Brexit and Research Funding Brexit and Research Funding

Will the UK continue to have access to EU funding for research and innovation once it leaves the EU?

If an agreement is reached between the UK and the EU (and ratified by the UK Parliament), we would expect the UK would remain in the Horizon 2020 research programme and other EU funding programmes that are part of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) until the end of 2020. This would allow UK participants to continue to apply for and receive Horizon 2020 funding for the full duration of the programme. UK recipients would have to continue to comply with EU financial reporting and auditing requirements.

In the event of a 'no-deal' Brexit, the UK government has guaranteed to underwrite all EU grants awarded at the point we leave, for their full duration. In addition, the UK government subsequently announced that this guarantee would be extended to cover all successful Horizon 2020 projects won after we leave, right up until the end of 2020, where the UK is eligible to participate as a Third Country (this would include collaborative societal challenge Calls and, Marie Sklodowska-Curie ITNs).

What does the UK Government 'guarantee' cover?

On 13 August 2016, the UK Treasury confirmed it would underwrite the future funding of Horizon 2020 awards won up to the point the UK leaves the EU, even where specific projects continue beyond that point - whether Horizon 2020, Erasmus+, ERDF, Interreg, Life Programme, Research Fund for Coal and Steel, and Creative Europe.

On 18 July 2017, the then Universities Minister Jo Johnson confirmed that the Government's underwriting commitment would guarantee R&I awards where the proposal is submitted before exit and is subsequently approved after exit. Crucially, this would extend to proposals submitted through a two-stage application process - provided that the proposal for the first stage of the application is submitted before the UK leaves the EU. In addition, the guarantee would also protect proposals which had been informed of their success at the point of exit from the EU, but where a Grant Agreement has yet to be finalised. 

However, in July 2018, the UK Government announced that funding secured from the EU by businesses, universities and local organisations after Brexit day but before the end of 2020 “will be guaranteed by the UK government even in a no-deal scenario”. This funding would cover the full duration of grants.  However, this only applies to successful bids where UK organisations are able to participate as a Third Country in ‘competitive grant programmes’. (In addition, this extended underwrite does not, at this stage, apply to new Erasmus+ funding. The UK would not have access to the Erasmus+ programme post-Brexit, unless a separate, new agreement is negotiated to allow the UK back into the programme.)

In August 2019, the UK government confirmed the underwrite would cover 'in-flight' European Research Council grants: Starting, Consolidator and Advanced as well as Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions. As there is some uncertainty around how the EC will treat UK submitted projects, applicants should be prepared to see a separate UKRI evaluation, and if successful, funding that aligns as closely as possible with the Horizon 2020 grants originally applied for.

Is the UK planning to participate in Horizon Europe from 2021?

The participation rules for Horizon Europe (2021-2027) are still being decided.

In addition, what part the UK plays in the 2021-2027 programme can only be agreed following Brexit, as part of determining the future relationship we have with the EU.

The UK Government has stated that it is committed to seeking a close relationship with Europe’s R&I sector going forward. Lobby groups such as Universities UK and the CBI are encouraging the UK Government to seek full association with ‘Horizon Europe’ and ‘Erasmus’ (the successor programme to Erasmus+).
 

If there is a deal:

What does this mean for EU funding?

In the event that an agreement between the UK and the EU is reached (and ratified by the UK Parliament), the provisions around research that were set out in Article 138 of the Withdrawal Agreement would allow for UK institutions to have continued participation European Union programmes financed by the MFF until 2020.  As such, the UK would continue to contribute to the EU’s budget until the end of 2020, and continue to be treated – for the purposes of Horizon 2020 - as if it were an EU Member State in terms of its eligibility to participate.

In this scenario, we would expect continued UK eligibility for funding to extend to schemes such as Erasmus+, Interreg, the LIFE Programme, Research Fund for Coal & Steel, and Creative Europe.


What would this mean for clinical trials?

If there were a ‘deal’, more clarification would be needed on what this would mean for clinical trials. The Wellcome Trust’s Beth Thompson wrote on the 15 February 2019: “At the moment the UK and EU share common regulations that make trials easier across these borders. Together, they have the critical mass of expertise and patients needed to conduct robust trials – with a total population larger than the USA. The importance of this is shown by the current extent of UK and EU collaboration: 40% of UK-based trials also have a site in the EU.  Assessing these options, the best route is for the UK to have full participation in the EU clinical trials system on a similar basis to EU Member States. This would benefit the UK and EU, but it isn’t an easy goal to achieve. To make it happen, both sides will need to be pragmatic in negotiations.  If this option isn’t possible, the UK should continue in close alignment in the short-term and then consult widely on the long-term options.”


So does securing a ‘deal’ mean nothing changes at all?

