Horizon deal with European Union huge relief for UK science

Technology and science business organisations have welcomed the news that the UK is to rejoin the Horizon Europe programme after two years of absence post-Brexit.

The UK crashed out of the EU’s €100bn (£85bn) research programme even through associate membership of Horizon was agreed in principle as part of the Brexit Trade and Co-operation Agreement, but the disagreements around the Northern Ireland Protocol set the UK on an alternative course.

This morning, the Prime Minister issued a statement confirming agreement in principle on the association of the UK to Horizon Europe and Copernicus space programme under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

“This is a landmark moment for scientific and space collaboration between the EU and the UK following agreement of the Windsor Framework earlier this year.

“The association to Horizon Europe will further strengthen and deepen links between the scientific communities in the UK and the EU, foster innovation and enable researchers to work together on global challenges from climate to health. The UK Government and the European Commission look forward to enabling collaboration between their researchers in which the UK and the EU share a mutual interest, such as in new and emerging technologies. To this end, the EU will assess UK participants’ access to strategic parts of the Horizon Europe programme[1] on equal terms with other associated countries.

“UK researchers will be able to fully participate in the Horizon Europe programme on the same terms as researchers from other associated countries, including leading consortia, from the 2024 Work Programmes and onwards – including any 2024 calls opening this year. For calls from the 2023 Work Programmes, the European Commission will continue to administer transitional arrangements and the UK will continue to provide funding under the UK Guarantee. UK and EU scientists and researchers can have confidence in continuing long-term partnerships with their counterparts.”

The reconciliation between the UK and the EU following the bitter rows over Brexit has been welcomed by the science and research community.

Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) said: “NCUB welcomes the Government’s success in agreeing continued association to Horizon Europe. Investing in global research partnerships is critical to maximise UK universities and business’ ability to lead projects, generate high-impact outputs and realise a range of economic, health, environmental and social benefits for the UK.”

Marshall continued: “The UK will benefit hugely from its association with Horizon Europe and the returns are significant. Indeed, for every €1 spent, the direct and indirect economic effects produce €11. The UK is particularly well placed to capture a disproportionate share of the economic value that Horizon generates due to the strength and diversity of our research base and our many innovative businesses. Association also sends an important and positive signal to businesses undertaking research and development in the UK. It helps make the UK the best place in the world to invest in research.”

Marshall concluded: “This is a hugely positive step forward for UK research and development. However, the battle is not yet won. We are now calling on the UK Government and the European Commission to finalise arrangements as soon as possible. Only then will UK researchers once again play a leading role in delivering important projects through Horizon Europe.”

Stuart Grant, chief executive of ARC (Advanced Research Clusters) said: “It’s a cause for celebration among the science and tech community as the UK announces it’s rejoined the Horizon Europe research programme. This programme is invaluable for British science and all the researchers working on ground-breaking projects that will influence the course of scientific history. Greater access to funding will spur on vital innovation across the science and technology sector and boost collaboration among our European peers. Major breakthroughs aren’t made in siloes, but through working in collaboration with one another for the good of everyone.”

Helen Brain, Head of Health and Life Sciences at law firm Square One Law, said: “Britain’s rejoining of the EU’s Horizon science programme will provide a major boost to the nation’s life sciences sector.

“Participation will enable British companies to collaborate with their European counterparts on research projects, as well as allowing them to access vital EU research and innovation funding.

“It will also lead to greater regulatory alignment between the UK and EU, providing a huge boost to exporters, as well as improving the talent pool available to businesses and allowing for easier movement of researchers and professionals between the UK and the EU.”