Data bites: South East England dominates Horizon 2020 funding

Figures demonstrate the power of the ‘golden triangle’ in bidding for EU cash

April 6, 2017
Source: iStock

London and South East England have together taken more than 40 per cent of the UK’s funding so far from the European Commission’s programme for research, Horizon 2020, latest figures indicate.

Statistics published by the UK government show that the regions – and their universities – have dominated the money flowing to the country from the scheme, which started in 2014 and runs until 2020.

According to the data, the UK has received €3.3 billion (£2.8 billion) in total, which amounts to a 16.6 per cent share of all the Horizon 2020 funding distributed among members of the European Union, and there have been almost 6,500 individual UK participations.

UK universities and other education institutions have received €2.1 billion from the programme, while other UK research organisations have taken €300 million, together claiming 73 per cent of the money going to the UK.

The “excellent science” pillar of Horizon 2020 – which includes competitive grant schemes such as those of the European Research Council – is where the UK scores the most success. The country claims 20 per cent of all EC funding for the pillar, and also does well from the “societal challenges” pillar (14 per cent share).

However, it is the breakdown of the funding by UK region that reveals one of the most interesting patterns in where Horizon 2020 money goes. According to the figures, London secures €829 million, which is a quarter of the UK’s total funding from the programme, while South East England gets €523 million, which represents 16 per cent. If the East of England is also included (€402 million), then the three regions receive more than the rest of the UK combined.



The main reason for this domination is the success of major research-intensive universities located in the golden triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge in bidding for funding from Horizon 2020.

A separate table published with the data shows the UK universities that have received the most money from the scheme and their rank – in terms of the share of funding – relative to all higher education institutions, in the UK and elsewhere.

Institution Funding (€ millions) Ranking (share of funding to all HEIs)
University of Oxford 186.1  1st 
University of Cambridge 179.9  2nd 
University College London 172.4  3rd 
Imperial College London 127.7  4th 
University of Edinburgh 104.4  8th 
University of Manchester 75.2  10th 
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine 70.6  13th 
University of Southampton 63.3  20th 
University of Bristol 61.2  24th 
University of Birmingham 52.9  33th 

The University of Oxford tops this list, receiving €186.1 million, just ahead of the University of Cambridge (€180 million). University College London and Imperial College London complete the top four of all European higher education institutions receiving funding. The four universities collectively claim about a fifth of Horizon 2020 funding that goes to the UK.

Future participation by the UK in EU research funding schemes such as Horizon 2020 is in doubt in the wake of Brexit, although the government has pledged to underwrite the cost of any projects that have already won funding from Horizon 2020. 

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