A time for boldness: EU membership and UK science after the referendum Contents

Chapter 2: Funding

Current EU funding of UK science

18.In our April report on EU membership and UK science, we set out the principal mechanisms established by the EU to support science and research.18 There are five main mechanisms:

19.As set out in our report, although the UK was a net contributor to the EU overall, it was a net receiver of EU funding for research with just under one fifth (18.3%) of the funds the UK received from the EU from 2007–13 used to support research, development and innovation activities (see Figure 1 below, which is taken from our earlier report).

Figure 1: Flow of funds between the UK and the EU (2007–13)

Source: Written evidence from the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) (EUM0047) and the Royal Society (EUM0067)

20.As shown in Figure 1, from 2007 to 2013 the UK received €8.8 billion for research, development and innovation from the EU. Over the same period, the UK contributed €5.4 billion for research, development and innovation.

21.€6.9 billion of the funding from the EU to the UK for research, development and other innovation activities was Framework 7 Programme (FP7) funding (see Figure 2), with the university sector by far the largest recipient (see Figure 3). The Committee heard from universities that this funding was equivalent to having another Research Council.19 However, UK businesses performed below the EU average in participating in FP7.20 EU research funding through FP7 represented 3% of UK expenditure on R&D between 2007 and 2013.21

Figure 2: Sources of EU funding to UK research, development and innovation (2007–13)

C:\Users\burnettstuartc\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.Outlook\PO5CQT8O\Figure 4-eu-funding-sources-pie.jpg

Source: Royal Society, UK research and the European Union: The role of the EU in funding UK research (December 2015): https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/projects/eu-uk-funding/uk-membership-of-eu.pdf [accessed 9 November 2016]

Figure 3: FP7 funding awarded to the UK by sector (2007–13)

Source: Royal Society, UK research and the European Union: The role of the EU in funding UK research (December 2015): https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/projects/eu-uk-funding/uk-membership-of-eu.pdf [accessed 9 November 2016]

Government commitments post-EU referendum

22.Professor Philip Nelson, Chair of Research Councils UK (RCUK), and Chief Executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), called for the Government to reassure researchers applying for a European Research Council grant under Horizon 2020, which may last five years, that it will be honoured in the future. He said: “Making statements such as that would be enormously helpful to researchers on the ground when they are considering where they should apply for research funding.”22

23.On 13 August, the Government announced that it would “underwrite funding for approved Horizon 2020 projects applied for before the UK leaves the European Union”.23 It gave similar reassurances about ESIF projects signed before the Autumn Statement.24 In oral evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on 13 July, Jo Johnson MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, said that he had already made statements to clarify the situation and was putting together a communications strategy.25

24.The Minister also told us on 25 October that the funding promised by the Government for approved Horizon 2020 projects applied for before the UK leaves the EU would be new money, “not money from the existing science ring-fence; it is additional resources beyond the £26.3 billion we have already committed for the period 2016–17 to 2020–21. It is an additional commitment from the Treasury to underwrite EU research funding”.26

25.The Government’s commitment to underwrite Horizon 2020 funding with new money is significant and welcome. The Government should try to enable scientists in the UK to retain access to Horizon 2020 and other EU funding post-Brexit. In the light of the UK’s science credentials and given that a number of countries outside the EU already have access to this funding, we would expect the EU and the UK Government to agree terms under which this access remains open.

26.The Association of Innovation Research and Technology Organisations (AIRTO) emphasised that it was important that the Government’s funding commitments were “followed through and that implementation does not fall short of participants’ expectations”.27

Commitments made by the Prime Minister on 21 November

27.In a speech to the CBI on 21 November, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would make real terms increases in government investment worth £2 billion per year by 2020 for R&D, “to help put post-Brexit Britain at the cutting edge” of science and technological discovery.28 In the Autumn Statement two days later, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, confirmed that this money would be channelled through the new National Productivity Investment Fund to UKRI and the new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.29

28.We recognise this major increase in funding as a signal that the Government is putting significantly greater emphasis on science to deliver its long term objectives in addition to any replacement of EU funding. This is a highly encouraging development at a time when the future role of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is being considered during the passage of the Higher Education and Research Bill through Parliament.

