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Feature

Broken Horizon: UK medical research struggling with funding and collaborations gap after Brexit

BMJ 2022; 378 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.o2087 (Published 08 September 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;378:o2087
  1. Eva Amsen, freelance journalist
  1. London
  1. eva{at}evaamsen.com

After Brexit, visa requirements, customs regulations, and the loss of EU research funding have heavily impacted medical and health researchers in the UK. Eva Amsen reports

One of the biggest effects of Brexit has been exclusion of the UK (including Northern Ireland) from the Horizon Europe funding, to which the country would have contributed approximately £2bn a year. It was initially on track to be admitted to the research framework as an associate country, which would have allowed UK researchers to apply for European Union funding such as European Research Council (ERC) grants. But when negotiations on the Northern Ireland Protocol stalled, the UK didn’t meet Horizon Europe’s requirements for association, and UK based ERC grant awardees were given just a few months to move to an EU country or to decline their funding.

“It wasn’t a hard choice, because you can’t decide within two months to just move to Italy,” says Tamar Makin, programme leader at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at the University of Cambridge. Under the UK government’s alternative solution, she and 114 other UK researchers agreed to return their ERC grants in full and had their funds matched by UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental government body that directs research and innovation funding, which plans to continue to support researchers as long as the UK isn’t associated to the Horizon programme.1

As a result, she hasn’t experienced funding delays and can still carry out her planned research, which investigates how the brain can control prosthetic limbs or augmentative body parts—but she won’t have all the benefits of the international grant she initially applied for. …

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