Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
Public Policy|Southampton

Consultation responses | Brexit

EU/UK Flags

Leaving the EU: Implications and opportunities for science and research

Commons Science and Technology Committee

Submission from the University of Southampton | July 2016

View the InquiryDownload the response

General points

1. The University of Southampton recommends any negotiated settlement by the government has as one of its key objectives to maintain the strength of its universities and in particular to sustain the performance of research universities to ensure the continued strength of our science and innovation system and our globally leading position. From the current existing models, the Full Associated Country status offers the option for most active participation.

2. Research-intensive Universities such as Southampton need to operate at a European and international level. They are essential to the UK’s science and innovation system and provide environments which foster academic and research expertise co-located with knowledge exchange capacity, and enable the interchange of advanced knowledge and highly skilled people throughout the science and innovation system.

3. The outcome of the referendum has created a high level of uncertainty amongst our academic and student community. It is important to establish as quickly as possible the basis on which the UK will engage with the European Union in the future as the EU has played an important role in the global standing of the UK science and research through collaboration, access to a wider pool of researchers and students and access to funding.

1. What the effect of the various models available for the UK’s future relationship with the EU will be on UK science and research, in terms of:


4. EU membership of the UK enabled the UK to participate in large pan-European research programmes and provide thought-leadership to drive forward innovation for social and economic benefit. It has played an important role in the University of Southampton’s international success over the past decades.

5. Of 5108 research articles published by University of Southampton authors in 2015, 1700 (33%) were published with co-authors with addresses in EU countries. In contrast we have co-published 25% of our papers with non-EU countries.

6. Whilst the negotiations to effect Brexit will be lengthy and the status of the UK remains unchanged until the UK leaves Europe, it is essential for the government to confirm its commitment to UK science and research and to provide early clarity on:

- Continued support beyond Brexit for UK participation in H2020;

- On-going support to international collaboration beyond H2020.

7. There is anecdotal evidence that potential and existing collaborators are already questioning the role of Southampton academics and departments in bids that are currently being prepared as representing too high a risk for consortia. Despite University, European Commission and RCUK encouragement to keep bidding through the period of negotiation of Brexit, continued uncertainty is likely to lead to a decline in applications with knock-on effects on the levels of engagement and retention of expertise in future years, even in the case that the UK eventually achieves Associate Country status.

8. The major concern from Partners regarding our participation in new proposals, once they are assured

that we are eligible to participate and that H2020 contracts will be honoured, is potential negative

bias by proposal evaluators. We should ask EC officials to brief evaluators that the status of UK

Partners is unchanged.

9. There would be value in RCUK and learned societies becoming proactive very quickly and reassuring

European research bodies and institutions that UK universities will continue to collaborate with EU

colleagues. Our academics are already reinforcing their networks at an individual level, but some

public encouragement of this by UUK, RCUK or appropriate body would go a long way towards

providing some reassurance.

Free movement of researchers and students;

10. Free movement of researchers and students is paramount to research excellence. The University of

Southampton benefits greatly from collaboration and freedom of movement of staff and students and

the pool of expertise that is available across Europe. The loss or disruption of these benefits will have

a significant effect on the University and our staff and students, and would undoubtedly reduce the

international standing and appeal of the University.

11. The introduction of new restrictions for staff or students would affect our ability to recruit the best

students or staff in a highly-competitive international environment. There will be an effect on the

UK’s longer-term attractiveness as international destination for students, staff and research funders

from outside the EU, if it were not to be a member of the EU. While this is harder to forecast

accurately it seems unlikely to enhance our position.

12. The impact of restrictions of movement will be significant and restrict the pool of talent the University

can recruit from - this also applies to our student community. 12% of our staff come from other EU

countries with a further 14% from non-EU countries. In 2015/16, 1739 (8%) of our students come

from EU countries, other than the UK, this fraction rises to 18% of our PhD students.

13. Access to European research programmes and collaborations has traditionally been an incentive for

recruits from outside the EU.

