EU encourages philanthropic contribution to research

4 Dec 2007

A forum to increase philanthropic contributions to research in Europe is to be created, the European Commission has announced.

The European Forum on Philanthropy and Research Funding will be initially established for a period of three years and will examine issues such as the research-funding policies of existing philanthropic organisations, legal, fiscal and regulatory issues and governance and ethical issues.

The creation of the forum is just one in a series of actions being undertaken by the commission. Others include studies on the feasibility of a European Foundation Statute and the role of philanthropy in universities’ research funding.

Support for European research from the philanthropic sector is estimated at less than 3pc of total research spending, compared with a figure of 4-5pc in the US.

“Research should be supported from many sides, including the philanthropic sector,” said European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Poto?nik.

“But this is a sector that is underdeveloped and undervalued in Europe, particularly when we compare ourselves with the US. The establishment of this forum should be a first step in a more coherent and strategic approach to encouraging philanthropists to support research.”

The European Forum on Philanthropy and Research will be open to the participation of all European foundations and research stakeholders.

The members of the forum’s co-ordinating and decision-making body (steering group) are drawn from the memberships of the European Foundation Centre (EFC) and of the European University Association (EUA).

The programme of the forum will be carried out through a combination of research work, peer-learning events and working groups to which interested parties will be invited to participate.

The commission proposed in November 2006 that member states adopt a common approach when it comes to the tax treatment of foundations and the definition for tax purposes of a “public benefit organisation”.

A study has just started looking at the feasibility of a European Foundation Statute that would remove the main barriers to cross-border co-operation among foundations, such as giving and receiving funds, mutual recognition, taxation and right of establishment.

The study will also assess the expected impact of such a statute on the activities and governance of foundations, the attitude of potential donors and the corporate sector.

By Niall Byrne