Research and innovation would bear the brunt of the UK leaving the EU, said Andrew Duff, a British Member of the European Parliament.
In an interview with Science|Business, Duff, a Liberal Democrat and member of the Union of European Federalists, spoke about the importance of EU funding for UK research institutions. By the end of the current 2007-2013 European Framework Programme 7, the UK will have received around €7.5bn (£6.5bn) in research funding. For example, in the case of Cambridge University, the EU funding accounts for 20 per cent of the overall funding.
“There’s an awful lot riding on us staying in the EU,” said Duff, who comes from the constituency that includes Cambridge University.
However, not only would the UK research and innovation feel the pinch, the rest of Europe would be directly affected as well. Especially as the UK’s expertise in technology transfer and commercialisation serves as a role model for other, mostly the new, EU member states.
Nevertheless, the benefits of the UK's EU membership are not solely monetary, Duff said. Far greater are the advantages of knowledge exchange. “We need to be more permissive, to encourage scholastic exchange and immigration. To close the borders, as some of my Tory colleagues seem to wish to do, would be a great mistake – and I hope we’re not going to permit them to do that,” he said.
Despite being strongly pro-European, Duff is well aware of the drawbacks of EU structures, citing the frequent “waste of money, duplication, and the poor quality of a lot of scientific research” within Europe as a result of insufficient integration.