MMU Research and Knowledge Exchange Blog

Funding opportunities, news and guidance from RKE at Manchester Metropolitan University


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Brexit Update: Facts & Unknowns about RKE

It’s now 15 months since the UK’s referendum on EU membership and 6 months since the formal process of leaving started.  And here in RKE we’ve been keeping an eye on what this means for Research and Project funding at Manchester Met – including after the Prime Minister’s recent speech in Florence.  Indeed, some of us have been accused of being a bit of a geek about these things.  But amongst all the hot air and political manoeuvres, there are a few things we know for certain and a few things we know we don’t know (to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld):

FACT: MMU and UK Higher Education generally continue to work collaboratively with Europe

Since the referendum MMU has submitted 61 bids to EU funding schemes with over 300 European organisations.  Our academics and colleagues find working with international partners exciting, rewarding and at the heart of much good research.  MMU’s success rate has seen no change since the referendum and we’ve had some exciting successes over the last few months.

We’re in contact with colleagues at other UK institutions who are saying the same thing.  We’re also working with Universities UK International (UUKi), the UK Research Office in Brussels (UKRO), the British Council and anyone else who will listen to make sure the sector’s voice is heard during the negotiations through reports such as UUKi’s priorities post-exit and the #weareinternational twitter campaign.

AND FACT: We think Government’s listening – and want us to keep working globally, including with the EU

The Prime Minister included research in her recent speech in Florence as well as her earlier Lancaster House speech as a key issue for the negotiations.  And last month the UK government issued a Future Partnership Paper on Science & Innovation Collaboration emphasising research as part of any future relationship with the EU.  Higher Education is on the Brexit agenda and seen as part of the “offer” the UK is making for its future relationship with the EU.

The UK government is also emphasising its global research links: it recently announced new international fellowships with the Rutherford Fund.  The money for its Global Research Challenges is ramping up and look at the recent posts on this blog for international (largely non-EU) research funding from the British Academy, AHRC, ESRC, Newton Fund, HERA etc.  Elsewhere, the British Council’s 2017-20 Corporate Plan emphasises global mobility – and there’s talk of a worldwide scheme to replicate elements of Erasmus+ beyond the EU.  The funding landscape will look different but indications are that it will (continue to) be globally focussed.

FACT: The UK’s relationship with the EU will change on 29 March 2019

It’s worth restating this one, though: Because the UK has formally announced that the country is leaving the EU, then the nature of its relationship with the union will change.  There are various models out there – at the moment we don’t know which one we will end up with and it’s beyond the wisdom of this blog to make any predictions.  But, also, it’s worth remembering that NO-ONE knows – a lot of the so-called facts the media report are actually political posturing and people trying to sound wise.

In her Florence speech, the Prime Minister emphasised a desire for a transition deal lasting to the end of the current EU budget (2021) so changes are likely to be minimal at first.  And if the UK is committed to fulfilling its financial commitments for two years post-Brexit, then it is more likely we will remain part of research funding schemes until that date, too.

BUT FACT: Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ are up for review anyway

The European Commission has been reviewing both Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ ahead of revised research and mobility programmes expected by 1 January 2021.  Manchester Met has contributed to these and we’re hearing that these schemes will look to make further links between EU Higher Education and institutions outside the union to help tackle global issues and priorities.  That said, we’re not expecting massive changes to the funding but given the timing of the reviews, it’s hard to believe the UK’s future involvement with the scheme is not also being discussed.

SO FACT: There is no reason to stop bidding

The UK remains eligible for European funding.  The UK Treasury has issued a note to say that they will underwrite successful projects, even if they continue beyond our exit from the EU.  It’s not quite clear on when this underwrite covers until but we’re confident it covers projects for AT LEAST the next year.

UNKNOWN: What access we will have to EU funds beyond 2019

This is all tied in with the nature of both the “exit” deal and the “future relationship” deal – despite the above, the campaigning that the University sector is undertaking and reports in the media, we don’t know what the future EU funding landscape will look like.

It’s also worth remembering that just as the UK is working out what its relationship is with the EU will be like post 2019, the EU is discussing what its future as 27 nation states will be like without one of its biggest contributors of finance (and headaches!).  The EU could look very different in a few year’s tie and not just because the UK has left.

UNKNOWN: When we will know more

The first phase of the talks are covering the UK’s financial liabilities, the Irish border and rights of EU/UK nationals, and are due to run until at least October.  Negotiations MIGHT then turn to the future relationship; trade and the Customs Union will probably take precedence but we know that Research & Science are also seen as important.  Therefore, there may not be much news until spring 2019 and nothing certain until late 2019 when a deal (whether transitional or final, it’s unclear) will be put to national Parliaments.

FINAL FACT: MMU’s European Funding and Research Development Managers are on hand We’re here to provide advice and support across a range of funders.  We’ll update this blog if and when we know more.

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