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EU award success: Edinburgh goes from strength to strength

In today’s blog we hear from the University of Edinburgh’s Jonathan Seckl, Vice Principal for Planning, Resources and Research Policy, as he discusses the year ahead for EU funding.

Edinburgh is an intensely international university. Our students and staff have benefited enormously from strong links with our peers across Europe and globally.  Around sixty percent of our research outputs are co-authored with international partners, half with European colleagues.

Shortly after the Brexit referendum in 2016, I urged us all to go “full steam ahead”, and continue applying enthusiastically for EU grants at least until Brexit is complete and its terms clarified. In a follow up message last year, I was delighted to report that you had done just that. Indeed, since Brexit we have submitted 456 applications to the European Commission (10% up on the same period before the Brexit referendum).

I am now delighted to report that we have continued to engage ever more with our colleagues and friends in the EU.

In 2017, Edinburgh received the ninth highest amount of funding overall (sixth in the UK) among all universities applying to Horizon 2020. We have started 62 new projects in 2017, with a further 19 already set to begin early in 2018. And this academic year our EU income is up a further 25% compared with last year.

Extraordinarily, we are hosting 50 highly-prestigious ERC grants, the fifth highest number across the whole European Research Area (EU plus other participating nations). We have had a record eight ERC Starting Grants awarded this year.

The University of Edinburgh has had a record eight ERC Starting Grants awarded this year

Based on the joint UK-EU negotiators’ progress report, published on 8th December, the financial settlement proposes that the UK will continue its participation in EU annual budgets to 2020. Given the positive progress towards a 2 year transition period, it appears that, subject to final agreement, the UK will continue to participate in Horizon 2020, and other programmes financed by the Union’s Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) until at least 2020-21.

Article 71. Following withdrawal from the Union, the UK will continue to participate in the Union programmes financed by the MFF 2014-2020 until their closure (excluding participation in financial operations which give rise to a contingent liability for which the UK is not liable as from the date of withdrawal). Entities located in the UK will be entitled to participate in such programmes. Participation in Union programmes will require the UK and UK beneficiaries to respect all relevant Union legal provisions including co-financing. Accordingly, the eligibility to apply to participate in Union programmes and Union funding for UK participants and projects will be unaffected by the UK’s withdrawal from the Union for the entire lifetime of such projects.

Whatever the outcome of the negotiations, the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s guarantee of Treasury funding for the full duration of any Horizon 2020 awards funded before Brexit, even after Brexit is complete, still applies. In addition to the assurance of funding, the European Commission has gone to great lengths to ensure that UK participation in proposals is not viewed unfavourably. There is no evidence of a decrease in grants awarded to UK participants overall, and of course Edinburgh’s awards are up again.

In short, we have had a great year for EU funding. We should continue proactively to pursue EU funding, building on our already strong position. I look forward to even greater achievements next year. Good hunting.

Kindest regards

Jonathan Seckl

Professor Jonathan Seckl is Vice Principal for Planning, Resources and Research Policy at the University of Edinburgh.




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