EU funds for British universities drop ahead of Brexit

The University of East Anglia

The amount of European funding allocated to British universities has fallen as Brexit approaches.

Figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy analysing support from the EU's Horizon 2020 research programme show that the proportion of funds allocated to British universities had dropped to 24.22% by the end of May - down from a high of 25.47% in February 2017.

UK Universities said researchers had lost out on €136m (£121m).

The figures show the strength of researchers in British universities compared with much of the rest of the EU, which has seen them receive a disproportionately large amount of the share under the €80bn, seven-year Horizon 2020 programme.

But the drop has increased concerns British-led research consortiums are seeing a drop-off in awards as Brexit approaches.

Paul Boyle, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Leicester, told the Financial Times: 'This is not a crisis... but there is a lot of uncertainty.

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"We are seeing some evidence that UK participation is starting to drop away and awards are declining. Colleagues are concerned about future participation.'

And Martin McKee, professor of European health policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the paper: 'I've heard British researchers being asked to step aside from European research consortiums and excluded from funding applications.

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'We have no idea how the UK will be able to participate in the next EU programme and government reassurances are completely worthless as they are based on nothing more than hope."

The government has said it would underwrite all payments to current recipients of Horizon 2020 grants.

The next round of funding lasts from 2021-27 and Theresa May has said that the UK would be willing to make 'an appropriate contribution' to receive funds — likely to be at least €1.3bn, the average amount received by UK institutions a year — in return for a 'suitable level of influence'.

The EU published a draft paper in June which would the way for the UK to continue taking part. Associate partners of the scheme, however, such as Norway, have no say in the development of research and cannot receive funds greater than those it had paid in.

Prof Boyle said he was 'rather positive' about current discussions on future British involvement.

He said: 'The main benefit is not necessarily money. It's all about the collaboration."

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