Evidence to the Lords Science and Technology Committee inquiry on the EU

20 November 2015

Science is a global pursuit and is most effective when ideas and people are mobile across borders. The free movement of talent, the networks, collaborations, critical mass of research activity and the irreplaceable source of funding that we gain from EU membership are important to underpin the competitiveness of our leading universities and the UK economy as a whole.

The UK should remain at the heart of a modernised, competitive and outward-looking European Union to drive world-leading research and innovation and bring significant returns for the UK economy.

However, we support calls for reforms to the EU particularly those which enhance our universities’ ability to benefit further from forging productive collaborations across Europe. For example: further simplification of some processes in Horizon 2020, changes to VAT rules that currently hamper scientific collaboration and ensuring a sensible Data Protection regime that does not compromise important research.

The UK’s membership of the EU brings a number of advantages for science, research and universities in particular:

  • Membership of the EU allows us to be part of a wider network with a critical mass of excellent researchers working together, making us even more competitive with the likes of the US and others.
  • The ability of universities to recruit staff and to attract students from other EU countries without having to negotiate the UK visa system, with the attendant expense and administrative burden for both parties, is very valuable.
  • The UK leads Europe in the quality of our research and drives excellence across Europe. Our researchers have won many more awards from the European Research Council (ERC) than our nearest competitor – the UK wins 22% of ERC grants (with the Russell Group winning 17% of the total on its own), compared to Germany’s 14%.

Exit from the EU would mean that the UK would lose its seat at the table in Europe, thus minimising the influence we are able to exert. What is more, we may continue to be bound to many EU rules, particularly around trade and those which impact the Single Market, without having a say on their formation.

Evidence to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee inquiry into the Relationship between EU Membership and the Effectiveness of UK Science



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