Brexit likely to impact EU research funding for Oxford

With EU contributions to Oxford’s research income at 12% last year, Oxford University may have to fight to maintain their close relationship with the European research community.

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Cherwell has found that contributions from public and private donors within the EU, which represented 12% of Oxford’s aggregate income from research grants last year and are maintained through close institutional co-operation, may be impacted by Brexit post-2020, depending on the outcome of negotiations. Research donations and contracts are Oxford’s single largest source of income, representing 42% of the university’s consolidated income in 2014-15.

The exact figure of EU research funding to Oxford has been disputed; Times Higher Education claim a fifth of Oxford’s research funding comes from the EU, whilst Digital Science claims the figure is up to a quarter. However, according to Oxford University financial statements, in the 2015 academic year, out of the £522.9 million the university received in research grants £60.4 million came from the European Commission and other EU government bodies, and £8.5 million came from other EU grantors, meaning 13.1% of funding came from EU sources.

The News and Information office for Oxford University’s Research Services’ European Team told Cherwell, “Oxford received more than £66 million in EU research funding last year – some 12 per cent of overall research income. While we have a strong stream of competitively-won awards from many other sources, including industry, charities and the UK Government, we cannot overlook or underestimate the importance of access to ERC grants. That’s why the University will argue strongly in the coming months to keep this access, including the right for Oxford academics to lead on collaborative projects with European partners.”

Institutionally, Oxford University and the EU share a close relationship. Horizon 2020 work programmes in Oxford include Excellent Science, which provides funding opportunities for scientific research through the European Research Counciland the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions; Industrial Leadership, which promotes industrial innovation including industrial work programmes Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies and Access to Risk Finance, helping research companies gain easier access to loans; and Societal Challenges, which funds collaborative research in the social sciences to address problems such as demographic change, security and climate action.

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Besides these three main pillars of EU funded research, other EU-funded programmes include the Joint Research Commission, the European Commission’s in-house science research service, and nuclear energy research and innovation projects in Oxford funded by Euratom.

In the immediate future, it appears little will change. Horizon 2020, at least, will continue for another 3 years, after which the University may have to look for other funding sources, depending on the Brexit deal reached. In a statement on Gov.uk the government assured, “the referendum result has no immediate effect on those applying to or participating in Horizon 2020. UK researchers and businesses can continue to apply to the programme in the usual way. The future of UK access to European research and innovation funding will be a matter for future discussions. Government is determined to ensure that the UK continues to play a leading role in European and international research and innovation.”

The Research Services’ European Team is currently preparing FAQs that will appear on the University of Oxford webpages as well as the Europe Gateway

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