The referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU is fast approaching and as the debate intensifies, science is a topic that remains very much overlooked, despite its importance to the UK economy.
I have recently begun to consider the scientific relationship that Britain has with the EU and how UK science may be affected if we choose to leave. This relationship is not trivial, according to OECD figures the EU produces around 1.7 million scientists, which is more than either China (1.5 million) or the US (1.3 million).
To facilitate this each member state contributes towards a fund called Horizon 2020, which the European Research Council (ERC) distributes to research and infrastructure projects. The expected budget of Horizon 2020 from 2014-2020 is over €80bn, an increase from the previous incarnation called Framework Programme 7 which had a budget of €53bn from 2007-2013. For projects involving international collaborations a single application to the ERC is required removing the need for separate applications to national funding agencies.
The UK received €8.8bn under Framework Programme 7 from 2007-13, amounting to 3% of total research spending. This may seem small however it is just shy of charity-funded research (5%) and is typically viewed as a main source of funding for biomedical research. The UK is highly competitive in obtaining funding as it is currently awarded the greatest number of grants under Horizon 2020, and achieved the second greatest number under Framework Programme 7.