Being a member of the EU delivers powerful benefits for universities, who are founded on the free flow of ideas and innovation. We can access EU research funding, worth some €8.8 billion to the UK over 2007-13, and we can work efficiently with partners across the continent. In the twenty-first century, research and ideas are no respecters of national boundaries. The really big questions – population health, global environmental degradation, technological change, the challenges of economic and cultural diversity – demand big research and development programmes at scale between institutions.
Over the period 2007-13, my University was involved in 27 EU-funded research projects with an income of £7.8 million, and we are currently involved in five further projects worth £1.9 million in research areas as diverse as community policing and improved diagnosis and treatment techniques for autism.
However, EU support goes much wider than universities, with South Yorkshire in particular
benefiting greatly. Sheffield City Council estimate that we have seen more than £1 billion of investment since the early 1990s brought about by the EU – which has funded business and employment support, as well as key regeneration projects.
The Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership estimates the region will receive around £175m of EU funds to invest up to 2020, which will be prioritised on growing our regional economy, supporting infrastructure improvements and addressing skills gaps.
But behind the important details in the Prime Minister’s proposals which have triggered the referendum is something far larger: the idea of Europe, the idea of an interdependent continent working collectively in an uncertain world. We are all citizens of our city and region, of our nation, but also of a continent. It’s easy to take all of that for granted – the easy travel, the flows of investment and people and, indeed, the red peppers. But it’s also easy to overlook the extraordinary achievement of the European Union: taking nations and states which had fought battles against each other for fifteen-hundred years and which, in 1945, had essentially reduced vast tracts of itself to rubble, its people homeless and starving; and creating, in a few decades, prosperity, peace and common purpose.
Sheffield is a great British city, but it is also a great European city, like other European cities negotiating the transition from one sort of industrial economy to another: reshaping making for the digital and high-tech world, harnessing creativity and culture in the service of economic and social development, shaping successful urban futures. Its peer cities are not simply Leeds and Manchester, but Essen, Eindhoven and Toulouse, Bratislava, Wroclaw and Krakow. Its future lies in looking outward and working collaboratively across not just its region, but also its continent.
Its young people need to look not just regionally and nationally, but internationally, to see themselves, as they are, as citizens of a complex, interdependent world.
This blog was originally posted on the Sheffield Hallam blog site. To read the original post, please see here