The European Commission is expecting UK researchers and businesses to win up to £2 billion in grants over the next two years under its Horizon 2020 funding programme.
Màire Geoghegan-Quinn, European commissioner for research, innovation and science, made the claim at the official launch of the €80 billion (£65.62 billion) research and innovation programme at the Royal Society in London today.
She said that the figure was based on the success rates for UK bids under the previous scheme, the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), which ran from 2007 to 2013.
Commission data suggest that the UK’s application success rate to FP7 was just under 25 per cent between 2007 and 2011. The overall application success rate to FP7 for countries in the EU group was just over 20 per cent during the same period.
In total, UK bodies have so far secured over £4.9 billion – or more than 16 per cent - of the £29 billion already spent under FP7, according to Ms Geoghegan-Quinn.
UK institutions have also hosted “an astonishing” 962 of the 4,500 European Research Council (ERC) grants available since 2007, she added.
“If I say the ERC is the Champions League of EU research, then UK is the top of the table,” she added.
“This is a vital injection of cash given that domestic funding for science is static,” she said, although she warned that competition will be greater under Horizon 2020.
Robert-Jan Smits, director general for research and innovation at the Commission, said that he feared a “tsunami” of proposals. “When we launched the calls we had 70,000 page downloads per hour constantly day and night,” he said.
He added that a two-step process for evaluating bids will be introduced to help deal with demand. In the first round researchers will be asked for an outline of their proposal and around 10 per cent of these will go through to the second round of evaluation, which will see higher success rates.
Ms Geoghegan-Quinn said that academics would spend less time and effort applying to the programme than under FP7.
“We have simplified it radically. Red tape has been slashed throughout the programme and there is less paperwork,” she said.
Horizon 2020 will use fewer audits than FP7, as the Commission has “switched the balance between trust and control towards trust”, she explained.
“We have responded in Horizon 2020 to the criticisms that were levelled at FP7”, she said.
Ms Geoghegan-Quinn added that the system is now electronic and grants will arrive faster. For the first time the participant portal has a menu so that academics can search for the particular type of technology, and get a list of where that can fit within the proposals.
“I would say to academics get cracking, get in there…see where you fit into the calls,” she said.
To coincide with the launch of Horizon 2020, Research Councils UK has released a report – Engaging in Europe - that showcases how the UK has contributed to research in the region.