Position Paper: International Research Engagement

EARC is supportive of the substantive findings of the Smith-Reid review, and would encourage the government to develop ‘an immediate programme to protect and stabilise capabilities’ following Brexit. 

This position paper is based on our response to the government’s proposals in its R&D Roadmap. Our full response can be found here.

Although the government wants ‘to fully associate to [EU R&D] programmes’, subsequent negotiations have suggested that the cost of doing so is prohibitive.

If we are not to be part of the next framework programme (Horizon Europe), we should think carefully about how we do engage globally, in Europe and beyond.

The Smith-Reid Review was ‘not convinced that a persuasive case can be made for sizeable levels of public spending on activities that replicate, line by line, EU research and innovation arrangements in the UK.’

However, as Wellcome has stated, ‘there are no quick and cheap ways to replace Horizon Europe. Implementing new multilateral or bilateral programmes at short notice will likely mean compromising on ambition, efficiency, and scale.’

Nevertheless, Eastern Arc is supportive of the Review’s recommendation that ‘the UK could spend the same amount of money on research and innovation activities, optimised around the interests of the UK rather than the collective interests of EU programme participants.’

It also strongly endorses the Review’s view that there should be as little disruption as possible to existing projects and funding, and that there be ‘an immediate programme to protect and stabilise capabilities’.

In particular, EARC would support the Review’s recommendations for:

  • An international Research Partnership Investment Fund. Smith-Reid suggested that the RPIF be expanded to encourage additional matched funding, attracting ‘sizeable investment into UK R&D by companies headquartered in other countries.’
  • A coherent global talent strategy. This would bring both reforms to immigration policy and a number of fellowship and post graduate programmes to try and attract and retain good researchers in the UK. EARC is pleased to see that the government has started to make moves in this direction.
  • Substantial additional funding for basic research. Although Smith-Reid weren’t prescriptive, EARC is supportive of additional funding being provided through UKRI for international programmes.
  • A flagship programme of fellowships. With UK-based researchers no longer being able to access the prestigious and generous European Research Council, the government should consider a significant fellowship scheme that ‘should be available at all career stages.’

In addition, EARC is supportive of more flexibility in future funding for global research, such as additional QR funding, and ‘agility funding’ for emerging areas of importance.

The government’s R&D Roadmap sought ‘to strengthen and grow our collaborations with overseas governments and international funders’, we are concerned that support for programmes that are aimed at collaborations with DAC list countries is somewhat lukewarm – or rather, that it is more encouraging of developing links with those countries that already have strong research infrastructures.

The recently announced plans to merge DfID and the Foreign Office heighten these concerns. We believe that there is a danger that UK global research funding becomes transactional, and is used for national benefit rather than global good.