UK success in latest ERC round spotlights Brexit risks

Country wins biggest share of advanced grants, but could soon lose access to fund

March 28, 2019
Guillotine

The importance of UK participation in the European Research Council has been underlined after the country took the biggest share of awards in the latest funding round.

Researchers based in the UK secured 47 of the 222 advanced grants being handed out by the ERC, equivalent to more than one in five, the council said on 28 March. German-based researchers secured 32 of the grants, which are typically worth up to €2.5 million (£2.1 million), while academics in France won 31 and scholars in the Netherlands got 23.

Around one in three of the UK awards went to European nationals who have moved to the country.

However, the funding could be jeopardised in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Without an association agreement to the European Union’s next research funding programme, ERC grantees will no longer be able to work full-time in the UK.

The UK is considering creating a domestic alternative to the ERC, which would be open to researchers from around the world, but sector leaders have warned that this would struggle to rival the prestige of the ERC.

In total, the ERC allocated €540 million to 222 researchers in the latest round of advanced grant awards. There were 2,052 submitted proposals, giving a success rate of 10.8 per cent.

Only 20 per cent of grants were awarded to women, but this exceeded the proportion of applicants who were female (19 per cent).

Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, the president of the ERC, said that the successful awardees will “pursue their best ideas and are in an excellent position to trigger breakthroughs and major scientific advances”.

“Had the ERC budget been higher, more brilliant ideas could have been supported in Europe. I hope that the next EU framework programme for research, Horizon Europe, will make this possible. There is certainly more room at the top”, he said.

The ERC said that the awards would lead to the creation of an estimated 2,000 jobs for postdoctoral researchers, PhD students and other staff.

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (3)

Couldn't we do better with that money back under our control. Since when has money under someone else's control done better. Think beyond your own nose.
Yeah, right, and when has any UK government - let alone the present one - cared one iota about research? Let alone been prepared to fund it properly.
Since no-one other than the most optimistic, such as apparently yourself, believes that the sum which will be made available will match that currently being received, then it is quite obvious that we won't "do better". The simple point is that we gain far more funding overall than we contribute to these projects, and in disciplines such as mine we get back more than double our contribution.

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