Avoiding a Brexit cliff edge on vital research collaboration

05 September 2017

Leaders from some of the country’s top universities have said that maintaining the UK’s place in a flagship EU research and innovation programme will help avoid a “Brexit cliff edge” for scientific research.

The delegation of Russell Group university leaders will travel to Brussels to meet with MEPs, representatives from the League of European Research Universities (LERU) and The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities and EU officials.

The European research funding programme Horizon 2020, which will run for nearly two years after the end of the Article 50 process, will form a significant part of the discussions. Russell Group universities have secured €1.5bn in funding since the start of the EU programme and have developed over 9,300 high-value collaborative research links.

Professor Michael Arthur, President and Provost of University College London, who heads up the delegation, said:

“Collaborations between universities here in the UK and our partners in Europe have led to major advances in knowledge. Horizon 2020 has been fundamental to ensuring the finest minds from across the continent can work together.

“The guarantee the Government has provided to underwrite funding for successful UK bids for Horizon 2020 grants, submitted before we leave the European Union, is welcome. However, the programme will run for nearly two years after our expected departure date. It is vitally important that we maintain the benefits of Horizon 2020, which makes large-scale multi-lateral research possible, until the end of the programme. This would undoubtedly be the best outcome for both the UK and the EU.

“Debates over the UK’s participation in future framework programmes will continue but maintaining our place in Horizon 2020 will help ensure there is no Brexit cliff edge for research. Countries from outside of the EU can associate to Horizon 2020. Whether we are talking about replicating the type of deal offered to these countries or agreeing a bespoke arrangement, this is something that needs to be considered and resolved.

“Above all, we would like to ensure the good relationship between the UK and our European partners on science can be maintained. We hope the UK Government and the EU can reach an agreement that will allow our universities and other research institutions to engage constructively on future projects and programmes.”

Kurt Deketelaere, Secretary-General of the League of European Research Universities (LERU), said:

“It is absolutely vital, not only for UK universities but for those on the Continent as well, that the UK stays on board with Horizon 2020 until the very end and even more importantly, is able to participate in its successor, FP9. A true European Research Area needs the UK fully involved to help our societies meet the challenges of the future.”

Jan Palmowski, Secretary-General of the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, said: “The UK has been a leading contributor to successive European framework programmes, and UK-based researchers have made significant contributions to these programmes' success in generating new knowledge and innovation across borders. Continued UK participation in EU framework programmes will be crucial for ensuring that the best ideas and discoveries can circulate freely, to the benefit of the UK and the EU.”

 

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