Future access to EU funding

29.During the course of this inquiry we received submissions indicating a preference for the UK to find a way to retain access to EU funding post-Brexit. The British Council told us, “The UK should aim to maintain access to mechanisms such as Horizon 2020, and the subsequent Framework Programme as part of its new relationship with the EU, in order to ensure that UK researchers can continue to work with and attract the best researchers across Europe and beyond.”30 Similarly the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) said that “continued access to EU funding programmes and collaborative opportunities” should be a priority.31. In our earlier report we said that one of the ways to retain access to EU funding post-Brexit might be for the UK to gain Associated Country status.32

30.Reassurances on funding are welcome but if they were to expire, and are not replaced, this would undermine some of the benefit of the major increase announced in the 2016 Autumn Statement. We assume the Government does not intend for this to happen, so we recommend that, in addition to the 2016 Autumn Statement announcement, the science and research budget should be re-based at an early opportunity to compensate fully for any reduction of funding from the EU, in effect adopting the Government’s 13 August reassurances into the funding baseline for the science and research budget in future.

Discrimination since the EU referendum?

31.Following the EU referendum there were widespread—but as yet unattributed—reports of UK researchers being dropped from existing EU research consortia or being omitted from new consortia.33 Jo Johnson MP sought to reassure the research community in his speech at the Wellcome Trust on 30 June: “It is business as usual for Horizon 2020. I would be concerned about any discrimination against UK participants and am in close touch with Commissioner Moedas on these issues.”34

32.The European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, also sought to reassure UK researchers, stating that for the time being there would be no change in their eligibility for Horizon 2020 funding. However, he also stated that it was too early to speculate on what the implications of the UK actually leaving the EU would be.35

33.On 13 July, Jo Johnson MP announced that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (now the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)) had set up a unit and a specific email address36 to receive evidence of any discrimination against the participation of UK institutions in Horizon 2020.37

34.On 26 July, Professor Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, was quoted saying that he had seen no evidence that European funding bodies were discriminating against British research projects as a result of the vote to leave.38 This was contrary to reports from others. For example, in oral evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee on 13 July, Professor Nelson said:

“I have heard multiple stories of some quite unpleasant things happening, with UK researchers being asked to leave consortia. They are all anecdotal at this stage, but they are multiple. Probably six different vice-chancellors have told me different stories about different consortia that are taking negative attitudes to the inclusion of UK researchers.”39

35.Jo Johnson MP told us on 25 October that the email system the Government had set up to gather evidence of any funding discrimination had so far received 132 emails:

“The bulk—about two-thirds—of submissions we had to the email system we set up related to those funding issues. We feel we have addressed roughly two-thirds of those. The remaining third of the 132 emails we had dealt broadly with the uncertainty people felt about their status in the country and whether they could continue to stay and what sort of welcome they would have if they were to choose to do so. … We have not had hard, concrete evidence of actual discrimination, as with previous witnesses before your Committee.”40

36.Mr Gareth Davies, Director General of Business and Science at BEIS, told us that the Government was using the Horizon 2020 national contact network to try to get qualitative data about what is happening, and that, “It would not be a surprise if applications dipped in the immediate days after the referendum but since then we have seen the rate of referrals go back to pre-referendum levels.”41 We also heard from Mr Ron Mobed, Chief Executive Officer of Elsevier about work being done by Elsevier to gather data on the impact of Brexit.42

37.Ms Sharon Witherspoon, Policy Chief at the Academy of Social Sciences, emphasised that the Government should monitor the impact of the EU referendum on funding applications:

“Up-to-date monitoring of applications going in, success rates, the proportion of cases where UK institutions are hosts and so on should be in place now. Our view is that it needs to be done in an official way through BEIS perhaps and collaboration with Universities UK, and I am sure organisations such as Elsevier, so that we are getting monthly or quarterly figures. … it is absolutely important that those figures are fed into the Brexit negotiations on a continuing basis with a strong voice.”43

38.We note that the Government continues to seek hard evidence of discrimination against UK researchers in EU funding or collaboration. While there appears so far to be a scarcity of hard evidence, there is a clear perception in the scientific community that discrimination is occurring, perhaps in ways that will never be documented explicitly. This reinforces the importance of early and repeated reassurances from the Government on funding arrangements.

