EU referendum: Research could be hit by £1bn EU funding loss

Prime Minister David Cameron addresses members of a World Economic Forum event focusing on the EU referendum. Picture: Getty Images
Prime Minister David Cameron addresses members of a World Economic Forum event focusing on the EU referendum. Picture: Getty Images
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UK universities and research institutions could be at risk of losing £1 billion of funding every year if the public votes to leave the European Union next month, according to new research released today.

According to the study, the UK has been the second-highest recipient of EU research money over the last decade, securing more than £8bn between 2006 and 2015. Only Germany attracted more.

However, the UK is significantly more dependent on EU funding than Germany or other competing countries because a much smaller percentage of its GDP is invested in research.

A quarter of all public funding for research in the UK comes from the EU, with £967 million of new grants awarded in 2015 alone.

The report, carried out for research sector technology firm Digital Science, shows some of the country’s leading universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, are disproportionately dependent on European cash.

The BBC and major companies including Rolls-Royce and BT could also lose out after a Brexit if the government did not make up any losses.

Analysis shows Scottish institutions, which win more than 10 per cent of EU funding for the UK, would be hard hit.

“Through its success, Scotland has become dependent on EU funding, said Daniel Hook, managing director at Digital Science.

The University of Edinburgh received £330m of EU funding between 2006 and 2015, representing nearly a quarter of its competitive public funding. The University of Aberdeen received £56m and the University of Stirling £11.4m.

Smaller Scottish institutions could face even bigger shortfalls, with Glasgow Caledonian University and Edinburgh Napier receiving 54.8 per cent and 64.5 per cent of their public money from EU sources.

“EU funds have been used to prop up and cover systemic issues with how we chose to fund research in the UK,” Mr Hook added: .

Brexit, and the loss of EU funding for the UK’s research base, represents a number of severe threats to leading British success stories in the research sector.”