Brexit warning: Scientist lost millions in not leaving UK – but warns of EU brain drain


Over 100 grants from an EU research programme were scrapped in July due to the ongoing row over the Northern Ireland Protocol. UK beneficiaries of the £80billion Horizon Europe deal were told their grants would not be available unless their research moved to an institution based in the Brussels bloc.

One such scientist was José R Penadés, Professor of Microbiology at Imperial College London and Director of the MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology and Infection.

He was offered €2.5million (£2.13million) from the European Research Council (ERC) for study purposes.

But, Professor Penadés said, “I was informed that the funding was in jeopardy because the UK failed to negotiate an agreement to remain in the EU’s Horizon Europe funding programme”.

He has today written in the Guardian: “This posed an enormous problem.

“I began speaking with EU-based universities about moving the research programme, but there are eight to 10 other scientists working under me in my own lab, and I am the current director of the UK’s MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology and Infection.

“Scientists work in deeply connected networks of collaborators and institutions, and moving to France or Spain, even part-time, would disrupt much more than just this one research project.”

Having reached the decision not to move to the EU, Professor Penadés lost his money.

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“And that’s after the UK lost £1.5billion on the science programme from 2016-2020 due to Brexit…

“As the author says, UK is becoming less attractive due to Brexit.”

Another academic previously told the paper he was “relieved” to be exiting the country due to uncertainty over funding.

He added that the UK appears to be going down a “dark path”.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss responded to Brussels’s move over the Horizon Europe programme by launching a legal dispute.

She described the move as a “clear breach” of the Brexit trade deal and accused the bloc of “seeking to politicise vital scientific cooperation”.



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