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UK HE calls for research integration as EU budget revealed

The European Commission has proposed spending €100 billion on research between 2021 and 2027. This announcement was made as part of the wider European Commission budget report.

UK stakeholders hope Brexit won't spell the curtain call for all integration with Brussels. Photo: Flickr/Leon Yaakov

There are opportunities to drive growth in UK co-authored research with the rest of the world

Following its release, educational organisations in Britain were quick to comment on the budget. The Russell Group welcomed the decision, and called for continued ties between the bloc and the UK after Brexit.

“We welcome the European Commission’s ambitions to strengthen European science in the next research and innovation program,” a statement read.

“The government’s response today is the worst-case scenario for the UK”

“It is even more important that the UK can be part of this program so our universities can continue to collaborate closely with our partners across the continent.”

The group of research-intensive universities also set out its hopes for member HEIs to work with counterparts still in the EU, to minimise the potential impact of Brexit.

“We hope our universities can continue to cooperate with European partners on education and training initiatives as part of the European Commission’s plans to enhance and expand the Erasmus program.”

The British government’s response to the budget has been tied up with ongoing Brexit negotiations leading to mixed messages being received.

The government’s statement following the release of the budget was: “We would like to discuss possible options as soon as possible.”

Several educators saw this as a poor response. Ludovic Highman, senior research associate at the Centre for Global Higher Education said the response was the worst the UK could hope for.

“The government’s response today is the worst-case scenario possible for UK, as it could easily be sacrificed on the altar of so-called higher national interest despite its central role in UK knowledge economy.”

Universities UK International released a paper with recommendations for the next EU research framework, FP9, the Horizon 2020 successor.

The UK’s HE body also confirmed its position recommending the UK should remain part of EU education projects after the end of the current program.

“We hope our universities can continue to cooperate with European partners”

“We have already seen in the joint statement from December last year, which ensures that the UK will continue to participate fully in Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ through to the end of the program in December 2020, that there is strong appetite to maintain strong collaborative links in higher education, research and innovation,” a UUKi spokesperson told The PIE News.

“We also have strong expressions of support from EU stakeholders, though we recognise there is still much work to be done to secure a positive outcome,” they added.

Among its recommendations for the Horizon 2020 successor, UUKi calls for increased EU spending on research and innovation, which should continue being allocated on the basis of “pan-European” peer review.

The industry body also calls for the program to be made more accessible to third countries, advocating for global collaboration opportunities to maximise the program’s impact.

The majority of the UK’s international collaborative research is co-authored with EU member states, making it an “absolute priority for UK-EU research partnerships to continue on the strongest possible terms,” the UUKi spokesperson explained.

At the same time, there are opportunities to drive growth in UK co-authored research with the rest of the world, they said, and not only with already crucial partners such as US, Australia, China and Canada.

“There is also an opportunity to give greater support for joint activities with countries such as India, Japan, Israel, Singapore, and South Korea, which have fallen outside the reach of ODA-resourced UK funds such as Newton in recent years, and which are important and fast-growing partners for UK researchers,” UUKi explained.

The paper was submitted to the FP9 consultation in March and UUKi received positive responses from stakeholders in Brussels.

“We are encouraged that the most recent drafts that we have seen address the issues that we, along with a number of other university stakeholders, have raised,” the UUKi spokesperson said.

Additional reporting by Claudia Civinini. 

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