Philip Hammond is to “guarantee” that research projects currently funded by the EU will be “underwritten” by the UK government after Brexit.
Funding commitments on research made by the chancellor today are part of a package of post-Brexit guarantees on projects currently funded by the EU, including agricultural subsidies and structural and investment funds.
UK universities currently benefit from around £1 billion a year in EU research funding.
A Treasury announcement said that "where UK organisations bid directly to the European Commission on a competitive basis for EU funding projects while we are still a member of the EU, for example universities participating in Horizon 2020 [the EU's research programme], the Treasury will underwrite the payments of such awards, even when specific projects continue beyond the UK’s departure from the EU".
The Treasury statement added: "As a result, British businesses and universities will have certainty over future funding and should continue to bid for competitive EU funds while the UK remains a member of the EU."
Greg Clark, business and energy secretary, said: "The government’s commitment to our world-leading science and research base remains steadfast. By underwriting the significant Horizon 2020 grants we are showing the extent of our commitment, standing squarely behind our researchers and scientists as they continue working with their European partners to develop new technologies, discover life-saving medicines and pioneer every day innovations that will benefit all hard-working Britons."
No further details were available.
The guarantee on research funding comes after UK researchers began to report being cut out of collaborative Horizon 2020 bids by prospective European partners, who deemed UK partners a risk following the Brexit vote.
UK universities and researchers will hope that the Treasury’s guarantee will mean they are no longer viewed as a risk by European partners.
But senior figures in the higher education sector question whether any Treasury commitment to guarantee funding post-Brexit would be additional to existing domestic UK research funding, or would come out of that budget.
Mr Hammond said: “We recognise that many organisations across the UK which are in receipt of EU funding, or expect to start receiving funding, want reassurance about the flow of funding they will receive.”
Alistair Jarvis, deputy chief executive of Universities UK said: "This is encouraging news that provides much needed stability for British universities during the transition period as the UK exits the EU and provides an important signal to European researchers that they can continue to collaborate with their UK colleagues as they have before.
"Horizon 2020 research funding supports British researchers to collaborate with international partners to deliver cutting-edge research that benefits the economy, society and British people.
"We hope that the government will now move quickly to address the uncertainty amongst EU students considering applying to British universities by confirming that those beginning courses before we exit the EU will be subject to current fees levels and financial support arrangements for the duration of their course."