Committed to collaboration whatever happens next with Brexit

Professor Clive Mulholland, Principal of the University of the Highlands and Islands.
Professor Clive Mulholland, Principal of the University of the Highlands and Islands.
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Speaking at the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Marine Renewable Energy Research Day event in the European Parliament, Professor Clive Mulholland, Principal of the University of the Highlands and Islands, claimed the threat of losing invaluable collaborations as a result of Brexit is his greatest concern.

“Universities in the UK have always had a strong, proud tradition of being outward looking, welcoming collaboration with scholars and researchers from outwith our own universities, irrespective of borders.

“This has been at the heart of our university since its very beginning, as we have welcomed interest from universities across Europe, and beyond.”

The Brussels event, which attracted over 230 delegates, showcased the university’s MERIKA project, a €3.95m marine energy project funded by the European Union through the Seventh Framework Programme with the university leading a consortium of research institutes from Germany, Ireland, Portugal, the Netherlands and Norway.

MERIKA’s aim is to create a European hub for marine energy research and innovation in the north of Scotland; a region where much of the marine energy resource is located.

Speakers explored the emerging marine renewable energy sector and its significance in a European context.

University of the Highlands and Islands’ researchers showcased the work and collaboration in this key sector and demonstrated its importance to regional economic development.

“The MERIKA project is one of the most recent of such collaborations and we had looked forward to building on it in possible Horizon 2020 projects,” added Professor Mulholland.

“That, after all, was the objective of the ‘Regions of Potential’ theme in ‘Seventh Framework’ – building on the major investment in the University of the Highlands and Islands’ research capacity through European Union structural funds over many years.”

Horizon 2020 funding has levered in almost €250m for Scottish universities, research institutes and business over the past two years.

The award to the University of the Highlands and Islands for the MERIKA project was the highest amount allocated to any single Scottish university from the previous Seventh Framework programme, other than joint technology initiatives.

“We are greatly concerned at the risks now posed to these collaborations from Brexit,” said Professor Mulholland.

“But we are absolutely committed to continuing these collaborations and building new ones as we go forward – whatever the eventual outcome of the Article 50 negotiations for post-Brexit.

“And we are committed to working with the rest of the university sector at UK and Scottish levels to protect research collaboration and student and staff mobility opportunities with our European Union partners and find a way of continuing such mutually beneficial activities – but let me assure you that we will indeed find a way!”