|Expanding bubble in space|
French Higher Education and Research Minister Geneviève Fioraso had something to smile about as she briefed reporters the day before the government unveiled its 2013 austerity budget on 28 September. Hers was one of the few ministries to escape spending cuts as socialist President François Hollande and his team strive to honour their commitment to slash the deficit from 4.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) to 3% next year.
Instead of pruning spending by 3.5% as ministers had been instructed, Fioraso managed to negotiate a 2.2% spending increase to give a 2013 budget for her ministry of just under €23 billion (US$29 billion), or €26 billion if contributions from other ministries are included. This was even more than the increase given to schools, which were one of the three priorities touted by Hollande in his election campaign earlier this year.
The upshot of the cash increase is that 1,000 new university posts will be created, a third each going to lecturer-researchers, researchers and support staff, and none of the 68,449 publicly funded research jobs will be cut. Funding for research grants will rise by 1.2% to €7.86 billion, although that is a drop in real terms as inflation is expected to average 1.75% for the year.
As Hollande had pledged, the funding split between the National Research Agency (ANR), which finances most projects, and basic research institutes is rebalanced. ANR allocations will shrink from €709 million to €687 million this year, and institutes will receive an extra €60 million for operating expenses.
More than €1.1 billion is slated for international programmes, up from just over €1 billion this year. The European Space Agency (ESA) will get a 3.8% rise, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) will get 58% more.