St. Andrew’s Day energy shock: Scots university chief voices fears over British Independence threat to future Euro-£millions (as EU pours in £4m for new Scottish marine renewable energy centre)

wave-power-general2-hwuThe Highlands & Islands University has today used St. Andrew’s Day to highlight its launch of a new  Scottish marine renewable energy centre at an industry event in the European Parliament.

The Brussels event, which attracted more than 200 visitors, demonstrated the university’s Marine Renewable Energy Research plan (MERIKA) – a €3.95m marine energy project funded by the European Union.

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

Prof. Mulholland
Prof. Mulholland

Professor Clive Mulholland, the university principal, said: “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.

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

Horizon 2020 funding from the EU has levered in almost €250 million for Scottish universities, research institutes and business over the past two years and the €3.95m award to Highlands and Islands University 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.

The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) – which is separate from the Highlands university project – has been based in Orkney for more than 10 years. 

A university spokesman later said that its MERIKA project would have no impact in terms of duplication of work with EMEC.

Meanwhile, Mulholland also raised a warning about the threat to such future funding following the clear vote in favour of British Independence from the EU-bloc – on the same day as a new independent opinion poll** shows that most Scots (65%) would vote to remain in the EU if the British Independence referendum was held again tomorrow.

british-independence-referendum-eu-and-uk-flagsThe UHI principal, said: “We are greatly concerned at the risks now posed to these collaborations from Brexit.

“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”.

** The poll – carried out by YouGov – in a re-run of EU Referendum in Scotland would see 65% for Remain and 35% for Leave.

SNP Business Convenor, MSP Derek Mackay commented: “The SNP Government is pursuing all avenues to protect our place in Europe, in the face of a looming Tory hard Brexit which threatens jobs and livelihoods, and that includes the option of independence if it becomes clear it is the best or only way of doing so.

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