“In the name of innovation”: Two new investigative reports published by Corporate Europe Observatory

Corporate Europe Observatory recently published two investigative reports on how industry controls EU research funding. In the name of innovation, industry lobby groups have managed to control the use of €3.6 billion in EU public funds for health and climate research and innovation. They did so through two public-private partnerships, at the expense of the public interest.

Read the reports:

  • More private than public: the ways Big Pharma dominates the Innovative Medicines Initiative, on the Innovative Medicines Joint Undertaking (IMI)
  • Research and destroy: the factories of the industrial bioeconomy threaten the climate and biodiversity, on the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI)

What happened?
The overwhelming majority of the projects, the structure and mechanisms of these public-private partnerships (‘Joint Undertakings’) show that participating companies are controlling the partnerships’ priorities and the use of public EU money for their own direct benefit. This is both the result of these companies sometimes abusing the partnership and a logical consequence of the way these partnerships were set up. There are seven Joint Undertakings funded between 2014 and 2020, with more than €7 billion paid by taxpayers.

The BBI is a public-private partnership to help build a ‘sustainable low-carbon economy’. It consists of lobby groups representing the agribusiness, forestry, biotechnology, chemical, and fossil fuel industries on the one hand, and the European Commission’s DG Research & Innovation on the other. This partnership was established to last 10 years in 2014. During this time, the public sector contributed €975 million while the private sector mostly brought in-kind resources. Industry defined the overall research priorities and drafted every annual work plan. The main purpose of BBI is to build ‘biorefineries’ and develop new technologies to process unlimited quantities of biomass extracted from forests and soils, threatening their role as carbon sinks, and their provision of biodiversity and food.

Why is it important to prevent this from happening again?
Public research funding is a precious, strategic and societal investment in knowledge production for tomorrow, and at a time of overlapping crises – from Covid-19 to climate change – it is more important than ever that EU research policy receives the political attention and debates it deserves. These lobby groups have prevented these partnerships from meaningfully investing into research projects addressing societal challenges such as epidemic preparedness and viable climate solutions, and mostly made them fund their own commercially profitable research projects instead.

Now is a crucial time to make sure these partnerships are not renewed in a comparable form in the next EU budget. Public health and sustainability are fundamental issues that require a research & innovation policy delivering knowledge and results for all, not just profits for a few. Next to EU and national caps for total agricultural and forestry biomass production and uses and to phasing out incentives for biomass and fossil fuel use, sustainable farming practices such as organic should be supported, and investments in public research and locally embedded innovation in sustainable agriculture are needed.

Read more in the article ‘In the name of innovation: Industry controls billions of EU research funding, de-prioritises he public interest’ on Corporate Europe Observatory’s website.

© Corporate Europe Observatory

© Corporate Europe Observatory

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