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expert reaction to reports that £1.6 Billion of R&D funding has been returned to the Treasury

A press release from the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) states that Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has returned £1.6 Billion of funds to the Treasury, which had previously been allocated for Horizon Europe association or domestic alternatives.


Professor Dame Anne Johnson PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said: 

“The Government’s promise to place science at the heart of decision-making and growth plans now feels very hollow. The apparent loss of £1.6 billion of funding previously ringfenced for R&D is a major backtrack on the assurances made to the research community. This undermines the credibility of the Government’s ambitions for science and will have significant ramifications for the sector, including industry and the NHS.

“Diminishing this funding and inaction over Horizon Europe risks long-lasting damage to UK science, skills, collaboration, productivity, health, and ambitions for economic growth. Talented researchers are not incentivised to come, or stay, in the UK and the Government is risking further damage to the UK’s reputation on the international stage.

“We call on the Secretary of State to provide clarity on monies lost and how her Department sees this action as compatible with placing UK science at the heart of the nation’s plans for productivity and growth. The Government urgently needs to rebuild the confidence of the science community that the remaining funding commitments and ambitions for science are genuine, including reassurance that there is budget for future association to Horizon Europe.”


Prof Gurdyal Besra FRS, President of the Microbiology Society, said:

“The Microbiology Society is deeply concerned by this news and calls for the Government to guarantee the vital £1.6 billion of funding is reinvested in research and innovation to support the UKs stated ambition to become a ‘science superpower’. It is essential that UK scientists work collaboratively and internationally to tackle pressing global challenges. Just a few weeks ago we welcomed the news of the new UK Department for Science, Technology and Innovation – signalling that science would be at the heart of the Government’s growth agenda, but the UK cannot be a world leader in research and innovation without appropriate investment and access to programmes including Horizon Europe, or an equally powerful alternative.”


Tom Grinyer, CEO of Institute of Physics, said:

“This appears to be gravely worrying news for UK science. To reassure the UK science community, the government must clearly explain what has happened to this vital funding which is crucial to making the UK the science superpower we all aspire to.

“The IOP believes that the UK science superpower ambitions are best served by investing in more world class research and development and associating to Horizon Europe. This has been the stated position of the UK government. We call on the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology to confirm that this remains the case.”


Prof John Hardy, Professor of Neuroscience, UCL, said:

“This confirms all my worst fears about the difference between the claims that Britain is a science super-power and the reality. I fear the opposite is happening. We are fading fast and having just done a review meeting in Paris, I fear we are being overtaken. And it’s definitely getting harder to attract bright students and postdocs to London. It’s depressing that the government promised to protect this money for R&D but now appear to have given it back.”


Dr Mark Downs CBiol CSci FRSB, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Biology, said:

“The Royal Society of Biology is disappointed and concerned that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has decided to return £1.6 billion of funds to the Treasury which had been set aside for international science and technology collaboration, primarily through the EU programme Horizon Europe. This is not simply returning unspent funds with no impact on the future. The reality is that £1.6bn of R&D funding, that could have benefitted UK science, has been lost.

“With new Government departments recently announced, that include a seat for science at the cabinet table, we urge the Government to deliver on the promise to protect historic R&D funding commitments by making this funding available to future programmes.”


Prof Liam Smeeth, Director, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said:

“The UK has a well-deserved reputation as a world leading powerhouse in health research, recently evidenced by the role we played in the Covid response globally. The benefits are huge: in health improvement, economic investment, and global prestige. 

“The lack of agreement to allow the UK to continue to play a full role in the European Union Horizon funding programme severely threatens our success. Achieving full association with EU funding programmes must remain the primary aim but will take considerable political skill and determination.

“Until today, the UK government did – as a constructive interim measure – appear to be committed to filling any shortfalls in science funding that occurred because of Brexit. This appears to no longer be the case and we face major cuts in investment in science and innovation as well as continued uncertainty over EU funding.

“The UK’s position as a global scientific leader is severely threatened. Once our position is lost, rebuilding the excellence of our science and education base in the face of fierce international competition may be an impossible task.”


Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society, said:

“The failure of all sides to secure the UK’s association to the EU’s research programmes has now cost UK science £1.6 Billion. That comes on top of the talented researchers who have left the UK in order to carry on their collaborative work. How does this sit with the Government’s stated mission to have the UK as a science superpower?

“The Treasury must now ensure that this money is reinvested in research in the coming years.”


Prof Sarah Main, Executive Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) said:

“The Government has repeatedly stated that R&D budgets would be protected and that the money allocated for association to Horizon Europe would be spent on R&D. The Government’s reversal of this position with today’s withdrawal of £1.6bn for R&D undermines the Prime Minister’s assertions about the importance of science and innovation to the UK’s future and the creation, only this month, of a new department to pursue this agenda.

“The Government must follow through its ambition for science and innovation with coordinated action and investment across Government, not reversals and false starts. Can the Prime Minister now set out how he plans to mitigate this loss and put science and engineering at the heart of the UK’s future?”



Declared interests

The nature of this story means everyone quoted above could be perceived to have a stake in it. As such, our policy is not to ask for interests to be declared – instead, they are implicit in each person’s affiliation.


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