Since the country voted to leave the EU in 2016, British scientists have missed £ 1.5 billion in Horizon 2020 funds. Activists say the numbers show the extent to which Brexit uncertainty has affected collaboration between British researchers and their counterparts across Europe.

Before the Brexit vote in June 2016, Great Britain was, alongside Germany, the most successful nation in winning European research grants. But over the past five years the UK’s share has fallen sharply. According to an analysis by the Scientists for EU campaign group, researchers in the country will receive around 400 million euros less in 2020 than in 2016. This puts Great Britain in fifth place behind France, Spain and Italy. Germany retains its top position with 1.7 billion euros last year.

Had Britain kept pace with Germany, the country’s researchers would have won an additional £ 1.5 billion over the past five years. But the threat of a ‘no deal’ Brexit and uncertainty about the UK’s relationship with the EU made UK researchers riskier partners in potential funding applications.

Chart showing the funds raised from EU science programs 2007-2020

“Looking ahead, British science will want to quickly regain its leading role in the European science program,” said EU Director Mike Galsworthy. “The uncertainty over five years of Brexit has torn the UK’s position down several notches and blasted a huge hole in our funds and networks.”

“The damage of five years of Brexit uncertainty and antagonism has been immense for our researchers, who were so used to working with their colleagues across the continent,” said molecular biologist Anne Glover, a Scientists for EU supporter and incumbent president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and was Chief Scientific Advisor to the European Commission from 2012 to 2014.

“Boris Johnson speaks of Britain being a ‘science superpower’ but this is only achieved by recognizing that on the way back to such an international position it will have to reverse a large amount of recent vandalism,” she added .


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