Wednesday, June 19, 2024

UK joins Horizon Europe under a new bespoke deal

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  • UK to associate to Horizon Europe and Copernicus programmes through a bespoke new agreement with the EU.

  • Prime Minister secured improved financial terms of association that are right for the UK and protect the taxpayer.

  • British scientists encouraged to apply now for grants and projects with certainty.

  • UK confirms it will take forward its own fusion energy strategy instead of associating with the Euratom programme.

UK scientists will have access to the world’s largest research collaboration programme, Horizon Europe, as the Prime Minister secures a bespoke deal with improved financial terms for the UK’s participation.

From today (Thursday 7 September), UK researchers can apply for grants and bid to take part in projects under the Horizon programme, with certainty that the UK will be participating as a fully associated member for the remaining life of the programme to 2027.

Once adopted, the UK will also be able to join the governance of EU programmes – which the UK has been excluded from over the last three years – ensuring we can shape collaboration taking place next year. And UK researchers will be able to lead consortia in the next work programme of Horizon Europe projects.

Horizon will give UK companies and research institutions unrivalled opportunities to lead global work to develop new technologies and research projects, in areas from health to AI. This will not only open up cooperation with the EU, but also Norway, New Zealand and Israel which are part of the programme – and countries like Korea and Canada which are looking to join too.

This follows a call between the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen on Wednesday (6 September). They are encouraging UK scientists to apply with confidence from today and they agreed that the UK and EU will work together to boost participation.

As part of the new deal negotiated over the last six months, the Prime Minister has secured improved financial terms of association to Horizon Europe that are right for the UK – increasing the benefits to UK scientists, value for money for the UK taxpayer, and mitigating the impact that the EU’s delays to our association will have on participation rates of researchers.

The UK will also associate to Copernicus, the European Earth Observation programme. This will provide the UK’s earth observation sector with access to unique data – valuable to helping with early flood and fire warnings, for example – and with the ability to bid for contracts, which they haven’t been able to access for three years.

In line with the preferences of the UK fusion sector, the UK has decided to pursue a domestic fusion energy strategy instead of associating to the EU’s Euratom programme. This will involve close international collaboration, including with European partners, and a new, cutting-edge alternative programme, backed by up to £650m to 2027. It will ensure UK taxpayer funding is spent in the UK’s best interests.

Together, this deal is set to create and support thousands of new jobs as part of the next generation of research talent. It will help deliver the Prime Minister’s ambition to grow the economy and cement the UK as a science and technology superpower by 2030.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

Innovation has long been the foundation for prosperity in the UK, from the breakthroughs improving healthcare to the technological advances growing our economy.

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.

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.

New financial protections for the British taxpayer, especially in the first years of association when UK scientists’ participation will be recovering, ensures:

  • UK taxpayers will not pay for the time where UK researchers have been excluded from since 2021, with costs starting from January 2024 – delivering much better terms for 2023. This will also provide breathing space to boost the participation of UK researchers in open calls for grants before we start paying into the programme.

  • The UK will have a new automatic clawback that protects the UK as participation recovers from the effects of the last two and a half years. It means the UK will be compensated should UK scientists receive significantly less money than the UK puts into the programme. This wasn’t the case under the original terms of association.

Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Michelle Donelan said:

Today is a fantastic day for UK science and our whole economy. We have listened to the sector, and through hard work and negotiation we have secured an excellent deal for researchers, taxpayers and businesses.

The Horizon programme is unrivalled in its scope and opens up a world of opportunity for cooperation on science that delivers real-world benefits for the UK – creating jobs, boosting our economy and opening up collaboration for the sector with some of our closest partners, whether on tackling climate change or advancing cancer research.

This deal is a crucial step forward on our mission to become a science and tech superpower by 2030.

President of UUK, Professor Dame Sally Mapstone:

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.

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.

The Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering, and the Royal Society have issued a joint statement on the UK’s association to Horizon Europe:

This is a great day for researchers in the UK and across Europe. The Horizon programme is a beacon of international collaboration and UK-based academic and industrial researchers will now be back at the heart of that.

Research is vital to tackling the key problems we face, from global challenges such as climate change to driving productivity growth and creating new jobs locally. Our involvement in Horizon Europe will make the UK stronger and is a big win for global research and innovation.

Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, said:

Horizon Europe association is overwhelmingly in the best interests of cancer patients and scientists, and it is great news for cancer research that agreement has finally been reached between the UK and EU.

There will be relief throughout the research community that the uncertainty of the last two and a half years has come to an end. Nearly three quarters of respondents to our survey of cancer researchers cited funding from the EU as important for their work, showing how crucial Horizon Europe association is for the future of cancer research.

We hope that this deal paves the way for the UK’s ongoing participation in future European research programmes. It is essential that the European Commission, the UK Government and UK research funders work with urgency to rebuild the strong position the UK occupied in the Horizon programme, and get funds and global collaboration flowing again into our research institutions.

Dame Professor Angela McLean, Government Chief Scientific Adviser said:

This is great news for UK science and technology. International collaboration is a vital part of a thriving science ecosystem and association with the Horizon programme bolsters our plans to secure our status as a science and technology superpower.

