Life-changing research at UK universities could be days away from stalling

​Universities UK is calling on the government to take urgent steps to prevent the UK from losing out on hundreds of millions of pounds worth of research grants if there is a no-deal Brexit.

The UK government has not explained how it will ensure that applications from researchers at UK universities for European Research Council (ERC) awards will be funded if they are in the middle of the evaluation process, or what future system will be put in place to replace funding for world-leading research, in the event of no-deal. This means life-changing discoveries and leading researchers tackling some of society’s major health and environmental challenges could be left in limbo.

The UK was the most successful country in the last round of ERC Advanced Grants, with 66 applicants awarded up to 2.5 million Euros each – a total of €155 million in funding.

Current applicants are set to find out whether they have been awarded funding from the latest round of ERC Advanced Grants by 8 April 2019, with the next call for applications opening on 21 May 2019.

The UK is leaving the EU on 29 March 2019 without a deal unless all the EU leaders agree to delay Brexit or a deal is agreed by parliament.

Universities UK is calling on UK government to clarify the situation immediately.

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, said: “Researchers at UK universities doing life-changing work remain in the dark over what will happen to their current ERC applications or where they will go in future for funding, if there is no-deal.

“Without clarity very soon vital research could be disrupted which would be hugely damaging to people’s lives. The UK also risks losing some of our brightest minds to other countries, if they don’t know how their research will be progressed.”

ERC grants are among the most prestigious research grants in the world and boast a strong track record in funding life-changing and high-impact research projects, with six grantees winning Nobel Prizes for their contributions since the ERC was established in 2007.

Examples of ERC-funded research that has taken place in the UK include;

As well as ERC grants, access to Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action fellowships, which fund UK academics to spend time with overseas research teams, and vice-versa, is at risk. The next call is due to open on 9 April 2019, with many potential applicants already at an advanced stage of planning. A no-deal Brexit would mean UK-based applicants will not be able to apply for these grants, costing universities around £1.1 billion in research funding.

 

Notes

  1. At the start of this year, Universities UK signed an open letter warning of the risks for research, staff and students if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. It can be read here

  2. For more information on European Research Council Advanced Grants, see here

  3. For more information Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action Individual Fellowships, see here

  4. The Prime Minister made assurances that leaving the EU would not impact on researchers studying in the UK in May 2018

  5. To view more projects enabled by ERC Advanced Grants funding, see here

  6. UUK’s official advice to government on the risks to universities if the UK leaves the European Union (EU) without a deal can be found here

  7. Based on current success rates and projected budgets for ERC and MSCA funding, Universities UK estimates that universities would expect to receive around €1.3 billion (£1.1 billion) in research funding between 29 March 2019 and the end of Horizon 2020 programme on 31 December 2020.

Universities UK is the collective voice of 136 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its mission is to create the conditions for UK universities to be the best in the world; maximising their positive impact locally, nationally and globally. Universities UK acts on behalf of universities, represented by their heads of institution. Visit: www.universitiesuk.ac.uk

Key Contacts

Luke Lambert

Luke Lambert

Press and Social Media Officer
Universities UK

Clara Plackett

Clara Plackett

Senior Press and Social Media Officer
Universities UK

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