39.We recommend that the Government should publish in anonymised, aggregate form any evidence received of discrimination against UK researchers in EU funding or collaboration, along with its own assessment of whether the concerns put forward have been addressed by subsequent reassurances or other policy interventions.


18 Science and Technology Committee, EU membership and UK science (2nd Report, Session 2015–16, HL Paper 127)

19 Oral evidence taken on 19 January 2016 (Session 2015–16), Q 63 (Prof Sir Leszek Borysiewicz)

20 House of Commons, Science and Technology Committee, Leaving the EU: implications and opportunities for science and research (Seventh Report, Session 2016–17, HC 502)

21 Royal Society, UK research and the European Union: The role of the EU in funding UK research (December 2015): https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/projects/eu-uk-funding/uk-membership-of-eu.pdf [accessed 30 November 2016]

22 Q 15 (Prof Philip Nelson)

23 ‘Safeguarding funding for research and innovation’, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (13 August 2016): https://www.gov.uk/government/news/safeguarding-funding-for-research-and-innovation [accessed 8 November 2016]

24 Letter from David Gauke to the Rt Hon David Davis MP, 12 August 2016: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/545767/CST_letter_to_SoS_for_DExEU_August_2016.PDF [accessed 9 November 2016]

25 Oral evidence taken before the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, 13 July 2016 (Session 2016–17), Q 119 (Jo Johnson MP)

26 Q 51 (Jo Johnson MP)

27 Written evidence from Association of Innovation Research and Technology Organisations (AIRTO) (EUF0008)

28 Prime Minister Theresa May, Speech at the CBI annual conference 2016, 21 November 2016: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/cbi-annual-conference-2016-prime-ministers-speech [accessed 7 December 2016]

29 HM Treasury, Autumn Statement 2016 (23 November 2016): https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/autumn-statement-2016-documents/autumn-statement-2016 [accessed 7 December 2016]

30 Written evidence from the British Council (EUF0012)

31 Written evidence from the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) (EUF0005)

32 Science and Technology Committee, EU membership and UK science (2nd Report, Session 2015–16, HL Paper 127), para 225

33 See for example: ‘UK scientists dropped from EU projects because of post-Brexit funding fears’, The Guardian (12 July 2016): https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jul/12/uk-scientists-dropped-from-eu-projects-because-of-post-brexit-funding-fears [accessed 9 November 2016]; ‘It’s not “business as usual” until Brexit. UK scientists are already feeling the effects’, The Guardian (12 July 2016): https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jul/12/its-not-business-as-usual-until-brexit-uk-scientists-are-already-feeling-the-effects [accessed 9 November 2016]

34 ‘European commissioner Carlos Moedas reassures UK researchers post-Brexit’, Times Higher Education (1 July 2016): https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/european-commissioner-carlos-moedas-reassures-uk-researchers-post-brexit [accessed 9 November 2016]

35 Ibid.

36 This email address is: research@bis.gsi.gov.uk

37 Oral evidence taken before the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, 13 July (Session 2016–17), Q 120 (Jo Johnson MP)

38 ‘No evidence of Brexit ‘penalties’ for science, says Royal Society president’, The Telegraph (26 July 2016): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/26/no-evidence-of-brexit-penalties-for-science-says-
royal-society-p/
[accessed 9 November 2016]

39 Oral evidence taken before the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, 13 July 2016 (Session 2016–17), Q 94 (Prof Philip Nelson)

40 Q 48 (Jo Johnson MP)

41 Q 48 (Mr Gareth Davies)

42 Q 19 (Mr Ron Mobed)

43 13 (Ms Sharon Witherspoon)




© Parliamentary copyright 2016