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Brussels, 04 December 2007

News Alert

New Forum launched to promote philanthropic support for research

The European Commission is today announcing the creation of a new Forum to increase philanthropic contributions for research. The idea of such a Forum was raised by a group of experts asked by the Commission to make recommendations as to how Europe should go about making better use of charitable and private donations to advance research. 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 organisation; legal, fiscal and regulatory issues; and governance and ethical issues. The creation of the Forum is just one in a series of actions undertaken by the Commission since the experts presented their report in March 2006 at the first ever conference on "Strengthening the role of philanthropy in the financing of research." Others include studies on the feasibility of a European Foundation Statute and the role of philanthropy in universities' research funding.

"Research should be supported from many sides, including the philanthropic sector," said European Science and Research Commissioner, Janez Potočnik, present at the launch. "But this is a sector that is under-developed and under-valued 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."

Although there is no precise figure for the support to research from the philanthropic sector, it is certainly less than 3% of total research spending, compared with a figure of 4-5% in the US. The potential is certainly there, but it requires an effort from public authorities to improve framework conditions and incentives. In 2005, the European Commission asked a group of experts to consider this issue. The group came up with a series of recommendations. To date, several of these have been taken up:

  • The proposed European Forum on Philanthropy and Research Funding is being launched today. It will be open to the participation of all European foundations and research stakeholders. The members of the Forum's coordinating 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 European 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.
  • An expert group has been looking in detail at fund-raising by universities from philanthropic sources and will present its findings today.

For information on previous activities on research and philanthropy:

IP/05/1252 (19 measures to boost innovation and research)

IP/06/123 (Recommendations of the expert group on philanthropy and research)

NOTE TO EDITORS

Spokeswoman for Science and Research

Antonia Mochan,
DG Press and Communication
Tel: + 32 2 296 9921
E-mail: antonia.mochan@ec.europa.eu