Post-referendum position on EU research funding

By Mar.02, 2017

In light of a number of queries received from academic colleagues in recent weeks, it is clear that there is still some uncertainty about the position of UK researchers in relation to applying for EU research funding in light of the referendum result and the UK’s impending departure from the EU. The Research Development Team therefore thought it would be useful to summarise the current position and to point colleagues towards additional sources of information about post-referendum related issues.

The over-arching message is that, at least until the UK officially leaves the EU (currently expected to be in March 2019), there is no change in UK-based applicants’ ability to bid and be awarded funding from the main EU research & innovation funding programmes (Horizon 2020, but also Erasmus+). Those colleagues interested in applying for funding from these sources should continue to pursue these opportunities and work with their partners across Europe to develop and submit their proposals as normal.

UK participants on all successful proposals which are submitted prior to the date on which the UK formally leaves the EU will have the cost of their involvement in these projects guaranteed, even where these projects extend beyond that date (or even if they are due to start after this date, provided the proposal is submitted prior to it).

The European Commission has also made it clear that proposals led by or including UK partners should not be treated any differently in the evaluation process and is putting measures in place to monitor this. Proposals involving UK partners should therefore not have a reduced chance of success.

The Research Development Team is on hand to advise and support any academic colleagues working on (or thinking of developing) Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ bids as normal. However, we are aware that may still be some uncertainty across Europe about the status of UK applicants, and would therefore like to hear from anyone who feels they may have been excluded from a bid, or had their role in one reduced/sidelined, due to uncertainty from others partners about UK applicants’ eligibility.

If you have experience of this, please send details to EU Funding Lead, Stephen Parkinson.

What follows is summary of some of the key messages, taken from the UK Research Office’s post-referendum resources page, which colleagues may find useful.


What has changed for UK participation since the referendum?
No immediate changes to UK participation in Horizon 2020 – this reflects the broader position that the UK’s status in the EU has not changed yet.
This means that:
  • Currently, the UK is still an EU Member State and has the same rights and obligations as all other 27 Member States, including the participation in EU funding programmes
  • The UK continues to be a full Member State during the negotiation process, with all the rights and obligations until the UK leaves the EU at the end of the process.
  • Details on how the UK can participate after an exit need to be determined during the negotiations following the triggering of Article 50.
What happens to proposals and projects involving UK participants when the UK leaves the EU?
The UK Government will underwrite funding for UK researchers participating in EU projects beyond the date the UK leaves the EU.
HM Treasury has issued a statement on 13 August 2016 to confirm this:
  • “Where UK organisations bid directly to the European Commission on a competitive basis for EU funding projects while we are still a member of the EU, for example universities participating in Horizon 2020, the Treasury will underwrite the payments of such awards, even when specific projects continue beyond the UK’s departure from the EU”.
  • UKRO understands that eligibility for the guarantee will extend to all applications submitted before the exit date, and not just to grants signed.
  • British universities and research organisations should therefore continue to apply for EU funding through mechanisms such as Horizon 2020 while the UK remains a member of the EU.
  • Universities and research organisations from other EU Member States or countries associated to EU funding programmes are encouraged to and should feel reassured to continue to include UK partners.
  • Information on Erasmus+ is available on the website of the National Agency (erasmusplus.org.uk/news/eu-referendum-update).
What is the advice from the European Commission on UK participation in Horizon 2020?
The Commission has confirmed that the status of UK participants in EU funding programmes remains unchanged until the UK leaves the EU.
  • In July 2016, the Commission issued a statement concerning Horizon 2020: “Until the UK leaves the EU, EU law continues to apply to and within the UK, both when it comes to rights and obligations. This includes the eligibility of UK legal entities to participate and receive funding in Horizon 2020 actions.”
  • The Commission also explicitly briefs proposal evaluators in their guidance: “Experts should not evaluate proposals with UK participants any differently than before.” (europa.eu/research/participants/data/support/expert/h2020_expertbriefing_en.pdf)
  • The Commission has also clarified that proposals should not dedicate a part of their proposal to addressing the potential risks as a consequence of the UK Referendum, and that this will not be considered as part of the proposal evaluation process.
The main message at the moment, both from the UK Government and the European Commission, is that the status of the UK as an EU Member State will not change until such time as the UK actually leaves the EU and that UK participants should continue applying for Horizon 2020 and other competitive EU funds.
Additional Resources
UKRO has produced a detailed FAQ factsheet on UK participation in EU funding for research, innovation and higher education, containing additional information and links to a variety of resources.
Post-Referendum Statements
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