14. The uncertainty regarding the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU has the potential to deter students,

staff and research partners from coming to the University until post-Brexit arrangements are agreed.

Equally, there may be an issue in retaining high quality EU staff.

15. At some stage there will be new arrangements for students, which might see them treated as

international students in terms of both visas and fees. Whatever the final position is, it is vital that

transitional arrangements are carefully planned and put in place for different types of students with

different circumstances, to minimise losses to UK universities.

Access to funding;

16. The University of Southampton has a long and deep history of successful involvement in EU

Framework programmes. In FP7, the University was awarded 318 successful projects worth €125M.

The University was eventually placed 15th in the table of European FP7 Universities as measured by

number of grant agreements signed. In 2014/15 the University received £18M of research income

from EU sources. This accounts for about 15% of our total research funding. Under FP7, we ranked

10th amongst UK Universities, and 17th in the EU, for funding from such sources, indicating how important the EU has become for all UK Universities. In contrast we only received £5.2M (4%) from other overseas funding sources.

17. The University of Southampton engagement in H2020 has so far resulted in 74 projects awarded or in negotiation, worth €48.9M. The University currently has 143 live FP7 and H2020 projects and 40 of these are due to be completed after December 2018 currently suggested as the earliest possible date for Brexit.

18. Of the H2020 projects awarded, 48% have been awarded under the Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies (LEIT) and Societal Challenges pillars of the programmes. A further 20% are collaborative projects within the training and knowledge exchange strands of the Excellence pillar (MSCA ITNs and FET).

19. Access to funding from Europe has enabled the University to get involved in pan-European projects that have accelerated the development of new knowledge and innovation. In some areas it has become a source for diversification of funding when national research budgets have reduced. The research funding programmes also provide a diversity of funding sources and mechanisms, which allows for a better overall mixture of research at the University - increasing our opportunities to conduct projects which have a high level of impact – that would not otherwise be possible at a national level or would have taken much longer.

20. For programmes such as Erasmus and for the framework programmes for research funding, the EU has provided a relatively straightforward way for us to connect internationally, with a lower administrative overhead than associated with obtaining funding or organizing mobility with other countries on a bilateral basis.

21. The potential loss or reduction of this income stream presents a substantial challenge for the UK. It is therefore most essential to preserve or put appropriate measures in place to compensate for the gap that will be created as a result of Brexit – and this not to the detriment of the UK Science Budget.

22. If Universities (or business) are no longer able to access EU funding, alternative arrangements through national channels in order to maintain the world-leading position of the UK science and innovation base. Increasing the budget for the Research Councils within an overall larger UK science budget is needed to strengthen the UK’s global position, boost the economy and help us to remain internationally competitive.

23. Uncertainty over access to funding and, in the event of third country status, no access to EU funding could undermine wider collaboration with industry and limit relationship building for the purposes of innovation and exploitation

24. Within the overall negotiations for the UK exit, the H2020 negotiation should focus on maximising access to all aspects of the programme with a smooth transition to Associated Country status as the best option to maintain stability of EU research income.

25. The evidence of the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) shows that the disruption in bidding during 2014, followed by the partial association has resulted in a substantial decline in Swiss involvement and income during this period of uncertainty.



FP7 (2007-2013) Horizon 2020 (2014-2015)
Proportion of Swiss participation 3.2% (4269) 1.8% (318)
Proportion of contributions received 4.2% (CHF 2482 m) 2.2% (CHF 172 m)
Proportion of Swiss coordinations 3.9% (972) 0.3% (15)

Source: SERI: Swiss Participation in European Research Framework Prog. – Facts and Figures 2015


The report goes on to say that, ‘If Switzerland were to be fully downgraded to third-country status from 2017 onwards, its opportunities for participation and influence would be extremely limited. We would also expect to see an even sharper decrease in the financial and quantitative shares of Swiss participation in the FPs. A further concern would be the potential isolation of Swiss-based researchers. The fear is that over the long term, third country status could lead to a loss of expertise and could reduce Switzerland’s influence in research circles, both in Europe and indeed globally.’


