Will Brexit Put an End to the UK's Access to €79bn of EU Grant Funding?

Public funding, in its simplest terms, is funding that comes from the public treasury, that is, from taxpayers' money. Public funding in the form of grants or tax relief is known to be an important source of funding for any business or organization. Over the years, public funding has made a huge contribution to growing a country's economy, which is one of the goals that the EU has always worked hard to achieve. Currently UK businesses and organizations have access to three important sources of public funds namely, R&D Tax Credits, Innovate UK grants, and Horizon 2020. -Grants from the EU

Horizon 2020, the EU's largest Research and Innovation programme ever, with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) - in addition to the private investment that this money will attract- promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market and helping Europeans to explore their creativity and ingenuity.

Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness.

Seen as a means to drive economic growth and create jobs, Horizon 2020 has the political backing of Europe's leaders and the Members of the European Parliament. They have agreed that research is an investment in the future and so put it at the heart of the EU's blueprint for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and jobs.

However, since the Brexit referendum vote, there has been much speculation about the consequences of the UK leaving the EU. Knowing that the EU's Horizon 2020 programme contributes immensely to job creation, private investment and the British economy as a whole , we must face the question "Will Brexit put an end to the UK's access to Horizon 2020 funding?".

The UK is one of the largest recipients of research funding in the EU. Many UK businesses, universities, and other research organisations are involved in R&D projects that receive funding from Horizon 2020. Many more have applied for future funding or are planning to do so. For a country with 0.9% of the world's population, the UK has 3.3% of the world's scientific researchers who in turn produce 6.9% of global scientific output. In the current EU Horizon 2020 research round, the UK secured 15.4% of funds second only to Germany. British researchers are increasingly taking part in international collaborations. Since 1981, the proportion of UK research papers with international collaborators has risen from 15% to more than 50% today.

Technically speaking, the UK is still part of the EU even though the recent referendum vote was to leave. In order to start the process to leave the EU, which is expected to take several years, the British government will have to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on European Union but it has not yet done so. According to Article 50, member states may announce their intention to leave, but the terms of leaving are subject to negotiation.

Therefore, the UK is still a member of the European Union and will enjoy the full benefits of membership, including continued access to Horizon 2020 funding, until it leaves the European Union. Even though the UK is still a member, the uncertainty over future funding for projects has begun to harm research, making researchers reluctant to carry on with bids for EU funds because of the uncertainties around Brexit. This has led to difficulties with research and development projects within the UK.

In the longer term, UK participation in Horizon 2020 R&D funding will be a topic for negotiation. Several countries outside the EU, including Norway, Turkey, and Israel, are eligible to take part in all Horizon 2020 projects. Other countries, such as Switzerland, have more limited access to funding for some projects. The UK may join the list of non-EU countries with full or limited access to Horizon 2020, or may even find itself excluded completely. It is too early to say.

However, if the UK is excluded from Horizon 2020 funding after it leaves the EU, there are other sources of grant funding that British researchers may fall back on, such as Innovate UK.