EU research funding

25 November 2016
What was claimed

The UK gets more in EU research funding than it puts in.

Our verdict

Correct, although the UK pays more into the EU budget overall than it gets out.

“Just in terms of research financing—I’m an academic—8.8 billion is what the UK has gotten from the European Union in the last five years, while they only contributed 5.4 billion. We have been net beneficiaries of the European Union.”

Mariana Mazzucato, 24 November 2016

These figures appear to come from the Royal Society, an association of scientists. The thrust of the analysis seems right, although the UK is a net contributor to the wider EU budget. In other words, we get more out than we put in when it comes to science and technology, but pay in more than we get back overall.

Dispensing with the pedantry first: these numbers are in euro rather than pounds, and cover a seven-year period (2007-2013) rather than five. €8.8 billion is what UK researchers saw in EU grants in that period, made up of €6.9 billion from the main EU funding programme for research and 1.9 billion from another pot of money. (We haven’t found the original source for this last figure, but as the equivalent for 2014-2020 is 1.6 billion, there’s little reason to doubt it.)

By contrast, figures from the Treasury show that the UK’s “indicative contribution” to EU research coffers was £4.5 billion (5.4 billion). So the UK was ahead of the game by a couple of billion. This may explain why many university leaders were strongly opposed to leaving the EU.

The government has guaranteed to replace EU research funding, if necessary, in the next few years. But the question of participation in these programmes in the long term depends on negotiations with the 27 remaining members.

While non-EU countries are part of the research funding structure, there are potential difficulties with the UK becoming one of these associate members—including its status as a net beneficiary, which effectively reduces the money available to everyone else. We’ll have to see how negotiations pan out.

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