The UK and the European Commission have struck a long-awaited deal to allow researchers in Britain access to the EU’s flagship research program, Horizon.
From January 1 next year, scientists in the UK will have access to Horizon Europe funding and the UK government is encouraging them to apply now for grants and projects “with certainty” from today.
The agreement, which also sees the UK associate to the European Earth Observation program Copernicus, is “fully in line” with the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the partners said.
The UK is expected to contribute almost €2.6 billion per year on average to participate in both programs until the end of the current program in 2027. Over the seven years from 2020, Horizon has a budget of £85bn.
The “mutually agreed solution” will allow the EU and UK “continue to be at the forefront of global science and research”, according to European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen.
The UK government is selling the deal as one that has “improved financial terms of association… that are right for the UK”.
Ahead of the NATO summit in July when association to the program was expected to be announced, prime minister Rishi Sunak said there was “no point in doing something that it is not in the interests of British taxpayers or British researchers and scientists“.
Stakeholders had also warned that the Horizon program was being used as a political lever in post-Brexit negotiations.
The announcement will delight the sector, but will leave many asking why it has taken so long to reach an agreement.
“We have worked with our EU partners to make sure that this is right deal for the UK, unlocking unparalleled research opportunities, and also the right deal for British taxpayers,” Sunak said after the deal was revealed today (September 7).
UK taxpayers will start contributing to the scheme again from January 2024. The UK will have a new “automatic clawback” that Downing Street says will protect the UK as participation recovers from the effects of the last two and a half years.
If UK scientists receive significantly less money than the UK puts into the program, the country will be compensated.
Michelle Donelan, UK minister for Science, Innovation and Technology said the government has listened to the sector, noting that “through hard work and negotiation we have secured an excellent deal for researchers, taxpayers and businesses”.
“The Horizon program is unrivalled in its scope and opens up a world of opportunity for cooperation on science that delivers real-world benefits for the UK,” she said.
“The Horizon program is unrivalled in its scope and opens up a world of opportunity”
President of UUK, Sally Mapstone, said the entire research community “will be delighted at the news that an agreement has been reached”.
“Overcoming the obstacles to association was no small feat and we are grateful to the government and the commission for their perseverance to secure this successful outcome,” she added.
Research that the Horizon Europe program supports will help to deliver medical breakthroughs, new technologies and advances in areas such as AI to “improve all our lives and help tackle the shared environmental, economic, and social challenges we face”, chief executive of the Russell Group, Tim Bradshaw, added.
Vice-president of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič said the “significant step forward” will “ensure that EU and UK researchers and industry mutually benefit from one another’s experience and from fruitful collaboration in EU scientific and space programs”.
The UK government also noted that researchers in the UK will also be able to cooperate with Norway, New Zealand and Israel, all of which are part of the program. New Zealand recently associated – Australia, Korea and Canada are also looking to join.
The agreement must now be approved by the Council before being formally adopted in the EU-UK Specialised Committee on Participation in Union Programs.
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