The UK’s new relationship with the European Union: what this means for grant applicants and grant holders

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Our researchers are at the heart of our mission to beat all cancers. We set out below how the latest developments in the UK-EU relationship could affect Cancer Research UK (CRUK) scientists, now that the UK has a trade and cooperation agreement with the EU.  

At the centre of these challenges are you, our scientists, working hard to prevent cancer and to provide more options for people affected by cancer. We know that many of you come from EU Member States and/or work directly with scientists across the EU. We want to hear from researchers around the UK to help us understand any issues affecting you as a direct result of the UK’s new relationship with the EU. We understand that when these issues affect you individually, they also affect your families, friends and our whole community. We remain committed to supporting you every way we can. 

The UK continues to support a thriving scientific ecosystem, including medical research charities. There’s more to do, but CRUK is working hard to ensure the optimal conditions for the UK research environment. We want to create an inclusive and diverse community of cancer researchers to support the brightest minds to thrive and achieve our vision of bringing forward the day when all cancers are cured. 

1. Will it be possible for CRUK researchers to be involved in collaboration programmes such as Horizon Europe?  

Update: Yes. "UK scientists, researchers and businesses will be able to access funding under the programme on equivalent terms as organisations in EU countries. We therefore strongly encourage researchers, businesses, and innovators in the UK and worldwide to continue to work together in establishing global consortia to bid for funding." (UKRI)
As of 15 June 2021, "the EU is still in the process of formalising the UK's association. But UK-based applicants can begin applying straight away. You do not need to wait for the EU to formalise association." (UKRI).

We recommend you contact the National Contact Points for details of Horizon Europe calls and support.

CRUK’s position: We strongly support international research collaboration. The UK plays a huge part in the global science eco-system. We know CRUK-funded researchers will want to continue world-leading work with partners across Europe, whether solely with CRUK funding or by other means. As such, we encourage applications to major pan-international research programmes, including Horizon Europe once applications open.  

The UK has agreed to ‘associate’ with Horizon Europe (like Switzerland, Norway and Israel), so applicants in the UK will bid in the same way as researchers from EU Member States. We’ll update our research community in due course once Horizon Europe programme regulations are finalised and guidance is available for applications.  

UK access to Horizon Europe funding tied to its ‘cancer mission’ would be hugely beneficial to cancer research in the UK. We look forward to seeing the scope of UK participation. We are calling on the UK Government to fund the UK’s participation in Horizon Europe with new money, as drawing from allocated research funding would limit investment in UK science. 

2. What is CRUK’s position across your PhD programmes on funding EU students?  

CRUK-funded studentships are open for all students including EU and other international students. From 1 January 2021, students paying international fees also include EU and EEA nationals. CRUK will only support fees at the CRUK set home/UK fees rate. Any shortfall between our standard fee allowance and the international fee rate must be covered by another source of funding by the institution and cannot be covered by the student themselves. We recommend you check with the relevant programme to see what fees you will need to pay.

3. What kind of visa do I need to fulfil my research commitments to CRUK?   

Update: The UK-EU free trade agreement includes visa-free visits to EU Member States lasting up to 90 days, including for research, study, training, and work. We are keen to hear how this process works in practice for our research community. 

Applying to work in the UK:  

Please see our dedicated research careers page. This includes information on the Accelerated UK work visa route plus networking, training and mentoring opportunities, as well as flexible working options.

Some scientists who are not eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme can apply for a Global Talent visa to work in the UK. Others, including technicians, can apply for the Skilled Worker visa. The EU Settlement Scheme is open until 30 June 2021 (you must usually have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020).  

As per our Costs Guidance, Global Talent Visa application fees for CRUK fellowship holders or grant staff whose salaries are funded by CRUK can be included in grant applications or charged to the CRUK grant. Other types of visa application costs for CRUK grantholders or CRUK-funded posts are not eligible costs.

The Royal Society and the British Academy provide some useful guidance on applying for the Global Talent visa.  

