No deal Brexit threatens higher education research

19 Mar 19

Universities have warned that a no deal Brexit could disrupt “vital research” due to a lack of clarity over funding.

Crashing out of the EU without a deal would be “hugely damaging” to researchers from UK universities, who are seeking funding from the European Research Council, according to umbrella group Universities UK.

The group, which represents 136 universities in the UK, warned that the UK government has not explained what future system will be put in place to replace funding for world-leading research in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The ERC is an agency of the European Union, which provides funding for scientific and technological research.

Current applications for ERC funding will be decided on April 8 2019, and Universities UK warned that if the UK leaves without a deal on March 29 researchers will be left “in limbo” regarding their funding.

The next call for ERC applications opens on 21 May 2019.

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

Funding goes towards research in areas like health and the environment, and Universities UK is calling on the government to clarify the situation.

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’s 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.”

Access to Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action fellowships will also be lost for UK applicants in the event of a no deal. These fellowships, which fund UK academics to spend time with overseas research teams, are worth £1.1bn in research funding. 

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