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Research funding at risk with no-deal Brexit, universities warn

Universities UK said it had not been told what future system will be put in place to replace funding for world-leading research

UNIVERSITIES risk missing out on hundreds of millions of pounds in research grants in the event of a no-deal Brexit, it has been warned.

Academics who have applied for grants from the European Research Council (ERC) are due to find out if they are successful on April 8, but the UK government has not said what happens in the event of a no deal.

Universities UK (UUK), which represents 136 institutions in Britain and Northern Ireland, said it has also not been told what future system will be put in place to replace funding for world-leading research.

It argues this means research into life-changing discoveries and leading researchers tackling some of society's major health and environmental challenges could be left in limbo.

The UK was the most successful country in the last round of ERC Advanced Grants, with 66 applicants awarded up to €2.5 million each - a total of €155m (£133m) in funding.

UUK is now calling on the government to clarify the situation immediately.

Professor Dame Janet Beer, president of UUK, said: "Researchers at UK universities doing life-changing work remain in the dark over what will happen to their current ERC applications or where they will go in future for funding, if there is no deal.

"Without clarity very soon, vital research could be disrupted which would be hugely damaging to people's lives. The UK also risks losing some of our brightest minds to other countries, if they don't know how their research will be progressed."

Joanna Burton, senior policy analyst at the Russell Group, said the UK could be about to lose some of its competitive edge on science and research.

"A no-deal Brexit could mean our access to the European Research Council grants and Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions will end with immediate effect," she said.

"We need the government to set out contingency measures, ready for immediate implementation, so that research funding and collaboration opportunities do not face a damaging cliff-edge."

A government spokeswoman said: "Science recognises no borders and the UK has a proud record of welcoming the world's leading scientists and researchers to work and study here. This will not change when we leave the EU.

"Through our modern industrial strategy we are investing a record level in research and development and we are committed to seeking an ambitious future relationship on science and innovation with our EU partners."

The Royal Irish Academy, Ireland's leading body of experts in the sciences, humanities and social sciences, has previously warned that the exit of the UK from the EU will pose "considerable and specific political, economic and social

challenges for both parts of the island of Ireland".

Northern Ireland universities, it said, could be faced with a significant loss of talent, as researchers are drawn to universities in the Republic to ensure continued access to funding.

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