Universities in Scotland could lose hundreds of millions of pounds worth of research grants if there is a no-deal Brexit, the UK Government has been warned.
Academics who have applied for grants from the European Research Council (ERC) are due to find out if they are successful on April 8, but the Government has not explained what would happen if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal by then.
Universities Scotland, who represent the Scottish higher education institutions, have said that life-changing discoveries and leading researchers tackling some of society’s major health and environmental challenges could be left in limbo.
The UK was the most successful country in the last round of ERC Advanced Grants, with 66 applicants awarded up to 2.5 million euros each – a total of €155 million (£133 million) in funding.
In Scotland there are currently six ERC funded projects, worth up to 15 million euros (£13 million).
Now Universities Scotland want the Government to pledge to cover the potential future funding in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
With the UK currently due to leave without a deal on March 29 unless EU leaders agree to delay Brexit or a deal is agreed by parliament, both Universities Scotland and Universities UK are calling on the UK Government to clarify the situation.
Alastair Sim, the director of Universities Scotland, said: “Scotland punches well above its weight in research that changes lives and drives industry, yet in a few days we could find a vital source of funding cut off.
“In terms of research, a no-deal Brexit will be a remarkable act of self-sabotage from the Government.
“We call on the UK Government to commit to underwrite this grant funding.”
Professor Dame Janet Beer, president of Universities UK, added: “Researchers at UK universities doing life-changing work remain in the dark over what will happen to their current ERC applications or where they will go in future for funding if there is no deal.
“Without clarity very soon vital research could be disrupted which would be hugely damaging to people’s lives.
“The UK also risks losing some of our brightest minds to other countries, if they don’t know how their research will be progressed.”