Not necessarily.  For the R&I sector, we would need to understand the wider post-Brexit implications on a range of issues, including for example:

  • Application of new UK immigration rules;
  • GDPR and data sharing;
  • Ethics requirements;
  • Intellectual Property treatment.
     

If we leave without a ‘deal’ - a 'hard Brexit'

What does this mean for EU funding?

In the case of no deal, the UK would find itself out of many EU funded programmes, including a large chunk of Horizon 2020, and all of Erasmus+.

We would only be able to apply for Horizon 2020 funding where UK organisations are eligible to participate as a ‘Third Country’ (a non-EU Member state). For example, most EU grants require a minimum quorum of different countries (either EU Member States or ‘Associated Countries’) to exist.  Usually this is three.  Beyond this quorum, institutions from Third Countries can join consortia, but they have to self-fund.

Therefore, as a Third Country under a ‘no deal’ scenario, the UK could still participate in larger collaborative Horizon 2020 projects, such as societal challenges, but UK institutions would have to separately finance their participation in these projects (which the UK Government guarantee would do).

However, in a ‘no deal’ scenario, the UK would not be eligible to host some mono-beneficiary Horizon 2020 grants, such as European Research Council (ERC) grants (Starting, Consolidator, Advanced, Proof of Concept), nor would we be eligible to host MSCA Euorpean Fellowships.

ERC Synergy Grants would remain open to UK participation, as the rules currently allow for one of the Principal Investigators to be from a Third Country. UK participants would also be able to participate as team members on all ERC grants.

The UK will not be eligible to host MSCA European Fellowships or participate in European Training Networks as a beneficiary.

In August 2019, the UK government confirmed the underwrite would cover 'in-flight' European Research Council grants: Starting, Consolidator and Advanced as well as Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions. As there is some uncertainty around how the EC will treat UK submitted projects applicants should be prepared to see a separate UKRI evaluation, and if successful, funding that aligns as closely as possible with the Horizon 2020 grants originally applied for. However, applicants should be aware that the ERC/MSCA 'branding' may be lost.
 

As a 'Third Country', what can we still participate in under Horizon 2020?

Third Countries can participate in Horizon 2020 projects, providing the minimum eligibility conditions are met (e.g. typically at least three separate legal entities are present from three different EU Member States or Associated Countries). However, UK institutions would have to self-fund their participation in these projects.
Institutions from Third Countries can coordinate collaborative Horizon 2020 projects where Third Country participation is allowed (such as the societal challenges), but they would have to self-fund their own participation. They would be required to sign the Grant Agreement, but they would also be subject to a mandatory financial check to ensure they had the capacity to manage the overall EU funds for the rest of the consortium. That aside, the Third Country coordinator would then carry out all coordination tasks in exactly the same way as a coordinator from a Member State or Associated Country.

Currently, unless and until advised otherwise, Interreg Programmes such as ‘France (Channel) England’ and ‘Two Seas’ are still encouraging UK applications and future Calls are scheduled (both Programmes require UK participants for any consortia to be valid). Third Country participation is also permitted under the LIFE Programme, Research Fund for Coal and Steel and Creative Europe programmes.


What would ‘no deal’ mean for clinical trials?

We don’t know yet.  The Wellcome Trust’s Beth Thompson wrote on the 15 February 2019: “In the event the UK leaves the EU without a deal, there will be uncertainty over the legal arrangements for clinical trials. This is likely to disrupt current and future trials, potentially discouraging new investment by international pharmaceutical companies.”

What would ‘no deal’ mean for Interreg and other European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) Projects?

The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government issued the following guidance on 13 September 2019: “In the event that we can’t reach an agreement with the EU to allow the UK to continue to contribute to ETC programmes as if it were a member state[…] In these circumstances we will work with affected UK organisations to find an appropriate solution. This could include collaboration with existing EU partners, or else with new UK partners, or potentially as standalone activity. Further information on help that is available can be obtained from the relevant UK authority, whose details are set out below.”

I am a UEA researcher contracted - under a consultancy arrangement - to a project that is EU funded.  Is my contract covered by the UK Government guarantee?

We suspect not.  However, as this is a contractual matter, we would expect the project to honour the work.  Be sure to check the contract T&Cs and liaise with the coordinator.

 

I am a UEA researcher participating in an e-Tender, is my participation covered by UK Government guarantee?

We suspect this will be judged on a case-by-case basis. However, as this is a contractual matter, be sure to check the contract T&Cs and liaise with the coordinator. 


For any wider questions or queries relating to Brexit, UEA researchers are encouraged to contact the EU Team in RIN on rin.euteam@uea.ac.uk or 01603 593399.

 

Additional support from our UK National Contact Points can be found from the organisations listed below: