Brussels, 04 Aug 2005
Around 900,000 GBP (1.3 million euro) in UK research grants has been transferred to German institutions in the past four years, thanks to a scheme to promote mobility among researchers in the two countries.
In 2001, the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) concluded an agreement with the German Research Foundation (DFG) to allow academics moving between the two countries to continue their current research rather than terminating it before completion.
In June, the EPSRC revealed that to date some 1.3 million euro of UK funding has been moved to Germany following the transfer of five academic researchers. The council wasn't able to give figures for the amount of funding transferred in the other direction, but it insisted that the 'trade' in grants is a two-way process.
Some in the UK, however, feel that the country risks losing millions of euro in transferred grants, and warned that movement from British to German universities is far more likely than movement in the other direction. One Oxford scholar was incensed by the departure of one of his key researchers to a German university 'taking 650,000 GBP of UK taxpayers' money with him as a generous dowry,' he said.
But Stuart Ward, EPSRC's director of resources, rejected such fears and pointed out that the transfer of grants can only take place with the approval of both the UK and German universities involved. 'The agreement was set up in order to allow academics moving from Germany to the UK and vice versa to continue their research,' he said.
'The link is designed to ensure continuity when academics in either of the countries move to the other. It is very much in the spirit of the European Research Area concept launched by Philippe Busquin during his time as EU Research Commissioner,' Mr Ward added.
The complaint from Oxford University was the first in the four years that the scheme has been running, stressed Mr Ward. 'The introduction of full economic costs from April 2006 might possibly make UK academics more attractive for recruitment by institutions overseas, but it will also make sure that the UK has a well-funded, sustainable research environment that will make it a very attractive place to do leading edge research,' he concluded.