The new common strategic framework for research, now dubbed 'Horizon 2020', will absorb existing research funding such as the European Institute of Technology (EIT) and the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP).
The EIT is currently administered by the Commission's education department, whilst the CIPs are administered by DG Enterprise and DG Energy. Some or all of these departments' controls could disappear depending on how the funds are positioned within Horizon 2020, the full details of which will be revealed in October.
The draft MFF does not specify a separate line of funding for the programmes, leading to uncertainty over how much they will receive and how they will be administered internally within the Commission.
The CIP runs from 2007 to 2013 with an overall budget of €3.6 billion, likely to increase dramatically within the next MFF. The EIT, which was only established three years ago, will receive €309 million next year, but its administrators have requested between €3 and €4 billion from the MFF.
Internal power struggle looming ahead?
Xavier Prats Monné, a deputy director-general in the Commission's education department, last week revealed that an internal debate within the EU executive had still not resolved how the programmes would operate under Horizon 2020.
Speaking at a conference on the future of the EIT in the European Parliament, he said: "There is a choice between whether to have a single policy and legal framework for all programmes under Horizon 2020, or to make a clear distinction between Horizon 2020 as a policy framework and to preserve the [separate] legal framework of the EIT."
He added: "I do not think that it [Horizon 2020] should be an unique framework, but this is a debate going on and the devil is in the detail."
Portuguese Christian Democrat MEP Maria de Graça Carvalho, who sits on the industry, research and energy committee, warned that there are parliamentary fears about how the Commission will come to its decision.
Carvalho told EurActiv: "It is important that the question of whether they have their own instruments is separated from questions of internal administration, otherwise this will become a political issue and there will be a power struggle internally."
She said that the research and innovation task force of the European People's Party is currently finalising its own opinion on the administration of the EIT and CIP.
She said concerns about the Commission's decision-making process were widespread in the Parliament and the opinion could contain an explicit request for the EU executive to keep its decisions on the funds, and how they are administered, separate.
Proposals boost complex, cost-intensive technologies?
Another fear is that the decisions reached by the Commission will not take into account the fact that a new EU executive will take over simultaneously with the new MFF – at the beginning of 2014 – and may then revisit the decisions on internal administration.
Meanwhile, the boost in the research budget was given a mixed response by industry.
In a statement BusinessEurope "warmly welcomed" the proposals to increase funds for research and innovation, but it said the overall budget proposal "failed to take forward the major overhaul of the EU budget that is required to fully support the EU 2020 objectives of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth".
A consortium of 98 civil society and research organisations from 22 European countries sent an open letter to the Commission claiming that its research proposals promoted complex, cost-intensive technologies at the expense of locally-adapted, socially-relevant projects.