Brexit’s Impact on R&D Funding

Healthcare & Life Sciences

September 15, 2016

Brexit has shaken up the European R&D landscape, creating uncertainty in a policy area that is considered a European success story.

While criticised by many researchers for its burdensome bureaucracy, EU research funding has established itself as one of the most important R&D support mechanisms worldwide. It supports EU policy priorities such as renewable energy and sustainable agriculture by financing R&D that furthers these aims. It supports EU competitiveness by providing financing for R&D into future technologies that would otherwise be too risky for companies to invest in. It provides a framework for businesses to cooperate and share knowledge with partners from the private and public sectors in other EU countries. In particular, small and medium sized companies (SMEs) get exposure to expertise and R&D (that they would otherwise be unable to fund themselves) where they can pool knowledge with other organisations. There are many examples of technologies that increased the competitiveness of EU companies through EU research funding. The engines of the Airbus 320 have become quieter and cleaner thanks to EU funds; EU scientists developed new screening methodologies in diabetes and Alzheimer's disease; and renewable technology such as solar, wind and storage technology has improved through EU research projects.

For many universities and research organisations, the EU is a crucial source of financing that helps interlinking national research projects and enables Europe to compete on a level footing with the US, Japan or China. It also raises the quality of research in smaller Member States as they are exposed to well-funded and established research systems and world-class scientists. Without EU research funding, it would be impossible for many member countries to finance large-scale projects or research infrastructure that are necessary to compete on the world stage. Some countries will always be more successful in attracting research grants. EU Member States with innovative companies and strong research institutions such as the UK, Germany, France or the Netherlands have always been among the biggest recipients. Of these countries, the UK has benefited the most. In this snapshot, we explore how Brexit will impact both the UK’s and Europe’s position and what this could mean for business, universities, scientists and students.


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