International research collaboration

Scotland’s research base has a global reputation for research excellence which is strengthened by their extensive collaborations worldwide. This is demonstrated in the Scottish Science Advisory Council’s Scotland’s Science Landscape Report (SSAC 2019).

Under the Times Higher Education (THE) 2021 Global University Rankings, Scotland has 3 universities in the top 200 globally for research, 13 universities in the top UK 100 for research, and 9 in the top global 100 for international outlook. We have 5 universities in the top 250 globally under the overall THE Rankings.

Scottish participation in European research programmes

Scotland is an active and valued partner in a large number of EU research collaborations and has secured significant funding from EU research programmes as a result. We are keen for Scottish participation in European research programmes to continue.

Scotland’s universities have secured millions of pounds from EU sources, with funding received from the EU Government representing 8% of their total research income.

Horizon programmes

The most significant source of EU funding for research and innovation to Scotland was the Horizon 2020 programme.

Horizon Europe, the successor €95.5 billion programme in 2021 to 2027 underpins EU strategy on COVID-19 economic recovery, with a focus on digital and green transformation across society and the economy.

Scottish organisations secured a total of €852.6 million of the Horizon 2020 budget (up to July 2021). This represents 1.29% of the budget allocated so far or 11.14% of the total funding awarded to UK organisations.

This includes over €645.5 million to higher education institutions and over €47.5 million to research institutes.

Small-to-medium-sized enterprises have secured €98.89 million of the €126.6 million secured by Scottish businesses.

Scotland held around 30% leads within all its project consortia participations in Horizon 2020.

As highlighted in the Scottish Science Advisory Council’sScotland’s Science Landscape Report(SSAC 2019), research collaboration with EU countries brings the most research impact and ten out of the top 20 global research partner countries for Scotland are in the EU.

More advice and information for Scottish organisations on accessing Horizon Europe and other EU funding:

Other key documents on EU funding and EU Exit:

Wider European collaboration

Scotland can point to significant successes in working across European boundaries with international research centres attracted to Scotland by the quality of our research base. These include:

Saltire Research Awards

We announced the £3 million Saltire Research Awards (SRAs) in June 2021. 

These Awards are a response to the challenges posed by Brexit to the excellence and globalism of the Scottish research system and maintaining vital connections with EU partners central to our own success. As well as the need to provide opportunities to our young researchers in partnership with young EU researchers to collaborate on meeting today’s global challenges. Researchers from Scotland and many European countries have benefitted.

The SRAs schemes help to maintain and increase:

  • early career researcher collaboration in the EU
  • our academics’ foothold and leadership in key EU expert networks
  • inward and outward flows of research talent between Scotland and the EU
  • pump prime Scottish applications in Horizon Europe with competitive EU partners

Horizon Europe is judged to potentially be worth up to £182 million per annum to Scotland until 2027 with the UK as an associated country, or less with the UK as a third country relative to access and success in the programme.

More information

We have hub offices in Brussels, Berlin, Dublin and Paris actively promoting Scottish Government policy priorities in these European countries.

Wider international collaboration

Scottish university research works across international boundaries beyond Europe too. One example is the Gravitational Waves collaboration, where scientists from 17 countries – including researchers at the Universities of Glasgow, Strathclyde, West of Scotland and Edinburgh – are involved in the research and discovery of gravitational waves. Glasgow is the UK's leading university for gravitational research.

The Scottish Science Advisory Committee report in 2019 A Metrics- Based Assessment of Scotland’s Science Landscape in 2007-2016 showed that Scotland’s current top collaborating countries are the USA, Germany, France, Italy and Australia.

Scottish researchers have performed well in the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund for Overseas Development Assistance countries, managed by the SFC in Scotland, with over £11.8 million allocated to Scotland in 2019-2020 and over £13 million in 2020-2021.

Since 2016-2017, GCRF has supported more than 400 projects at Scottish institutions, involving over 70 developing countries. This demonstrates the broad range, creativity and outward-looking nature of the Scottish research community.

We participate with annual funding in the UKIERI initiative, managed by the British Council UK-wide, forging partnerships with India in higher education and research.  Scottish higher education and further education institutes perform well in all areas of the programme including projects and staff and student mobilities.

In 2020 we launched SAPHIRE to support research connections in India, Japan and Pakistan managed by the Royal Society of Edinburgh.  The SAPHIRE scheme was expanded in 2021 to include bids from Scottish institutions with partners in Australia, South Korea, Singapore and/or ASEAN (other than Singapore).

We are funding project activity with Arctic nations through its Arctic Connections Fund . Research projects are eligible. 

The RSE’s global map shows its agreements with academies in other countries including exchange funding.

Connected Scotland brings together organisations in Scotland active in university and college internationalisation.

We have hub offices (in countries outside Europe) in Washington DC, Beijing and Ottawa actively promoting our interests.  Our international and international development strategies emphasise partnerships with the US, Canada, China, India, Pakistan, Malawi, Zambia, and Rwanda.  Scottish Development International are also present in many countries globally.

The UK Science & Innovation Network has officers in over 40 countries and territories around the world building research partnerships with researchers from the UK nations including Scotland.

Research talent and researcher mobility in Scotland

Researcher to researcher networks and mobilities power research collaboration. This type of collaboration in turn powers research excellence. This includes the ability for researchers to spend time working alongside their partners in other countries. International collaboration has been proven to increase research excellence.

The Scottish Science Advisory Committee Report in early 2019 confirmed that Scotland has high levels of inward and outward talent mobility or brain circulation. 

Scotland attracts many international researchers including EU and EEA researchers. This encourages a more international outlook in Scotland’s research sector and provides more opportunities to tap into global networks, leverage further research income and careers opportunities and create local research jobs in Scotland.

We maintain that the UK Immigration System must provide viable, attractive and competitive routes to allow research talent in and out of Scotland. To support Scotland’s excellent research base, Scotland’s economic recovery goals and Scotland’s wider societal and demographic needs and aims. This includes talent from the EU and elsewhere. 

More information

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