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IP/06/123

Brussels, 6 February 2006

Experts propose measures to increase the role of philanthropy in research

Philanthropy – as provided by foundations, trusts and charities, for example – can play an important role in raising funds for research, but the potential has not been examined or used properly at European level. So says an expert group set up by the European Commission, which has released its report “Giving More for Research in Europe”. The experts found that too little attention is given to the role of foundations and other philanthropic bodies in research, and makes recommendations as to how this could be increased, including through a better tax and regulatory environment, targeted donation campaigns and better mechanisms for attracting such funds to research. This report follows on from the Action Plan for More Research and Innovation adopted by the Commission in October 2005, which proposed national and European action to mobilise sources of funding for European research and innovation. The report will be discussed at a conference on 27-28 March.

The expert group reviewed the current situation of research supported by philanthropic means across the EU, concluding that the situation was highly diverse, with many differences in organisation, governance, operating conditions and legal status from one Member State to another. A handful of major players dominate and their work is concentrated in a few sectors, such as medical research. Relatively low levels of philanthropic contributions to research contrast with much higher funding for culture and education.

The experts therefore issued recommendations to create incentives and eliminate obstacles which affect foundations, their donors and their beneficiaries in the area of research. These include:

  • Increasing visibility and information about the role and the importance of philanthropy as a source of funds for research; encouraging contributions to research through national and international donation campaigns;
  • Improving the tax and regulatory environment for foundations by simplifying the legal and regulatory environment and making tax benefit schemes broader, clearer and more user-friendly;
  • Enhancing mechanisms for leveraging funds for research, e.g. by encouraging “philanthropic venture capital”; at European level. The report also suggests the use of public resources to create a new breed of foundations in line with the goals of the Seventh Framework Programme for Research;
  • Promoting good governance, transparency and accountability practices of foundations;
  • Fostering a more conducive EU-wide environment for foundations.
  • Establishing a “European Forum of Research Foundations” to share experience, review best practices and promote co-operation among foundations funding research.

This report also has particular importance in light of the Lisbon objective to boost research investment and innovation in Europe. Research and innovation were flagged as key priorities by all Member States in their National Reform Programmes published at the end of 2005. This report marks a first step towards placing research at the heart of philanthropic activities, as announced in the recent communication of the European Commission “More Research and Innovation”.

The findings of the report will be presented and discussed at a conference scheduled to take place in Brussels on 27 and 28 March 2006.

The report can be found at: http://ec.europa.eu/invest-in-research/


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