (London, UK, Longevity International)
Mehdi Yacoubi (Paris, France)

Image credit: By Melinda Nagy / Shutterstock