In a very unexpected move, the EU announced recently that it will be putting significantly more money towards “scientific research and innovation” in next year’s budget. According to the European Commission, next year’s budget will include at least 6.4 billion euros for such innovation. This is an increase of more than 12 percent over last year’s budget, in a year that saw no inflation.
The money is expected to be put towards a number of projects that are gaining importance in view of the European population. It will be distributed between more than 16,000 organisations and businesses. Some of the more practical problems that it will be used to challenge include an aging population, climate change, energy, health, and food security and shortages. Most of these are projects that will see immediate benefits and have definite practical applications.
The EU says that it is making this move in part to increase jobs. With record unemployment levels, the EU expects that this project will create more than 165,000 jobs. Most of these jobs are expected to be long-term considering that many will be in universities and the public sector, where employees can get tenure and enjoy greater job security.
The EU is also putting a large amount of this money towards more theoretical and less practical aims. For example, fusion, a theoretical way of creating practically limitless energy, has long been a project that most large countries in the world have worked on. The EU currently is building the Iter Fusion reactor, which has a 1.4 billion euro shortfall. Some of this money will be used to finance that project. Among other theoretical projects are 270 million euros for nanotechnology, 600 million euros for advanced computer technology, and 400 million euros for carbon-emission computer monitoring programs. While these projects may not have immediate applications, most are projects that many governments are investigating and a large advantage can come of improvements in these areas.
This money is expected to significantly increase the impact of the EU governments in the scientific community. Not a single major public scientific program is going to have money cut from its budget, and many will have increases in their budgets. While governments currently account for only five percent of scientific research in the EU, that number is expected to dramatically increase next year, especially in light of companies pulling back in the poor economy. According to the European Commission, this number is going to increase even farther in 2013.