ERC Consolidator Grants 2016: How well did the UK do?

A special post from the London Higher Deputy Chief Executive, Michael Reynier, who wanted to provide a few thoughts on the latest round of European Research Council consolidator grants.

I was pleased to see that UK universities have outperformed their European colleagues in the latest round of European Research Council Consolidator Grants, announced this week. A special congratulations to our London Higher Europe member, Royal Holloway’s Emmanouil Tsakiris, who won the grant for his work on ‘introception and self- and other-awareness.’

The news for the UK was, of course, what we’d all been hoping for. But thinking about it more deeply the announcement also reflects a fragility and a need to work with major external stakeholders keep UK universities high up on the agenda. It’s clear that the gains we make in Europe are huge, but so are the potential losses in the coming years.

Thankfully the current uncertainty over Britain’s future in the Union doesn’t seem to have affected its ability to punch above its weight in this round of EU funds, consistently winning more grants than its contribution to the pot. With a success rate of just 13.8% the UK has managed to secure 58 ERC grants for this round. That’s 19% of the total. The second highest being Germany with 48, or 15%.

Some further analysis of the results

The sector needs to keep its position as the pre-eminent locationfor research in Europe, that much is clear. Within these results there is an interesting figure. In terms of the researchers themselves, over half of those awarded in UK universities are not British nationals.

When looking at the nationality of academics awarded the grants, UK nationals are fourth place with 24, behind France (34), Italy (38) and Germany (50). This suggests that the strength of The UK’s higher education sector lies in its ability to provide and nurture an environment conducive to undertaking the best quality research. It’s the sector’s attractiveness to outstanding academics that allows it to flourish. Any restrictions on the ease of academics to move to Britain would therefore be disastrous for EU funding In the UKand the thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of economic growth it creates.

Indeed, the movement of researchers has been pointed to by former university Minister Lord Willits as deserving of more attention in the Brexit debate:

“We’ve had the chancellor talking about how important it is that bankers can move between the City and the EU; it’s equally important that academics and researchers can move easily between Britain and the EU.” (Source)

We also see that current events have not necessarily created an aversion to European academics moving to the UK for the specific ERC grant. The UK has four times the number of ERC Consolidator grant researchers moving to UK universities than moving to other European universities. This allays current fears of the UK being seen as unattractive and intolerant after the vote, at least in the context of ERC Grants. But again, at present not much has actually changed regarding our position in Europe, and so I would urge our colleagues to continue to be vigilant to press home the well-deserved and hard fought competitive advantage UK universities have in Europe to all stakeholders they encounter.

Background to the ERC

The European Research Council was established in 2007 for the seventh framework programme. During this programme, which ran until 2013. During this time the UK won over 1.6 billion EUR from ERC. When compared with Germany, which was the next most successful country with just over 950 million EUR, our dominance in this particular aspect of the research and innovation programmes show a clear strength of UK Higher Education is cultivating a strong stream of outstanding academics, a large percentage of whom are coming from another European country to carry out their research here. (Source)

Further Information

To see the results for yourself, please visit:

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