Research funding is what supports innovation in every field and discipline, and greases the wheels of human progress. It is also the only major area of EU funding in which the UK is a net beneficiary.
The Royal Society in London says that UK researchers obtained €8.8 billion in EU research grants between 2007 and 2013, against a nominal UK contribution to these programmes of €5.4 billion in the same period.
A recent House of Lords report ‘EU Membership and UK Science’, estimates that EU expenditure on research, development and innovation will be €120 billion for 2014-2020. The report found that: “Clearly, science and research are a significant dimension of the UK’s membership of the EU.”
The possibility of the UK Government reinvesting that amount into a national science budget in the event of a ‘leave’ vote was discussed by MPs.
The Minister of State for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson MP, expressed uncertainty regarding the likelihood of repatriating funds for research. In the report he said: “It would be rash to pretend that it would be easy to replace it [the financial contribution from the EU to UK science and research] in the event of Brexit when we would not know what other claims there might be on the public purse, nor what state our economy would be in.”
Bournemouth University (BU) actively encourages bids to EU and international funders, where we were awarded £915k of research funding from these sources in 2014-15. The potential withdrawal of Britain from the EU could result in a major loss of research funding to BU (up to 20%). It could also impact negatively on staff mobility, future networking and impact opportunities, and potentially influence and reputation. To lose access to EU research funding could be detrimental to our future funding, networking and impact.
However, there are many potential and untapped sources of funding, particularly in Europe and further afield. BU’s Research Development & Support (RDS) department is starting to look wider than the EU for potential funding and collaboration opportunities, reflecting and supporting BU’s increasingly global outlook.
International non-EU funding, for example, is a largely unexploited opportunity. In 2014-15 BU only received £156k from these sources, a vast contrast to the EU funding received.
The intention is now to maximise the potential of wider international funding in the future, which could potentially offset the funding shortage that a Brexit vote would cause. The research of the future is going to be a much more global affair at BU.
There are a number of further sources of information about research funding in the EU including Scientists for EU and Scientists for Britain. Research Professional has provided thought pieces from both camps.
Universities UK commissioned a study modelling the impact of the UK economy of EU research funding during 2014/15 which was released Friday 10 June.
This article was written in collaboration with BU's Research Development & Support (RDS) department.