Why Fund Research And What Are The Future Options?
July 20, 2017
From a purely financial perspective, funding scientific research makes monetary sense: for every pound, euro or dollar invested, there is an average 20% return to the economy. But the benefits of funding life science research, of course, go a great deal deeper than that, resulting in valuable research on many different global health priorities.
Funding in the form of grants also has other powerful benefits, such as spurring competition between the top researchers, spreading knowledge across institutions and geographical borders, and creating high-quality jobs.
Despite the manifold benefits of funding research, R&D funding in Europe, in general, fails to match that of much of many other countries, with less than half as much spent as in South Korea, and less than 5 times as much venture capital available to EU researchers than to those in the US.
This lack of funding is thought to be instrumental in why the EU, despite its large number of start-ups, often fails to scale these projects up.
The subject of increased funding for R&D in Europe is a hot topic at present, with discussions on alternative funding strategies such as crowdfunding, blended funding, and new grant competitions.
As such, the brand new European Innovation Council is planning to experiment with some changes to the funding process in order to invigorate innovation across the EU. While the funding planning is still in the preliminary stage, some of the suggested changes to R&D funding and innovation generation include:
1. Doubling the EU research budget in 2021.
2. A 2019 blended finance pilot program to scale up fast-growing SMEs blending grants with either loans or equity finance.
3. A trial is exploring crowd funding options where the public could fund research ideas.
4. Research into how effective and rational the public might be at making funding decisions, and the role of AI and tools into assisting with decisions.
5. Four new 2030 research goals, including understanding the brain and a cancer survival rate of 3 out of 4.
6. New prize competitions, including developing an early-warning system for epidemics.
7. The simplification of the grant procedure, including an end to routine audits of researchers, and the abolition of up to a third of current schemes, acronyms, and instruments of funding.
8. Increasing funding for innovation by moving money from agricultural and regional funding.
To find out more about the possibilities and potential drawbacks of crowdfunding in life sciences, refer to our earlier blog on the topic here. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/crowdfunding-life-sciences-ian-broadway
With so much discussion and planning on how to better fund research in the EU, it’s an exciting outlook for funding in the life sciences. For those UK life science companies wondering how Brexit might affect their funding, the Innovation Council has recommended that the UK should still have access to the EU innovation funding programme despite its imminent departure from the EU bloc, urging a positive cooperation model.