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Frontier Knowledge for Future Gain: Why the European Research Council Matters

As the UK prepares to leave the EU, there are many implications, and potential scenarios, for the future of UK research, including in the humanities and social sciences. This briefing "Frontier Knowledge for Future Gain: Why the European Research Council Matters" focuses on one part of this uncertain landscale, the Europe Research Council (ERC). 

The ERC supports frontier research, cross disciplinary proposals and encourages the highest quality research in Europe through competitive funding, on the basis of scientific excellence. In the current EU Framework Programme, Horizon 2020, running from 2014-2020, of which the ERC is a central part, the ERC has a budget of € 13 billion, which is 17% of the entire Horizon 2020 budget.

From 2007-2015 UK-based researchers in the humanities and social sciences secure some € 626 million from Starting Grant, Consolidator and Advanced Grants. UK-based researchers in the humanities and social sciences secured approximately 33.2% of all the funding available in these disciplines. This represents a far higher proportion of funding than for UK-based academies in the life sciences (19.7%) or the physical and engineering sciences (19.8%).

An integral part of the UK’s research excellence in the humanities and social sciences, the ERC provides considerable support to UK institutions and has allowed to attract early-career and established researchers to the UK, bringing diversity in UK’s institutions’ research cultures and practices, and increasing research opportunities for UK-based researchers.

This briefing draws attention to the impossibility of replicating such a recognised, successful and transformative body and calls for the UK to achieve the status of an Associated Country to EU Framework Programmes, which includes the ERC.

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