UK finally rejoins Horizon Europe after finalising ‘bespoke deal’

Country’s two years outside of €95 billion research programme comes to an end

September 7, 2023
European Commission in Brussels illustrating opinion about European universities alliance
Source: iStock

The UK has finally struck a deal that will see it rejoin the European Union’s Horizon programme.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has announced a “bespoke deal” that will see UK researchers apply for grants and bid to take part in projects under the €95 billion (£82 billion) scheme.

The UK will be a fully associated member for the remainder of the programme, which runs to 2027.

Researchers and university leaders have welcomed the move which comes after two years of the UK being outside Horizon owing to post-Brexit wrangling over Northern Ireland trade arrangements.

Mr Sunak spoke to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on 6 September and Downing Street said both were “encouraging UK scientists to apply with confidence from today and they agreed that the UK and EU will work together to boost participation”.

No 10 said the prime minister had secured “improved financial terms of association to Horizon Europe that are right for the UK”.

This includes arrangements that UK taxpayers will not pay for the time where UK researchers have not participated in the scheme since 2021, with costs starting from January 2024.

The UK will also have a new automatic clawback that means it will be compensated, should UK scientists receive significantly less money than the UK puts into the programme.

“With a wealth of expertise and experience to bring to the global stage, we have delivered a deal that enables UK scientists to confidently take part in the world’s largest research collaboration programme – Horizon Europe,” Mr Sunak said.

“We have worked with our EU partners to make sure that this is the right deal for the UK, unlocking unparalleled research opportunities, and also the right deal for British taxpayers.”

Science minister Michelle Donelan added it was a “fantastic day” for UK science. “We have listened to the sector, and through hard work and negotiation we have secured an excellent deal for researchers, taxpayers and businesses,” she said.

The new president of Universities UK, Sally Mapstone, said that the “entire research community, within our universities and beyond, 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 said.

“Horizon Europe has been the basis of scientific collaboration for over 30 years. From early detection of ovarian cancer to developing clean energy networks involving dozens of universities and many industrial partners, Horizon lets us do things that would not be possible without that scale of collaboration.

“Allowing our scientists to work together, irrespective of borders, is in all of our interests. Our universities will now do everything possible to ensure the UK rapidly bounces back towards previous levels of participation and is able to secure genuine value, delivering the wealth of research opportunities available.”

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Reader's comments (2)

Finally, a tiny chink of light after an otherwise bleak few years for UK-based researchers.
About time! Political shenanigans have been hindering scientific research for too long. The real issue is that not being part of Horizon has prevented the formation of multi-institution partnerships, often the most fruitful way of working. It is disgusting how politicians do not put the good of the nation and its citizens first, but prefer cheap posturing at OUR expense.