One of the common cries from the pro-EU lobby is that by leaving the political structures of the EU, we will somehow be excluded from participating in any EU science programmes.
The simple fact is that several non-EU countries participate in EU science networks. The European Research Area (ERA) is the structure that facilitates all science programmes and collaboration that are funded by the EU, and yet includes associated non-EU countries such as Norway, Turkey, Iceland, Serbia and Israel, the last of which is not even located within Europe. In other words, science collaboration within the EU’s own ERA does not depend on EU membership, but sadly, several pro-EU commentators continue to promote the mistaken belief that it does.
In terms of their level of engagement, we note that researchers from non-EU Iceland contributed to 217 projects (worth €70 million) during the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for European Research and Technical Development, while Norwegian research teams were involved in more than 1,400 (worth €712 million). Israel has been even more successful (over 2000 projects worth €875 million), with only three other countries in the programme securing more funding. Indeed, Israel’s own figures reveal that it received 1.6 Euros for every Euro that it contributed to FP7, showing that as a net beneficiary, it benefits even more from involvement in the ERA than the UK does. These statistics surely strengthen the argument that you do not have to be in the EU in order to successfully engage with its scientific structures and institutions.
There is little doubt that should the UK wish, it could maintain a financial contribution towards any future framework programme (currently Horizon 2020) that is proportional to the participation it expects to gain, as other non-EU countries currently do. Now, if the UK elects to leave the EU and re-join the European Economic Area (EEA) as part of any post referendum settlement, it can continue participation in the research programme without interruption. Even without EEA membership, it can still expect to participate – as is the case with non-EU Switzerland.