UK research and EU

18 December 2015

The Royal Society today (18 December 2015) publishes the first of three evidence-based briefing reports about the role that the European Union (EU) plays in UK research. Today’s report – UK research and the European Union: The role of the EU in funding UK research – focuses on bringing together the most up to date facts and figures about the finances, whilst also clearly outlining how EU research funding works in the UK.

The report is intended to play a part in informing the debate ahead of the UK’s in or out EU referendum, due before the end of 2017. The briefings that follow will explore the influence of the European Union on researcher mobility and international collaboration, and the influence of EU regulation and policy on research in the UK.

Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, said, “The outcome of the UK’s referendum on EU membership is an important issue for the UK. Of course science will only be one of many things people have on their minds when they cast their vote. However, we would like to encourage them to factor it in as a consideration in this debate. Scientific research affects our daily lives and the long term growth of our economy, and brings many benefits to society in health, energy, food and the environment, to name but a few key areas. We hope these reports will be a useful guide for anyone who wants to understand the role of the EU in the UK research landscape.”

Headline facts from UK research and the European Union: The role of the EU in funding UK research include:

  • The UK is one of the largest recipients of research funding in the EU. UK scientists have earned more back in EU research grants (€8.8bn, 2007 – 2013) than, analyses suggest, it has contributed to EU research expenditure (indicative figure of €5.4bn, 2007 – 2013, reported by the ONS).
  • The UK Government funds 30% of research and development undertaken in the UK, whilst the EU funds around 3%.
  • The UK is second only to Germany in terms of Framework Programme funding received (this is funding allocated competitively). If structural funds that are targeted at building research capacity in less economically developed regions of the EU are also taken into account, it is fourth.
  • The UK’s world-class research talent is highly successful in securing much sought after EU European Research Council and Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellowships that are awarded on the basis of excellence – receiving just over a fifth and a quarter of the total budget respectively for these programmes.
  • EU funding represents an increasing proportion of research income for UK universities. Over the last five years, universities have seen their total research income rise thanks to a combination of EU and private sector funding. This is despite experiencing a drop in UK government funding over the same period.

The report also provides case studies of Europe-wide research projects, such as the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN centre in Switzerland, detailing the EU’s involvement with each. It also details EU programmes designed to build collaborations and encourage EU Member States to share resources such as the Innovative Medicines Initiative, an EU programme aimed at speeding up the development of better and safer treatments.

UK research and the European Union: The role of the EU in funding UK research is available to download.