The UK Government is also setting up an Office for Talent aimed at encouraging leading scientists, researchers and innovators to come to the UK. 

CRUK’s position: We welcome the new Global Talent Visa and Office for Talent. If you require a visa to work in the UK, you may qualify for the accelerated Global Talent Visa route. The Global Talent Visa is open for promising and talented individuals in specific sectors wishing to work in the UK. It replaced the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa on 20 February 2020. Many Cancer Research UK fellowships, awards, and posts funded through our grants are eligible for the Global Talent Visa. Cancer Research UK is recognised as an endorsed funder under the Endorsed Funder Route

The Global Talent Visa offers a number of benefits, including remaining valid for five years with the option to renew or apply for settlement after 3 years; freedom to move between research institutions or change roles in the UK; freedom to travel abroad during your visa to explore new collaborations; and the option to bring your family with you.

Whilst there have been positive developments like the Global Talent Visa, we’re concerned the costs of coming to work in the UK, particularly in comparison with similar countries, are too high. For example, the total average upfront cost of a Tier 2 skilled worker visa (which is now called the Skilled Worker Route as is typically used by scientific workers) is 540% higher than the average cost in other leading scientific nations. [1]

We are calling on the UK Government to conduct an urgent review of the UK’s visa costs and their expected impact on the recruitment of international research staff.  We continue to monitor the impact of these costs on cancer research.

4. What are the rules for sharing personal data e.g. for clinical trials? 

Update: UK-EU exchanges of personal data can continue for up to 6 months (after the December 2020 agreement). A decision is needed to secure longer-term data flows between the UK and EU ('data adequacy status'). For now, the UK Government recommends organisations reliant on these flows use alternative data transfer mechanisms, such as Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs). If the UK does not receive data adequacy status, these SCCs will become permanent. 

CRUK’s position: We are calling on the UK Government to work with the European Commission to secure data adequacy status as soon as possible and provide regular updates about this process. 

Background: Data transfers are essential for running UK-EU clinical trials, as they need to routinely send patient data and test results across international borders. This cross-border exchange of data provides the foundation for modern-day innovation, as these multi-state trials form the majority of clinical trials conducted in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Spain.

Studies into rare and childhood diseases are particularly reliant on international data. Individual countries often lack the patients needed to run clinical trials and must therefore share patient data with other countries to organise international trials. 

5. Do clinical trial sponsors need to do anything new? 

Update: Yes if your trial involves researchers from at least one EU Member State. UK Sponsors of clinical trials in the EU/EEA must now have legal representation in the EU. 

The UK has agreed to recognise EU/EEA Sponsors of clinical trials, but the EU has not reciprocated this measure – it’s a part of EU law, so it would need to exempt all third countries, not just the UK. 

CRUK’s position: We have shared with the UK Government that unless these new legal costs on UK-EU clinical trials are offset, UK patients could have fewer opportunities to participate in trials and benefit from new, potentially lifesaving, treatments. This would be particularly damaging to disease areas reliant on UK-EU research, such as rare and childhood cancers. We are calling on the UK Government to consider how it can prevent or offset the costs of EU legal representation now faced by UK-based sponsors of clinical trials working in the EU/EEA. 

6. Will I be able to access the EU Clinical Trials Information System (CTIS) when it goes live (expected in December 2021)?  

Update: UK access to CTIS was not part of the UK-EU agreement and would need negotiating separately. This looks very unlikely in light of UK plans for regulatory divergence. This is because CTIS forms part of a much wider political conversation about UK-EU alignment. 

CRUK’s position: We called for UK access to CTIS among other opportunities to match and mirror EU regulations in order to reduce additional burdens on researchers. The UK – including CRUK – was instrumental in shaping the EU Clinical Trials Regulation that brings CTIS into being. So it’s disappointing that UK researchers will not have access to CTIS, which would have enabled smoother international collaboration. We will continue to monitor the situation.

If you have any questions or concerns about how the UK’s new relationship with the European Union might affect you, please get in touch.



We will update this page as required. Page updated on 18 June 2021

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