Brexit 'could see British scientists lose £1 billion a year in funding'


British scientists could lose almost £1 billion a year if the UK leaves the European Union, a report has claimed.

Exiting the EU will expose a huge hole in science and research and development (R&D) funding, according a study conducted by technology company Digital Science - which provides innovation solutions to support research.

If a majority of voters tick the "Brexit" box on June 23, the UK risks losing annual EU research funding to the tune of £1 billion, the authors conclude.

Test tubes in a lab
(David Davies/PA)

The report points out that currently, a quarter of all public funding for research in the UK comes from the EU.

In 2015, the amount of new grant funding awarded to the UK was £967 million.

Leading British institutions and companies including Oxford and Cambridge universities, Rolls-Royce, BT and the BBC stood to lose out heavily unless the Government plugged the gap, said Digital Science.

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The company's chief executive Daniel Hook said: "The UK's economy is increasingly a knowledge and information economy and the UK's research base is, in many ways, one the UK's greatest hopes for long-term prosperity.

"While the UK has remained highly internationally competitive and successful and has won a large portion of EU funding, the UK has not invested at a national level to ensure that we keep up with competitors in our own right without EU assistance."

A scientist uses a microscope
(David Davies/PA)

He alleged that EU funds had been used to "prop up" UK research both at governmental and corporate level.

"Brexit, and the loss of EU funding for the UK's research base, represents a number of severe threats to leading British success stories in the research sector, unless the UK government makes up the shortfall," said Mr Hook.

The UK has been the second highest recipient of EU research funding over the past decade after Germany, receiving £8,044,801,711 between 2006 and 2015, according to the study.

But Britain was said to be significantly more dependent on EU funding than Germany and other research-intensive countries. Just 1.63% of the UK's gross domestic product (GDP) was spent on research, compared with Germany's 2.85%.

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British businesses contributed 1.06% of GDP towards research and development, almost 80% less than their German counterparts.

The study also found that 41%, or £126 million, of public funding for UK cancer research over the last 10 years had come from the EU. This figure did not include grants from Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Trust but was still said to be a "significant funding tranche".

The biggest recipients of EU funding for "oncology and carcinogenesis" research were University College London, the University of Newcastle and the University of Sheffield.