Data Brief: First in, best dressed for EU healthcare research funding

Only 3% of EU grant funds went to new entrants to the union between 2007 and 2016.

26 October 2018

Smriti Mallapaty


EU leaders meet at a summit in Brussels on October 2018.

Established European Union member states received some 97% of healthcare grants distributed by EU funding programmes over the decade to 2016, according to an analysis posted on 25 October 2018 in the bioRxiv preprint server without peer review.

The study shows a clear divide between the established 15 member states of the EU, and the 13 new entrants since 2004. While the EU-15 states received some €5.6 billion of the €5.8-billion-worth of health research grants awarded under the 7th Framework Programme and the Horizon 2020 Programme between 2007 and 2016, EU-13 states received only €179 million. The average grant amount received by institutions also varied widely, from €475,000 in EU-15 states to €217,000 in EU-13 states.

Researchers based in Hungary and the Netherlands assessed 1,529 health research grants distributed to 3,660 institutions between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2016 under the EU funding programmes. Overall, countries received an average €208 million in grant funding during that period, and institutions received an average €459,000. But the distribution was highly uneven, with the top five countries receiving 68% of the total amount, and the top 3% of institutions receiving 46% of the funding.

Netherlands effect

The United Kingdom was the top beneficiary of the healthcare research funds distributed during the study period, drawing in more than €1.1 billion.

But the Netherlands took the lead when accounting for population size, receiving more than €4 million per 100,000 inhabitants. "This 'Netherlands effect' proves that smaller countries can be competitive with larger countries," the papers states.

The study also found countries with higher GDP per capita and more frequent paper citations were more likely to receive higher levels of funding per capita. But those with a higher burden of disease were less likely to receive more funding.


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