UK scientists are unable to access hundreds of millions of euro in EU grant money until the Northern Ireland protocol dispute is resolved, Professor Luke O’Neill has warned.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, the Trinity Professor said many British scientists are watching the ongoing talks with ‘great trepidation’ – knowing they could lose out on huge grants if there is no deal.
The European Research Council (ERC) hands out around €2 billion in grant funding every year and Professor O’Neill said the UK has traditionally been successful in accessing it.
Huge sums of money have already been allocated to UK scientists in the latest round – however, the EU cannot release it until there is a deal on the protocol.
“They want to give money to UK scientists but they can’t until the protocol is resolved,” he said.
“Everything between the EU and the UK is frozen obviously. Until the protocol is resolved, they won’t release the money for these UK scientists, who are up in arms about this obviously.
“It is hundreds of millions in the balance here. It is incredible.”
He said the grants are administered through an international competition.
“It is very competitive,” he said. “You apply to Brussels and over the years, the UK has done very well because science is so good there you see.
The ERC grants are part of the EU's €100bn Horizon Europe programme, which aims to support 'excellent scientists' in 'pursuing their most promising ideas'.
Brussels has so far blocked Britain’s requests to join the programme because of the protocol dispute and earlier this month, Westminster’s new science minister said the UK was “more than ready to go it alone” if no resolution could be found.
Professor O’Neill is the Irish representative on the ERC and has won around €10 million in grant funding for his own projects over the years.
"Big success story"
He said the programme has funded hundreds of thousands of research papers, 12 Nobel Prizes and over 400 spinout companies.
“It is a big success story for European science and technology really,” he said.
He noted that Ireland has won around €295 million in funding.
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