Access to EU-funded research facilities, both in the UK and abroad

26. Whilst many of the largest facilities such as CERN, the European Southern Observatory (ESO), European Space Agency (ESA), Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL), European Spallation Source (ESS) and European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) have separate agreements and access arrangements outside of the EU, there are many large facilities that are part of EU research infrastructure programme where funded access could be denied if full Associated Country status is not achieved.

27. Under the Research Infrastruture scheme, Member State and Associated State organisations are granted funded access to 90+ key infrastructures each year. This includes infrastructures in a range of disciplines across Engineering, Environmental and Earth Sciences, Life Sciences and Social Sciences.

28. If the decline in the value of the pound as a result of the Brexit vote is a long term effect, this will potentially put strain on the cost of UK subscriptions to and participation in large infrastructure projects where payments need to be made in currencies other than sterling. STFC and others need to be fully protected against this effect.



2. What the science and research priorities for the UK Government should be in negotiating a new relationship with the EU.

29. The UK has played an essential role in the EU research landscape influencing and driving the research agenda and helping maintain the criteria of scientific excellence to the highest level. Without the UK voice there is likely to be a stronger weight given to the agenda of inclusion of all nations across Europe on the basis of societal and economic drivers.

30. The UK should first concentrate on securing access to funds for research that is best tackled at a European level. The second priority are global issues that are best addressed by European researchers working together.

31. The UK’s negotiators should not lose sight of the focus on the excellence of basic science that has been secured by the existence since 2007 of the European Research Council and should ensure that the best UK researchers and Universities still have access to these highly competitive but prestigious awards.

3. What science and technology-related legislation, regulations and projects will need to be reviewed in the run up to the UK leaving the EU.

4. The status of researchers, scientists and students working and studying in the UK when the UK leaves the EU, and what protections should be put in place for them.


32. Researchers from the EU form a vital part of the University’s community with 610 academics. In addition, the University employs another 176 non-academic staff from other EU countries. EU nationals working or studying in the UK are uncertain about their future immigration status. The status of staff already in the UK should be confirmed and an open and flexible regime of visa applications instituted for the future.

33. 27 % of Southampton European Research Council grantholders are European nationals who have chosen to hold their awards in the excellent research environment available at Southampton. The University also welcomes an average of 5 Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellows (post-doctoral fellows) to the University each year. Many of these Fellows have chosen to remain at the University and pursue successful careers; those who leave form the basis of future successful research networks across and Europe and the wider world.

34. Last year 327 of our students took advantage of study abroad and exchange opportunities, 60% of these went to EU countries. We hosted 561 inbound students, of whom 56% came from EU countries. In both inbound and outbound cases, most of these benefitted from the EU-wide Erasmus mobility programme.

35. We already have examples of staff (at professorial level) and PhD students turning down positions in Southampton due to the lack of clarity of their status in the future.

5. The opportunities that the UK’s exit presents for research collaboration and market access with non-EU countries, and how these might compare with existing EU arrangements.

36. New bi-lateral agreements with key international partners will be essential. The task of establishing these agreements in a timely manner should not be underestimated and it should be acknowledged that we will be competing with EU/third country agreements that are already up and running. RCUK offices in US, India, China will be vital in establishing this process and their effectiveness monitored to decide whether they should be replicated in more countries.

37. The decline in the value of the pound compared with other currencies as a result of the Brexit decision may conceivably make the UK more competitive in certain areas, e.g. UK companies competing for contracts in large international scientific facilities.

6. What other measures the Government should undertake to keep UK science and research on a sound footing, with sufficient funding, after an EU exit.

38. As an Associated Country, the UK will have a seat, but no vote at Framework Programme Committees. The UK needs to pay proper attention to the resources necessary to maintain an effective and influential presence in Brussels to lobby for UK interest in future research framework programmes







We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.