Research Funding in a Post-Brexit World

Adrian Farrel's picture

Whatever your view of the outcome of the referendum, you probably agree that the campaigns were threaded through with misinformation and confusion. We might hope that we are past that point, but as the debate about how we will negotiate the UK's exit from the European Union (EU) develops we are being exposed to more and distractions and disingenuous public statements.

A considerable amount of research funding comes to the UK from the EU through the Horizon 2020 (H2020) scheme [1]. This programme is providing over 80 billion Euros in grants over the period 2014 to 2020 and is envisioned as a means to drive economic growth and create jobs within the EU's member nations. The stated aim is to ensure Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation.

The chief beneficiaries of H2020 grants are research institutions (universities and independent research organisations) and the R&D arms of large companies [2], however there is a goal that 20% of the monies will go to small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The merits of creativity beyond commercial

When I was involved in getting government support for the big music project I was asked to meet ministers and assembly members, key among them was Ken Skates the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism.

I was asked basically to defend why government should be using resources and give backing to big music projects and the youth music projects in South Wales. What struck me was the question. What jobs can you get for these young people from music projects? Can you guarantee jobs from these investments?

I believe this misses the real virtue of allowing people accesses to the means to create. The benefits of the music projects I have been involved with are not commercial.

Allowing an environment where music and other creative pursuits flourish is important for a rich culture. Allowing access to culture also breeds more culture.

As with the youth projects (Major music. Vibe creative) Government funding for equipment has led to young people discovering their calling and opportunities to pursue careers and life styles that would not be possible.

As for the commercial, an example of how supporting culture can lead to commercial ventures such as the youth project I took part in at Vibe Works. From this and the Government funding (that was recently cut) some of the students set up their own company called Vibe Creative. This has paid for its self many times over.

We have seen the Government misunderstanding of the importance of cultural teaching and investment with the attention being drawn away from primary school teaching of creative subjects. This has led to companies like Superstars going into these school and teaching these subjects independently and because of this they are simply not seen as important as other classes.

While there is a strong argument for the current hierarchy of English, Maths and Science being at the top while other subjects as seen as less important, I also feel that ranking subjects as more important than others can prove difficult to some children. To a musician, music is more important than chemistry in school.

The bottom line for me is the benefits from a strong culture vastly outweigh its initial investment cost and thinking “how many jobs will we get out of this” is the wrong way to think about creative pursuits. The commercial upside are a happy by-product of the cultural ones. Wales has a reputation for rich culture and I hope we can help build on and defend that perception.

Below is a very unflattering picture of me with the minister along with a link to the company the ex students at the music project made before the funding was cut.


Vibe Facebook Page



Research funding: the Christmas countdown

George Walkden's picture

It’s that time of year again: on Sunday 21st December, the winner of the annual scuffle to be Christmas Number One will be announced. The inclusion of streaming in this year’s charts is likely to shake up the system, as older tracks are likely to get more of a shot: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” may make an improbable return to the top, alongside more recent releases by Band Aid 30 and whoever the X Factor winner ends up being. And then of course there’s Iron Maiden; and the whole thing will be accompanied by profound reflection on the pointlessness of it all, and on how it’s not nearly as important as it was ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago.

But three days earlier, on 18th December, academics like me will be hunkering down in their ivory towers and turning up the wireless to hear a different Top 40: the results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014. REF is the scheme that the main UK higher education funding body, HEFCE, uses to determine where its research funding goes. The idea, of course, is to allocate more money to those institutions that are doing the best research. That raises an old, and difficult, question: how do we measure research quality?

Artist centred culture policy and funding model

Artists should be the focus of culture sector funding, this is where the research and development of the creative industries happens. Success in increasing and protecting money going to artists, rather than administration or overheads, must be one of the key performance indicators of National Portfolio Organisations.