UK-France laboratory enables post-Brexit research funding access

Mathematicians at Imperial College London will have access to French research grants through new collaboration

January 15, 2018
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A new partnership between Imperial College London and France’s largest research agency will enable academics at the UK university to continue to access continental funding after Brexit.

Imperial College London said that a new joint mathematics laboratory with the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), based at its South Kensington campus, will “have equal status to a CNRS laboratory in France”, meaning that its scholars will have the same access to funding and resources as their colleagues on the Continent.

It will be the first joint research unit between a UK university and CNRS, which is the largest fundamental science agency in Europe.

The venture, which launched on 15 January and builds on existing joint mathematics fellowships between the two institutions, is designed to advance collaboration between leading mathematics researchers and students from both institutions. It will be jointly funded by the two partners.

It will focus on building research in areas including number theory, mathematical analysis, biomathematics and financial mathematics.

A spokesman at Imperial College London said the two institutions have “had a very strong relationship…for several years” and first spoke about setting up the joint research unit long before the European Union referendum.

But the project, named the Unité Mixte Internationale Abraham de Moivre, after the French mathematician, has greater significance in the wake of the vote given that UK academics may not have access to EU research funding post-Brexit.

Earlier this month, THE reported that UK research-intensive universities were hurrying to create partnerships with German institutions for this reason.

The University of Oxford said that a new alliance with four Berlin universities could help its academics win joint grants from British and German funders.

Meanwhile, last July, King’s College London said that it was considering setting up a branch campus in Germany with TU Dresden.

Alice Gast, president of Imperial College London, said the joint laboratory “reinforces Imperial’s exceptionally strong academic ties with France, as well as our determination to deepen collaborations with European partners”.

A university spokesman added: “All members of the UMI, whatever their nationality, will have equal access to funding, resources and, most importantly, opportunities for collaboration. This could include Imperial or other researchers seconded as members of UMI Abraham de Moivre.”

In the past five years, Imperial and CNRS researchers have co-published more than 2,700 publications. They have also collaborated on 59 Framework 7 projects and 23 Horizon 2020 projects to date, with a total value close to €1 billion (£889 million), according to the university.

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