science funding

Brexit could doom UK science funding, warns Royal Society chief

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European Union (EU) funding for UK science programs is critical to their success, according to the president of the Royal Society Funding who has urged ministers to ensure that researchers are not “short-changed” by Brexit.

Professor Sir Venki Ramakrishnan’s comments came as analysis revealed the reliance researchers had on EU funding streams, with £120m allocated to clinical medicine and £91m for biosciences, according to the latest figures.

Individual universities also benefited from substantial sums of funding from Brussels, with Oxford receiving more than £60m in 2014-15, according to the analysis commissioned by the UK’s four national academies.

The report analysed the latest figures available from the Higher Education Statistics Authority - from 2014/2015 - and found that all academic disciplines received some funding from EU government bodies.

Archaeology received 38 per cent of its funding from EU government bodies - the highest proportion - followed by classics (33 per cent) and IT (30 per cent).

In terms of the money allocated to research, clinical medicine and biosciences topped the list, but there was also £55m each for physics and chemistry and £46m for IT.

The report, by Technopolis Group for the UK’s four national academies - the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society - warned that because of the amounts of money involved, these fields may find it difficult to replace the income if EU funding streams are cut off by Brexit.

Oxford leads the list of universities receiving EU funding, with £60.3m, closely followed by Cambridge (£59.5m) and University College London (£45.7m).

For the Royal Society, Nobel prize winner Sir Venki warned about the impact any loss of EU funding could have on the sciences.

He said: “This report shows that EU funding sources are essential for UK science and innovation, which is among our greatest strengths and key to our future.

“After the UK leaves the EU, we must make sure that research is not short-changed and the overall funding level of science is maintained.”

Professor Sir Robert Lechler, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said EU collaboration was about more than just the funding on offer.

“This report demonstrates the role of EU funding in UK research and innovation. However, it is important to remember that our relationship with the EU is not only about the pounds,” he said.

“EU networks are absolutely vital for providing access to the people and the partnerships which allow the biomedical sciences in the UK to excel on the global stage.”

In December, figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy suggested that there will be a funding deficit of £2.2bn following Brexit which will need to be made up from the UK budget. 

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