UK ‘lost £1.5 billion’ Horizon 2020 funding after Brexit vote

Scientists for EU says country now needs a plan to regain lost ground as Horizon Europe kicks off

June 24, 2021
Brexit, EU referendum
Source: iStock

The UK may have lost out on almost £1.5 billion in funding from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme in the years after the country’s vote for Brexit, a new analysis has estimated.

According to the analysis of funding data from the scheme, by the campaign group Scientists for EU, grants to the UK steadily diminished until the end of the programme in December 2020.

The data indicate that before the country’s vote to leave the European Union, almost exactly five years ago, it had been on a par with Germany in terms of the number of projects it participated in and the funding won, both for Horizon 2020 and the previous Europe-wide research programme.

But after 2016, it gradually won less than Germany, starting at about €200 (£170 million) less in 2017 and growing to about €800 million less in 2020.

Overall, the analysis estimates that if the UK kept pace with Germany it could have won about €1.7 billion more in grants, although it adds that the gap is inflated to an extent by the fact that much of the lost funding would have flowed to Germany instead.

“Without Brexit, it is estimated that the UK would have won 2,742 more project participations, or about 30 per cent than it actually did from 2017-2020,” Scientists for EU said in a press statement.

By 2020, the UK had dropped to fifth place in terms of grant funding won for the year – also behind France, Spain and Italy – and only just ahead of the Netherlands, according to the data.



The group claims that the reasons for the tailing off in grants to the UK were the constant threat of a possible “no deal” with the EU and uncertainty over the UK’s future place in European funding programmes.

“This made the UK a higher risk partner on consortia – and higher risk for UK institutions to put in applications, not knowing the long-term future,” the group says.

After reaching a trade agreement with the EU in December, the UK is now due to take part in Horizon Europe but teething problems have marred the past few months, including confusion over how the country would fund its participation and whether it can take part in all aspects of the scheme.

Mike Galsworthy, director of Scientists for EU, said: “Looking ahead, UK science will want to quickly regain its leading role on the European science programme.

“Brexit uncertainty over five years has knocked the UK’s position down several rungs and blown a huge hole in our funds and networks. We do need a plan to build back better in Europe after Brexit and this is not something the government can ignore.”

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “We are pleased that we agreed to associate to Horizon Europe and are encouraging UK researchers and companies to take advantage of this opportunity. 

“We recently announced an additional £250 million to support our world-class researchers, taking total government investment in R&D to £14.9 billion in 2021-22, meaning UK scientists will have access to more public funding than ever before.”

simon.baker@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (2)

Jag tycker om att hjälpa av till människor
No one could have foreseen this, right?

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