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How does EU research funding compare with UK domestic research funding?

EU research funding through Framework Programme 7 represented 3% of UK expenditure on research and development between 2007 and 2013. EU research and innovation funding through structural funds is not captured in this as only some of these activities fall under the ONS definition of research and development used to calculate the domestic data below. The real figure is therefore likely to be higher than  3%.

Figure 10
UK expenditure on research and development by source of funding. 2007 – 2013.

Figure 10

Which UK sectors receive EU research funding?

Considering just Framework Programme funding (as breakdown by sector is not available for structural funds), UK universities were among the most successful in securing EU research funding, receiving 71% of total Framework Programme (FP7) funding awarded to the UK.

A total of 13 UK universities are ranked in the top 25 European universities, rated in terms of the number of participations in Framework Programme 7. Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College and UCL occupied the top four spots. However no UK organisation was ranked in the top 25 research organisations participating in FP7, and only 4 were ranked in the top 50.

This reflects that research architecture varies across participating countries, with research strength in some countries concentrated in research organisations (such as the Max Planck Institutes in Germany) rather than universities.

UK businesses attracted 18% of the total funds awarded to the UK through FP7. This is below the EU average of 26.7% and much lower than countries such as Germany and France where businesses secured 33% and 27% respectively of the FP7 funding received by the country.

This distribution contrasts with where research and development is conducted in the UK. 64% is conducted by businesses and 26% in universities. This reflects a low rate of private sector participation in EU research funding in the UK. In the rankings of private-for-profit organisations, only 2 UK companies (NEC Europe Ltd and Rolls Royce) were ranked in the top 50 European companies in terms of FP7 participations.

Figure 11
Breakdown of sectors receiving Framework Programme 7 funding in the UK. 2007 – 2013.

Figure 11

Data are not available about the breakdown by sector of structural funds received by the UK.

What impact does EU research funding have on UK universities?

Over the period 2007 – 2013, universities received €4.9bn out of a total of €6.9bn awarded to the UK through FP7 Framework Programme.

Considering the years since the UK spending review in 2010, the overall research income of universities has increased by 2.7% in real terms (between 2009/10 and 2013/14).

In 2009/10 UK universities received £409 million of research income from EU government bodies. By 2013/14, this had risen to £687 million. This is equivalent to the combined total research income of Kings College London and Imperial College (£679 million), two leading research-intensive universities. 

It is important to note that EU funding does not always cover the full cost of research overheads, meaning that recipients need to meet such costs from other sources of research income, such as Quality-related Research (QR) funding or endowments.

Figure 12
Research income of UK Universities in 2009/10 and 2013/4

Figure 12

In 2013/14, EU funding represented 9.7% of total research income for Higher Education Institutions in the UK. This was a real terms increase of 68.2% from 2009/10. 

Over the same period, income from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) as a proportion of total research income for UK Higher Education Institutions has declined by 4.5 percentage points, from 56% to 51.5%. This is a real terms decline of 6.2%.