Brexit Q&As for Research

As the UK leaves the EU at the end of March, Ulster University believes that it is more important than ever that we and our respective partner universities can continue to work together on our valued partnerships and collaborations.


The UK Government made a strong commitment in its white paper – The Future Relationship between the UK and the EU - to strengthen research collaboration links and has taken subsequent steps to underwrite EU research funding. This commitment is further set out in a technical notice for the event of the UK leaving the EU with no deal in place.  In this scenario it is the intention that UK Universities will be able to apply and participate in EU research grants as Third Countries with funding provided from the UK Government, according to the underwrite guarantee.

If you are unable to find a response below, have any further queries or wish to communicate to us about Brexit and how Ulster University can better support you, please email brexit@ulster.ac.uk.

Please note that the answers will be updated on a regular basis and a number of queries are currently in the process of being researched and will be added once confirmation received.

The UK Government triggered Article 50 on 29th March 2017, which provided a two year period, until 11pm on Friday 29th March 2019 to agree a withdrawal agreement between the UK and EU.  In April 2019, this was extended to Thursday 31st October 2019.  On 28th October 2019, the EU granted the UK Government a further extension to agree a Brexit Withdrawal Deal until 31st January 2020.  This extension date is termed as flexible, meaning that if a deal is agreed before this date, the UK can officially leave the EU sooner.

The below answers initially made reference to the date the UK leaves the EU which was initially Friday 29th March 2019, however this is now replaced in the responses below by the term 'exit day' which is now Friday 31st January 2020, however may be subject to change if a withdrawal deal is agreed prior to this date.

  • Will Ulster University have access to European Regional Development Funding?

    In July 2018, the UK Government extended the guarantee so that it would cover all projects, including European Regional Development Fund projects, that would have been funded by the EU under the 2014-2020 programme period.

  • What will be Ulster University's access to European Territorial Co-Operation Fund?

    The UK Government's guarantee of EU funding underwrites the UK’s allocation for structural and investment fund projects under the EU budget period to 2020 and managing authorities will continue to sign new projects until programme closure.

    The UK Government’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has issued guidance on European Territorial Cooperation Funding

  • What is the status for Horizon 2020 research and funding?

    On 20 August 2019, the UK Government issued a new guidance page entitled Horizon 2020 Funding after Brexit.

    The UK Government has committed to guarantee funding for all successful competitive UK bids to Horizon 2020 that are submitted before we leave the EU, if there’s a no-deal Brexit.

    Currently the UK Government is considering what other measures may be necessary to support UK research and innovation if the guarantee and the guarantee extension are required. ​ The UK Government is working with UKRO and other stakeholders to identify appropriate measures that could be put in place in the period immediately after the EU exit, if needed.

    In July 2018, the UK Government had extended the guarantee so that it would cover all projects, including Horizon 2020 projects, that would have been funded by the EU under the 2014-2020 programme period.

    In terms of third party participation, this will not extend to some Horizon 2020 calls (majority of ERC, mono-beneficiary MSCA and SME instrument)

    In December 2018, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published a Government overview of Participation in Horizon 2020 which sets out a series of FAQs on how the UK Government will seek to ensure collaboration through the Underwrite Guarantee, facilitating mobility for researchers and looking beyond Horizon 2020 to UK participation in Horizon Europe.

  • Will collaborative teaching and student exchange programmes with EU universities continue after Brexit?

    Collaboration across world-class research, innovation and teaching makes an impact on organisations, local economies and student and staff opportunity.  In the context of Brexit, these links remain vital, fostering a dynamic exchange of talent and ideas through staff and student mobility.  Ulster University enjoys longstanding, mutually beneficial partnerships providing rich student exchanges, innovation or research partnerships.

    Ulster University's Vice-Chancellor Professor Paddy Nixon is continually lobbying at the highest level on issues affecting the university, including the recruitment of EU staff and students, research and impact funding and student mobility opportunities and has written to over 300 of our EU partners directly on our desire to continue to build on these well-established and successful relationships.

    We echo the calls across higher education for sufficient funding and the minimising of regulatory barriers post Brexit in order that we can sustain our existing links and seek new ways to work in partnership in the future for the benefit of students, our universities and wider society.

  • Is there further information/opportunities for organisations based in third party countries that are not eligible?

    The UK Research and Innovation Office -  UKRO has issued a factsheet that provides an overview of participation options for organisations that are based in non-eligible third countries which includes examples of projects that have been coordinated in third countries.  UKRO's factsheet also explains the legal and financial rules for third country coordinators and beneficiaries that are not receiving EU funding.

  • Where is useful official guidance and information on the extension to the guarantee and Brexit for researchers?

    The UK Government has issued a range of technical notices which provides information on the Guarantee, the extension to the guarantee and where to go for further information.

    UK governments technical notices can be found here -  https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/how-to-prepare-if-the-uk-leaves-the-eu-with-no-deal, including; EU funded programmesNuclear ResearchThird Health ProgrammeErasmus+ (and the European Solidarity Corps), Connecting Europe FacilityLIFEEuropean Regional Development Funding, and the Rural Development Programmes

  • Are there any updates on Horizon Europe?

    Horizon Europe is the EU Commission's proposal for a 100 billion euro research and innovation funding programme over a seven year period from 2021 to 2027, to:

    • strengthen the EU's scientific and technological bases
    • boos Europe's innovation capacity, competitiveness and jobs
    • deliver of citizens' priorities and sustain our socio-economic model and values

    An additional 4.1 billion euro funding pots is proposed to be allocated for defense research.

    On 12 September 2019, Chris Skidmore MP, Universities Minister stated:

    ” We want to get a deal with the EU which will protect our continuation in Horizon 2020, and will continue our participation in Erasmus+. ​

    We will be fully exploring the option of participating in the next Erasmus programme, whilst also developing potential alternatives which are ambitious and truly global. 

    We will protect our participation in Erasmus+ and will be working hard to secure full association with Horizon Europe - I personally will be doing everything in my power to achieve this.”​

    However, the UK Government cannot negotiate Horizon Europe Association until the Higher Education Regulation is finalised. ​