UK-based researchers in the humanities and social sciences continue to overachieve in competitive European Research Council (ERC) grants this year, despite uncertainty about the UK’s status post-Brexit.
The UK has consistently outperformed other countries in EU research funding competitions, with UK institutions receiving £5bn since 2014 – 14.5% of the overall funding available in the current programme.
This is most pronounced in the humanities and social sciences, where this year UK-based academics have won 32% of the European Research Council’s Consolidator Grants – up from 28% in 2017 and just under 25% in 2016.
This year’s results are in line with the UK’s long-term performance in the ERC. From 2007 to 2015, UK-based researchers in the humanities and social sciences secured €626m in ERC funding, over a third of all the funding available in these subjects.
Yesterday, the British Academy outlined the steps that must be taken to ensure that UK researchers can benefit from ERC funding by calling on the Government to ensure the closest possible association with the next European Framework Programme. It also outlined the benefits of EU research collaboration, beyond financial gains, including access to infrastructure and expertise, mobility, influence over the development of policy, and increased visibility and career support for researchers.
The latest round of Consolidator Grants also demonstrates the importance of British Academy funding as a springboard to a successful academic career. Five of the 25 UK-based ERC recipients were previously funded by the British Academy including Jacob Copeman (University of Edinburgh), a British Academy Mid-Career Fellow in 2017-18 who received an ERC Consolidator Grant for his project ‘Atheism and Violence in South Asia and the World’. Felicitas Becker, a former British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow now based at the University of Ghent, also received a Consolidator Grant for her research on ‘The aftermath of slavery in East Africa’.
Ash Amin, Foreign Secretary at the British Academy said:
“This round of European Research Council grants demonstrates the exceptionally high standard of the UK’s research in the humanities and social sciences.
“It also demonstrates what is at stake as we continue to negotiate the UK’s future relationship with the EU. If we want to maintain this success, we must work towards the closest possible association with the next European Framework Programme. As the British Academy has highlighted, European research mobility, funding and collaboration are essential to the health of our world-leading research and development sector, and to the professional development of thousands of academics.”
 Worth up to €2 million over 5 years, ERC Consolidator Grants enable mid-career researchers to establish a research team and to develop their career in Europe. They are open to researchers of any nationality based in any EU nation or Associated Country, making them highly competitive.