March 29, 2019, by Rob Ounsworth

Brexit: whatever the outcome, our commitment to building research partnerships across Europe is unwavering

These are uncertain and challenging times. But whatever the outcome as the UK navigates its future relationship with Europe, the University remains devoted to global scholarship, building international partnerships and the delivery of research that addresses challenges across the world, writes Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange.

Our Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Shearer West has pledged that the University will continue to prepare for every eventuality.  Information on this fast-moving situation will be provided through our Brexit webpage.

Professor West also hosted an event attended by more than 200 colleagues and their families from across Europe to celebrate their enormous contribution to the University, to Nottingham and to the UK.

At the event, the Vice-Chancellor renewed our commitment that the University will remain open and welcoming to all however the political situation develops, while  Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Long outlined practical steps the University is taking to prepare for Brexit, including developing a strategy for engagement with and in Europe beyond Brexit.

Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Shearer West enjoys the European celebration event

For our researchers and all those who support the delivery of word-class discoveries, there are particular concerns around the political situation and Brexit.

Horizon 2020: key points

But there are some key points to bear in mind with respect to UK access to Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme:

  • While the UK remains a member state (including for any extension to Article 50) our full eligibility to apply for H2020 funding remains
  • If a withdrawal agreement is agreed, it is likely to include the provision (in Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement and agreed by both sides) that gives the UK full and continued access to all parts of Horizon 2020 until the end of the programme (end of 2020), funded by the Commission for the full duration of any projects awarded before the end of 2020
  • In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK government has underwritten UK participation in current projects and any Horizon 2020 call applied for before we exit, and this underwrite has been extended to include all projects open to Third Country participation until the end of Horizon 2020. The wording of that underwrite extension means a ‘no deal’ Brexit will cause a hiatus in access to ERC and Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions for which proposals are submitted after Brexit (applications lodged before Brexit are intended to be covered by the original underwrite), but provides for continued access to collaborative projects under the Societal Challenges and Industrial Leadership pillars.

We cannot predict the future, and the uncertainties are frustrating, but many of the potential outcomes give UK partners a continued ability to participate.

It’s therefore important that such opportunities are considered and pursued where they support your career progression and research aims.

A disengagement by academics and researchers frustrated by Brexit would lead to a loss of valuable international activity regardless of the eventual resolution of the political situation.

 It is also worth noting that the UK Government values international collaboration in research and innovation, and so even a worst-case scenario with respect to Brexit is likely to see the development of new UKRI funding schemes which encourage international research activity (including with European partners should access to EU funding programmes be curtailed in any way) and seek to replace the research and mobility covered by the ERC and Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions.

Protecting the interests of EU staff and supporting access to research programmes

Thank you for you continued support. Our Europe celebration event was a timely and heartening reminder of the inspiring contributions of so many European colleagues to every aspect of research and scholarship at the University.

We will continue to support to our international community and lobby government through Universities UK, the Russell Group and our local MPs to protect the interests of EU staff and students and support access to research programmes.

More detail is available in the Government publication on Brexit and Horizon 2020, but please contact Matt Rackley in Research and Innovation if you have any queries about EU funding calls and Brexit.

Staff wishing to seek HR advice relating to Brexit can email the dedicated help desk


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