Universities are set to weather a £250m hit to research funding if political leaders cannot settle the row over Northern Ireland, which is blocking the UK’s admission to a key European research body.
The European Research Council has written to 98 scientists who recently received the greenlight for £145m funding, warning they will not be able to access the fund if the UK’s membership of Horizon Europe is not ratified, the Guardian first reported.
Horizon Europe is the EU’s central funding programme for research and innovation, and Brexit negotiators pushed for membership of Horizon Europe as a key condition of an agreement in 2020.
The process has been delayed however due to the UK’s failure to implement the Northern Ireland protocol. Researchers have now warned being shut out of the funding will strike both a reputational and financial blow to research in the UK.
ERC grants are “a badge of honour for any researcher and a signal of world-class leading research,” said Ethan Ilzetzki, an associate professor in economics at the London School of Economics.
He warned that ERC turning off the taps could spark a brain drain as researchers head to the continent.
“Higher education institutions on the continent are salivating at the prospect of poaching this talent … higher education will be hurt for years to come if this isn’t resolved,” he said.
Overall grants through the programme could take UK funding to about €300m, the Guardian reported.