Chief Executive of the Russell Group, Dr Tim Bradshaw said:

Association to Horizon Europe is tremendous news for UK science, research and innovation. We are delighted that a good deal has been struck, so all credit to the negotiating teams who have been working hard behind the scenes to get this over the line.

This deal is a true win-win for everyone. The scale of research supported by Horizon Europe will help 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.

The research community on both sides of the Channel are raring to go and will spare no effort in making our association a success. Universities have plans in place to get researchers to apply and our partner universities and businesses across the EU – and in other associated countries – are eager to work with our institutions. We will be ready to work with Government and the Commission to make the most of Horizon’s opportunities from day one and beyond into its successor.

John Hanley, Chair of the UKspace trade body, said:

UKspace welcomes the news that the UK is reassociating with the EU Copernicus and Horizon Programmes.  We have a strong track record within Copernicus with UK industry securing valuable contracts that have delivered jobs and growth across the country whilst unlocking a better understanding of our planet.  We look forward to working with the Government to capitalise quickly on this agreement and identify the actions needed to build upon the UK’s national Earth Observation initiatives to ensure that industry can once more take a leading role in the largest multi-lateral EO Programme in the world.

Grazia Vittadini, Chief Technology Officer for Rolls-Royce, said:

Horizon Europe has had a significant impact on Aerospace technologies and in helping Rolls-Royce remain at the forefront of technological advancement. We greatly welcome the UK’s return to the Horizon Europe programme, and look forward to going further and doing more, leveraging public-private partnership to continue driving world-leading innovation and competitiveness.

Dr Diana Beech, Chief Executive Officer, London Higher said:

The confirmation that the UK will rejoin Horizon Europe is welcome news for universities across London, the UK’s top ranked innovation cluster. The wait to associate to Horizon may have been lengthy but worthwhile, as today’s announcement shores up the future of research, innovation and higher education across the United Kingdom.

With the assurance of association, London’s higher education and research community now has a renewed sense of purpose and optimism that London can reach its true potential as a research powerhouse. Association is both a recognition of the value we bring to the international scientific community and the acknowledgment that we are still very much a part of a global network of knowledge-sharing and innovation.

Our universities now have the certainty and stability needed to continue powering the engine of UK innovation and to build connectivity across the regions as we seek to level up across the country and make the UK a global science superpower. We are committed to working collaboratively with our European partners, leveraging our collective expertise to drive innovation, support research excellence, and build a brighter future for all.

Professor Paul Stewart FMedSci, Academy of Medical Sciences Vice President, Clinical, said:

Today marks a pivotal moment for UK science. After a hiatus, the scientific community is celebrating the tremendous news that we are once more part of the EU’s flagship funding programme.

By associating to Horizon Europe, we now have the commitment and momentum to drive forward the Government’s vision for an innovative, high growth future and are well placed to support the diverse and highly skilled research talent that underpins our life sciences sector.

Health research is an international endeavour, it relies on supporting the best ideas, but also on creating cross-border networks which is good news for the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. Association sends a very strong message that the UK is open for business and remains a prime destination to work on health research and innovation to improve lives.

UKRI Chief Executive Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser said:

Today’s agreement on UK association to Horizon Europe is brilliant news.

The UK has a long track record of mutually beneficial participation in previous EU schemes and this decision enables us to build on those highly successful collaborations to maximise the opportunities membership of Horizon Europe provides.

UKRI is looking forward to working with our communities and partners to capture the many benefits of Horizon Europe for researchers and businesses.

John Harrison, Chairman of Airbus UK:

It is great news that the U.K. will be rejoining Horizon Europe, which is a key funding programme for research and innovation, as well as the Copernicus programme. Having provided many of Copernicus’ critical technologies from the U.K., as well as designing and building the Sentinel 5P satellite in Stevenage, we look forward to contributing to future Copernicus Earth observation missions which play such a key role in understanding and tackling the planet’s changing climate.

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:

The UK has a long history of expertise and innovation in Earth observation, so it is excellent news that we are going to continue our association in the EU part of Copernicus programme. This is a great outcome for our world-leading Earth observation sector, who we have worked closely with to support.

Participating in Copernicus will enable the UK space sector to continue to play a significant role in the development of critical missions that will enable us to monitor our planet more effectively and lead a global effort through the use of satellite data to find new solutions to the urgent challenge of climate change.

Ilan Gur, CEO of Advanced Research + Invention Agency:

A strong, interconnected scientific ecosystem is the foundation of breakthrough discovery and invention. This is wonderful news — a boost to science innovation not just for the UK but for the world!

Dr Nick Walkden, UK Director, Fusion Industry Association.

The Fusion Industry Association welcomes the U.K. Government’s ambitious new £650m programme for fusion development and commercialisation as an alternative to Euratom association.  The Government’s proposed alternative programme will be ambitious, exciting, and commercially focussed, representing a unique opportunity and an effective use of public funds at a critical time in the effort to develop and deploy fusion energy. We therefore welcome today’s announcement ,and look forward to a rapid adoption of the UK Government programme of alternative interventions as soon as possible.

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