UK to rejoin EU’s Horizon science programme
After years of wrangling and uncertainty the UK has returned to the European Union’s £85billion Horizon research programme.
Horizon is a collaboration involving Europe’s leading research institutes and technology companies, exploring subjects including climate change, medical advances and AI.
The UK was slated to rejoin the programme following the post-Brexit trade deal in 2020, but the impasse in the North Ireland agreement put readmission on hold. The resolution of that dispute earlier this year cleared the path, but there was then a disagreement about the £2bn fee for 2023.
The fee has now been waived and researchers based in the UK can apply for 2024 grants to take part in the collaboration programme. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says he has secured “the right deal for British taxpayers”.
Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner said: “This association could have been secured many months ago, but under Rishi Sunak’s leadership it was repeatedly delayed. I’m pleased it is finally happening but no one should underestimate the damage already done.”
“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.”
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who signed off on the deal with the Prime Minister in a call on Wednesday, said: “The EU and UK are key strategic partners and allies, and today’s agreement proves that point.
“We will continue to be at the forefront of global science and research.”
The move was immediately welcomed by scientists after years of warnings that UK researchers have been missing out on collaboration with colleagues in the EU.
Sir Adrian Smith, president of the Royal Society, said it is “fantastic news”.
“Science has so much to offer in terms of tackling global challenges and improving lives. Today the Government and the EU have given that a big boost,” he said.
Sir Paul Nurse, director of the Francis Crick Institute, said he is “thrilled to finally see that partnerships with EU scientists can continue”.
“This is an essential step in rebuilding and strengthening our global scientific standing,” he added.
“Thank you to the huge number of researchers in the UK and across Europe who, over many years, didn’t give up on stressing the importance of international collaboration for science.”
He added: “We are becoming associates, alongside countries like Albania and the Faroe Islands. We are not the decision-makers; it will be others who set the direction in the future. Nevertheless, for today, we should celebrate the fact that UK science and research looks to be back in the fold.”
Gareth Williams, partner based at global intellectual property firm M&C’s Cambridge office, said: “This is definitely a win for both the UK and the EU. While the loss of funding to UK research has been to some extent balanced by internal funding from UK Research & Innovation, the loss of collaborative opportunities has been damaging to all parties.
“Science and innovation depend on exactly this cross-pollination across borders – it isn’t just about the money. It will be very encouraging to see UK researchers and institutes continue to contribute in this way to some of the key scientific and technical challenges facing us all.”